Friday, 3 August 2012

Come fly with me - but only if you are an adult!

If you are flying on a budget airline with small children YOU NEED TO GET TO THE GATE EARLY OR BOOK SEATS OR BUY PRIORITY BOARDING! This is fairly self-explanatory but I understand that not all of you will have used budget airlines so I will explain.

Budget airlines pretty much ‘do what they say on the tin’ in that they fly you from A to B at a very low ticket price. It is important to be aware that ‘B’ can often be 40 minutes away from where you imagine it to be i.e. “Girona Barcelona” is actually Girona, rather than Barcelona and that “Paris” is almost definitely not Orly or Charles de Gaulle Airports. The basic ticket is dirt cheap so naturally the airline will be keen to make money by selling ‘add-ons’ but if you already have your own travel insurance policy, can travel with hand-luggage, don’t need to pre-book a seat and don’t need confirmation by text message then it is perfectly possible to stick to the original ticket price.

Experienced budget airline travellers are instantly recognisable at airports – they are the ones constantly watching the screens waiting for the ‘gate’ announcement, at which point they will run as fast as possible to be the first in the queue and to seize the chance of picking the good seats. By ‘good’ seats I mean seats next to the person you are travelling with or (even more important) with space in the overhead locker so that your hand luggage is instantly accessible for a quick getaway once the plane lands.

‘Hand luggage’ is always a great bone of contention at the departure gate. Everybody checks the weight & size that is permitted to be carried on board but, it seems that not everybody checks the smaller print which states that “Only one piece of hand luggage can be carried on board”. In effect this means that the last minute essentials you bought from Boots, the latest paperback & magazines you bought from WH Smith’s and, more importantly, your handbag, has to fit into one tiny piece of hand luggage. Even if you manage to cram everything into one bag there is a metal cage right by the desk and they will insist that you place your luggage inside to prove that it conforms to the measurements. (On yesterday’s flight I was carrying a plastic 3d relief map and I have to admit that the Pyrenees have not fully recovered).

I realise all this may sound most peculiar and to those of you who are used to proper boarding passes with allocated seat numbers but, as long as you know the ropes and are expecting ‘no frills’ then it is a very cheap and convenient way to travel. What I cannot understand is what exactly goes through the minds of families who are travelling with young children. During the online booking process it is almost difficult not to request priority boarding or pay to have a seat allocated so why oh why don’t they do it? On yesterday’s flight some of the last people to board were a couple with a toddler and an 8 year old and they seemed quite surprised that they couldn’t find four seats together. In the end they had to put the 8 year old in a window seat next to a middle-aged couple (not us thank goodness!). In fact he turned out to be a charming well-behaved little boy and it seemed that the couple actually enjoyed their conversation with him so all was well – until we started our descent and the poor little chap was overcome by a sudden bout of travel-sickness.... The middle-aged couple were brilliant in the way they reassured him and dealt with the aftermath but they should not have been put in that position in the first place. Parents travelling with young children - YOU NEED TO GET TO THE GATE EARLY OR BUY PRIORITY BOARDING!

(The picture at the top of this blog was taken by me on a “budget” airline flight. It was the first one of the season so it seemed that only me and 4 other people felt the need to leave Perpignan in May). Miracles do happen!

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