The job I have requires me to travel around the UK a fair bit. Sometimes by car, usually by plane. But there I was at Gatwick this week, and as usual the departures board read that there was a delay – again.
It had been the same going down, and in that moment I realised I genuinely could not remember the last time I was on a flight within the UK that actually arrived at its destination on time. I’m not just saying that; I genuinely cannot recall the last time that happened.
In the past I’ve had to get off one plane and re-book myself onto a later one in the hope that the other operator might get me to the gig in time. I’ve given up waiting and booked a hire car because it was the only way I was ever going to make it. I’ve even slept all night on the floor of Stansted airport.
Now, I fully accept that things go wrong from time to time. But it’s a bit grim when a flight that takes off and lands as scheduled is an event so rare that it should be marked in your diary as a cause for celebration.
What makes it worse is that the flight operators treat these late flights in such a blasé, off-hand manner. One operator, for example, has vouchers for light refreshments that are simply handed out like confetti when a flight is badly delayed. Sounds great, except the sum total of the voucher is £3, and most of the shops in the terminal don’t accept them!
And, most annoying of all, is the Tannoy “apology” which is obviously simply read off a card by some dimwit in a backroom. The most oft-used phrase in aviation today: “We’d like to apologise for the late departure of this flight” which is followed by “…due to the late arrival of the inboard aircraft.” In other words, the “knock-on” effect of one flight that makes every other flight late.
Let’s remember, that passing on the blame to the flight before yours – as though it’s nothing to do with them – doesn’t actually explain anything: it’s their plane that started it all!
What’s more, the check-in staff must have known there is going to be a massive delay. But do they inform you of the delay as you hand over your suitcases? Do they wheech! Instead, they let you through the rigmarole of security before you enter the departure hall to discover that you’re going nowhere for the next five hours.
Well, I’ve about had it. Stuff the lot of ‘em, I say. From now on I’ll be travelling to the gigs Doon Sooth by train. I’ll let you know how I get on.