I hate travelling. I spend half my life (or so it feels) travelling and I hate it.
Yesterday, for example, I flew back from Spain on a Ryanair flight. Now, despite all its bad press, Ryanair isn’t a bad airline in general. People’s main complaints are that the price initially quoted isn’t the price they end up paying (once taxes and extras have been added).
So, possibly in an attempt to simplify this (and/or to make more money for Mr O’Leary), Ryanair has changed its pricing structure. Before, you used to choose your extras individually. Want Fast-Track Security? Click here (and add £A to your total). Want to choose your seat? Click here to select (and add £B). Want Priority Boarding? Click here (and add £C). Two pieces of hand baggage? Just click here (and add £D). Plus various other extras I never used. Now, however, they’ve lumped them together into packages and called them something like Regular, Plus, and Super Plus. Regular is without extras. Plus gives you Priority Boarding, limited choice of seats, and only one piece of hand baggage. Plus, I suspect, costs about twice as much as it used to cost to add Priority Boarding and seat choice. Super Plus gives you Fast-Track Security, Priority Boarding, choice of seat including the front ones and ones with extra leg-room, and two pieces of hand baggage. Super Plus costs more or less the same as it used to cost when you added all of these as individual extras.
This meant that approximately 75% of the passengers (including me) had opted for Super Plus.
Which wouldn’t have been such a big deal — only the plane was delayed by around 90 minutes. After about 40 minutes, an announcement was made saying that the plane would be boarding shortly and to facilitate speedy departure, would people with Priority Boarding please form a queue immediately. I initially stayed put because, despite being English, I thoroughly dislike queueing, and I figured I could jump on the end of the line when it started moving. I was expecting the usual 20 or so people.
When I realized the queue was already about
80-people-long, and growing, I thought maybe I should join it anyway, if only so I stood a chance of having somewhere to stash my two bags before the overhead lockers got full. And they had
said that they wanted us to get in line to facilitate speedy boarding and, presumably, not miss their slot. i wouldn’t have to wait long, I thought… innocently, naively, foolishly. We stood in that bloody queue for 50 minutes!
Once on board, things didn’t really improve. the only good thing was that I had a leg-room aisle seat. Behind me were the cheap seats, so to speak — i.e. those with normal leg room. I’m going to try and draw the set up. M = man, W = woman, C = child, X = me, __ = empty seat, | | = aisle.
The man in my three-seat block had evidently spent the delay at the bar and did not seem to be a happy drunk. I viewed him with no little apprehension, but as soon as he got to his seat he wrapped his inflatable neck cushion around his neck and fell asleep. I smiled benignly upon him and his gentle snores.
The woman across the aisle and I got out our books and started to read. The two women behind her decided to have a conversation at the tops of their voices.
The children behind me decided to have a sing song. Someone asked the women to ask the children (they were all one party) to be quiet. The women said, in plaintive tones, ‘they’re only singing’ and ‘they’re only children’, but the kids did then shut up. Their mothers (or whoever they were) did not, and the whole plane now knows about Ange’s new kitchen and her double dishwasher that she surely can’t afford on what Rob earns because she can’t be contributing much if anything, even though she says she’s a mobile hairdresser, as the only time she ever goes out of the house is to go shopping, or at least that’s what she says, and not do people’s hair. It was quite amusing at first, but got dull fast. The woman across the aisle and I exchanged glances.
Then the child behind the sleeping man apparently kicked his seat. He leapt up with such a yell I thought he was having some kind of fit. Anyway, he turned round and said to the kid, quite politely, ‘Will you stop kicking this seat, please? I’m trying to sleep here.’ The kid responded in sing-song voice, ‘Sorreee.’ Our man went back to sleep.
But not for long, because maybe five minutes later, the kid kicked his seat again. He awoke not so dramatically this time, but more angrily, and said, ‘For fuck’s sake, will you stop kicking this fucking seat or I’ll come round behind you and kick your seat and see how you fucking like it!’ This set the mothers off. They berated the sleeping man for swearing at their children. They called him names. He tried to defend himself but their voices were louder and shriller and he was still half asleep and not quite sober. He knew when he was beaten. He resorted to muttering to himself ‘I was trying to sleep’ and ‘They keep kicking me.’ The woman across the aisle and I exchanged glances again.
The mothers were not satisfied with the man’s grudging submission. Their hackles were raised and they wanted blood. They called one of the flight attendants. They complained that the man had threatened their little darlings with violence. They said they were going to call the police upon landing (though I don’t think they followed through on this). The flight attendant tried to be diplomatic but just ended up making both sides angrier. They didn’t want a mediator; they wanted a champion. The flight attendant, who looked about 15, realized that his fire extinguisher was filled with petrol not water and his best attempts to quell the fire were only causing it to burn more furiously. He scampered away, having, I assume, remembered an urgent task he had to perform at the far end of the plane. The woman across the aisle and I exchanged more glances.
Oh, and then the plane landed, and instantly, people were standing up in the aisle, getting down their luggage from the lockers — and then standing there, necks twisted and backs bent, for the fifteen or twenty minutes it invariably takes before the doors open and the captives are allowed out of their confinement. I will never understand why they do this. It’s not going to get them to their destination any quicker than if they stay in their seats, read their books, and wait until egress is possible. Especially not when they have hold baggage to collect.
People are strange animals.