I am not a good flyer. By that, I don’t mean that I have a fear of flying, the thought of whizzing through the air in small metal container with the potential to crash, explode or just disappear has never bothered me. Not because these aren’t genuinely serious things to worry about, but more because I’ve always assumed I’m more likely to get hit by a car than go down with a plane.
What makes me a bad traveller is that airports tend to make me really angry. I am not a patient person so the interminable hanging around that takes place both before and after the actual flying tends to set me on edge.
On Wednesday evening we arrived at the airport about an hour before the flight, plenty of time when you’ve no luggage to check in and the security process is usually pretty good. It was a bit annoying to discover that our flight had been delayed for 15/20 minutes but I had a good book to read, we hadn’t got to the airport super early so a little longer waiting to board wasn’t the worst scenario even though I was pretty tired after a hectic day.
A chap came round and asked to check our boarding passes with our passports whilst we sat in the waiting area, so that when we were finally able to board we wouldn’t have to show passports again and I thought that’s a smart move, I appreciated their trying to minimise further delays when the plane was finally ready.
Finally it was time to board and we accidentally pick the slowest of the two queues, soon I spotted why, but it was almost impossible to switch into the other queue at this point. The easyjet employee on the left was employing a scrupulous bag checking standard that the easyjet employee on the right wasn’t (or maybe there were less attention-worthy bags on that side).
Easyjet has a ridiculous policy where they insist that you can only have one bag regardless of any common sense application. Fair enough you can’t have a cabin bag and a massive tote filled to the brim with the kind of belongings you should have just checked in as hold luggage. I understand their taking issue with that. What gets my goat is that they won’t let you pass the boarding checkpoint, unless a small handbag is unceremoniously crammed into your larger cabin bag.
Normally I don’t say anything but I was tired, we’d already been waiting an additional 20 minutes because boarding was late, we got stuck in the slow moving queue of a thousand deaths and now I was being delayed further by this ridiculous policy.
I started off by asking why I had to do this, as I was only going to take my small bag out of my big bag as soon as I boarded the plane, which would delay passengers trying to board the plane? We were already late, why did they want to slow the process up even more?
Then I pointed out that the policy was discriminatory. I got the expected response of ‘we apply this to women and men equally’. I pointed out that it was discriminatory regardless of whether it was theoretically applied equally because it disproportionately affects women more than men. Women’s coats tend not to be like men’s coats, with secure zipped or inside pockets where you can safely stow your passport and other valuables you don’t want to trust to the overhead locker of some passenger fourteen rows ahead of you. I didn’t have to ask how many men she’d told to put their bags away, the five other women trying to stuff handbags into their carry-on immediately in front of me proved my point.
The easyjet employee responded well by agreeing that she didn’t understand the policy. Anyone who works in customer service or has ever had to deal with an angry person in the role of their job, knows that nothing is more effective at deflating a person’s righteous (or not as the case may be) rage by agreeing with them. However it does highlight the absurdity of the policy when even the staff don’t agree with it.
But when she asked what I expected her to do about it, I realised I was railing at the wrong person so I grumbled and moved past. I made an elaborate show (imagine theatrical arm gestures and extra loud huffing and puffing) of putting it in my bigger case.
I boarded the plane and, as anticipated, held a few people up as I had to stop in the aisle to set my cabin bag down to release my handbag before taking my seat. The rage within me continued to seethe.
I know that the woman checking us in was in no way responsible for the policy and she was just doing her job but I still don’t regret acting the way I did, although granted had I been less angry I might have looked a tad less ridiculous and embarrassed my fiancé a little less, at least I got to register my protest. And I know that I was not wrong in pointing out the unfairness of the policy.
Maybe what I said will stick with that employee or get some other passengers thinking. Maybe it won’t. But sometimes just asking the questions, calling into consideration something which you consider to be unjust can be enough to get the ball rolling. Or maybe I’m just a really angry traveller and should start taking the train instead.