Flying into a rage


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.


The Tedium/Tremendousness of Travelling for Work


I spent years at my previous job planning amazing work trips abroad for colleagues. I was queen of the logistics, booking flight, hotels and co-ordinating some truly impressive looking programmes. I worked with people from across the globe in putting together these expeditions but until last week the furthest I ever travelled through my job was to Yorkshire. Granted this was nice and getting to travel first class on the train was a treat never before enjoyed but it wasn’t really on the same scale as some of the more exotic adventures I planned for others to places such as India, Myanmar, Finland and so on.

However, last week I was given the opportunity to travel to Bangkok to participate in an international staff conference with regional colleagues from around the world. For me this was an exciting travelling adventure, although I accept that for those who frequently jet off here, there and everywhere this might not be as appealing.

Initial excitement about the prospect of the excitingly destined work trip did fade somewhat as we neared departure and the work load prior to the event started to mount up. Add to this the realization that a week away isn’t a week’s holiday, with accompanying elements of rejuvenation, but will nonetheless have the same toll as a week’s vacation whereby you have lots to do before you go and then again when you come back to compensate for that week physically away from the office.

Still, as the day of departure loomed I took great pleasure in packing sandals, t-shirts and other summery clothing in the middle of what was starting to develop into a cold winter in Geneva (and would be so much worse by the time I returned).

The flight was long, sleep-depriving and lacking in space but there was free food (always exciting to someone who most frequently travels with easyjet). There was also the opportunity to catch up on a number of films I’d missed/would-never-have-paid-to-see at the cinema.*

Arriving in the balmy heat of a Bangkok evening was simply wonderful. My not-so-long-ago experience in Cambodia had prepared me for that blast of warm muggy weather that hits you as soon as you leave the artificially temperate airport so this didn’t come as a shock so much as a welcome relief, especially when pitted against the backdrop of Geneva’s increasingly chilly January weather I had left behind a day before.

Checking into the comfortable hotel I delighted in the discovery of the complimentary bathrobe and slippers and snazzy look toiletries in my room. I even checked out the gym before allowing myself to settle down into a deep and dreamless sleep.

The next day the work began, in case you thought I‘d forgotten about that aspect of the trip! Any illusions of a work-light week of sightseeing were quickly dissipated when the initial conference session started.

I was invited to attend in my minionesque status, my role being to minute each meeting. This meant intense concentration required and a vigorous penmanship workout (I prefer to hand-write than type notes) for each 4/5 hour official meeting, with a twenty minute coffee break. There were also a number of informal meetings, which took place outside of the main plenary, so if I’d hoped for hours of free time spent chilling out by the hotel’s pool I was sadly mistaken.

Work was intense and demanding and a few sleepless nights as the body clock struggled to adapt to the new time zone added to the challenge but there was a bit of time at the end of each working day to leave the deceptive coolness of the air-conditioned hotel and enjoy the sultry heat of a Thai evening. And conveniently located in the vicinity of the hotel were a large number of Thai massage parlours (I did spot at least one illegitimate “massage” parlour but I’m fairly confident those I frequented were all above board).

Capture d’écran 2015-02-04 à 12.55.26I was tempted to try and claim the cost as a legitimate work expense – seriously after four hours of writing my right hand and supporting body parts definitely needed a little attention. However, I recalled the drama of the parliamentary expenses scandal and thought that claiming for a massage was probably the kind of things that might be as misinterpreted as was expecting the public to foot the bill for upkeep of a duck house.

After the conference I allowed myself the luxury of staying on in Bangkok one extra day so did get to enjoy a day of trawling through the markets, finally having a swim in the pool and enjoying a final massage and Thai meal before my 2am flight home.

The effect of the massage and very late/early flight did help me to sleep for the first part of the journey (there was a stopover in Abu Dhabi) so I was slightly more rested on arrival at Geneva than at Bangkok. However any remaining sleepiness was quickly eradicated as I disembarked the plane in my light summer wear and discovered myself woefully unprepared for the snow falling around me in Switzerland.

Capture d’écran 2015-02-04 à 14.27.59So travelling for work was harder than I had anticipated and really pretty exhausting (I’m still struggling today) but if asked to go again I think I could probably rise to the challenge!

* Would definitely recommend Hector’s Search for Happiness and St Vincent. Quite enjoyed the Fury and I thought Boyhood an interesting concept even if I wouldn’t be in a hurry to watch again. I didn’t think much of Lucy and was pretty unnerved by Before I Go To Sleep.