Posted tagged ‘airports’

Area talk

May 22, 2009

A few days ago I was checking in for my flight at an airport, when a flustered lady pushed her way up to the desk where I was just being served.

‘I need to check in, I am late,’ she pleaded. I stood aside. The woman behind the desk asked, ‘where are you flying to?’ – ‘Toronto, Canada,’ she replied.

The check-in woman took her hand off the keyboard. ‘There are no flights to Canada from here. You are flying via where?’ The anxious passenger responded, ‘Via Area B.’

‘Where are you travelling to first, I mean?’

‘Nowhere, until you’ve checked me in. This is Area B!’

‘Yes, it’s Area B, but I that doesn’t help you. Can I see your ticket?’

The anxious passenger was now coughing madly. My eyes met those of the woman behind the counter, and you could see we were both moving back a little, thinking Mexican swine flu. Through the coughing fit the passenger tried to say ‘e-ticket’ (which she pronounced like ‘EEEEE-ticket’). ‘Look, I was told to come to Area B, or maybe another area, I don’t recall. But this is an AREA, right? You can check me in at this AREA, yes?’

‘I’m not sure you are at the right area, and I do need to see a ticket or an e-ticket number.’

“My flight is leaving, I am not going to any other area, please, you must check me in.’ Coughing lady now dropped her handbag and varied contents rolled out over the floor. I helped her recover her possessions. ‘Thank you, Sir,’ she said; ‘Do you think this is my Area?’

Just then the person at the next desk beckoned me over to check me in, and I do not know whether the anxious, coughing passenger made it to Toronto, or whether she was able to persuade anyone that one area is as good as another. One thing is sure, getting through airports can be a challenge these days. I hope she made it.


Airport blues

May 9, 2009

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.