Airport blues

Today was a day of travelling. I had some business in Edinburgh in Scotland, and I so I flew out from Dublin in the morning and returned in the evening. 5.30am in Dublin airport, and it was pandemonium. The line to get through security went half way round the departures hall, so that despite my rather early arrival I seriously feared I would miss my plane. Somehow I just made it – via the by now habitual delay at the security screening area itself because something had set off the alarm, without anyone being able to work out what. Confusion on arrival at Edinburgh, because since my last visit they seem to have changed where everything is. And for my return journey late in the evening, the to-be-expected delay in the flight, probably caused by cumulative delays earlier on. Well, we still need to go places and I guess we get there, but who can seriously say nowadays that the flight itself and the lead-up to it and disengagement from it are any fun?

It was not always so. The first flight I can remember (which was indeed my first flight) was when we moved to Ireland in 1961. We boarded Aer Lingus in Düsseldorf, landed (and, as the horrible expression is nowadays, ‘deplaned’) in Manchester, before getting back on the same plane and flying on to Dublin. In Manchester we were led from the plane into the very small terminal building, where we were offered armchairs to sit in while men in white jackets brought us tea and coffee. It was extraordinarily civilised.

Nowadays airports are a curious mixture of shopping centre, bureaucratic torture chamber, long distance walking arena. The worse-for-wear survivors of hen party weekends, talking somewhat too loudly, share the space with grumpy looking businessmen, backpackers from Sweden, and people heading for Malaga wearing totally ridiculous clothes. You have this constant sense of seeing all of humanity and discovering you really don’t like any of them.

And yet, carbon footprints and all, I wouldn’t want to go back to the days when a day trip to Butlins Holiday camp was the most exotic trip many might expect to have. Globalising the world through air travel has been a big gain, and so I’ll put up with the discomforts and horrors. And if I meet you there, I’ll try to be nice.

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3 Comments on “Airport blues”

  1. Iain Says:

    Yes, I think Dante described it well in some of his prescient writings! On occasion though, there are still wierd and wonderful experiences to be had.

    A few years back I was travelling between Scotland and Germany for business and flew out on British Airways, uneventfully enough. On arrival at Frankfurt airport for the return leg of the journey, I only then realised that the university travel service had booked me by an airline that I’d never heard of before and the gate was way at the furthest possible extremity of the airport complex where I found only three other passengers. Eventually we were driven out by bus to the plane which looked worryingly ancient and very small. Climbing onboard there was an awful smell of paint and a man in the cockpit hitting one of the controls with a huge spanner. The stewardess who loooked very pale and drawn, muttered to us not to lean against the fuselage wall on the right hand side because the paint wasn’t completely dry yet.

    After sitting down and clamping on a seatbelt that looked more like a restraint for violent patients than something designed for executive travel, I then noticed that the man with the spanner sat down in the cockpit, put on a battered old pilot’s hat (although it did look like a Red Army general’s cap with a sticker with a plane on it stuck to the font and shouted “Hellawrer. Ah’m the pilot we’ll be gauin’ in a wee while. Don’t mind Jeanie, by the way. She will serve you some snacks later, but the poor lassie was really sick on the way over and couldn’t keep the boak down (Scottish colloquial expression, not generally used in polite company).”

    The said Jeanie then handed me a tatty looking in-flight magazine, and I promise you, asked me to “pass it on when I’m finished”. When I opened it and read that this ‘airline’ was a new startup venture – the long held dream of Bobbie the pilot and Jeannie, his niece, and that it was based in a rented office in Paisley (my hometown), I wasn’t entirely reassured.

    Anyway, after a very loud and rough take-off we headed off on the bumpiest, most anxiety ridden flight I’d ever been on, feeling for most of the time that the plane was really struggling to cross the North Sea en route to Edinburgh and, curiously, its intended final destination of Glasgow.

    We finally came in on a very rough landing at Edinburgh with strong cross-winds lots of braking and skidding, bumping and screaming and when the engines finally died in a last “phut” the pilot opened the cockpit door and shouted out “Listen, I know we’re supposed to be flying on to Glasgow, but that last stretch really jiggered me (another cute local phrase) and if I was you I’d just get aff here and get the bus or the train.”

    In shocked disbelief I made my way down the steps and out into the Airport terminal trying to understand if I had hallucinated the whole experience or if I had just stepped through from a parallel universe. A couple of weeks later I read a small snippet in the newspaper stating that this airline had gone bust and its sole plane was impounded at Frankfurt for non-payment of fees. Poor Bobbie and Jeannie. What they lacked in class and style they more than made up for in ambition and “never say never”.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment. Air travel isn’t even half as glamorous nowadays as it used to be. Sigh.

  3. Jean O'Sullivan Says:

    If you meet me where? (last sentence)
    Malaga? But that was much earlier in the post.
    Not terribly clear…

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