Not a good start:
"Welcome to the BA Internet Check-in Website. Please enter..."
So I did. And then it said:
"Ah. Spot of bother. Awfully sorry. Its not working. Try again in a little while. "
For the last 24 hours....
Got up at 4:30, to get to Aberdeen airport for 5:30 to travel to Dallas. So. Bleary eyed, tired and pre-wearied, I appeared at the BA ("Bleeding Awful") to check in.
"Laptop case too big - has to be checked" shrieked the Dalek behind the counter. She then points at a 4 inch by 2 inch by one inch slot near the desk. "The Precious has to fit in the hole!!". (Perhaps she didnt actually use *those* words)
"Ah. So its safer to have this monster laptop bouncing around the cabin is it ?"
"Laptop case too big - has to be checked" exclaimed the Dalek behind the counter. "You can put your laptop in the hold".
"Forget that. I'll carry the damn thing. Thank you for your help this morning."
Flight called, boards. I'm standing in a "Miserable Sod" (Victor Meldrew) T-Shirt, Hawaillan shorts (that even Bob Balaban - Mr Hawaii himself - would be proud of) and a pair of Mickey Mouse Flip-flops. iPod around the neck, XPS under the arm, spare battery in hand. Ever the consumate business traveller.
Uneventful, cramped smelly flight with a "screamer" (Spoilt brat kid) two rows behind. This *really* helped, believe me.
Gatwick. Britains second biggest airport. And we get bussed straight to airside baggage reclaim.
"But I wanted the transfer desk!"
"Tough. Just go through customs again". Sigh. Now regretting getting the lighter confiscated, and the cigarettes put in the hold.
Upstairs. Half a million people form a smelly, grumpy queue right out the door.
"Is this the queue for customs ?"
"Yes. It starts *outside*"
"But I have a flight in an hour", etc. "Tough"
Outside in the fog, hairy knees shivering in the cold. Wondering if I could just hit someone with the spare laptop battery and steal their cigarettes..
45 minutes later. Customs. And a bunch of fricking amateurs are in front, taking off shows, and emptying cases. Sigh.
I walk up, dump armloads of tech in the bin, kick off the flip-flops and flick them into the tray. Walk through, with the "If you want to frisk me, I'm going to take off the remaining two items of clothing" stare. Unfrisked. (I had a horrible experience last week at Schipol where someone stuck their thumb down my underpants. Ah-ha. Never again).
Through. Straight to duty free. Two Liter bottles of 18 year old malt for £45. Score. Two huge bars of chocolate for the kids.
"Ah. Your travelling to the US. Liquids not allowed. "
"I'm a scotsman. Its my right to purchase vast amounts of whisky. And its sealed, and you deliver to the gate"
Two seconds later. Pub. Gasping for anything. Liquid. Bubbles. Ethanol. Nicotine. Caffeine. Bacon. ANYTHING. Compulsively passively smoking the atmosphere. Another queue. 15 minutes. "Bollocks".
Stomp off (which is hard to do in flip flops believe me) to W.H Smiths - the newspaper shop. Spies cigarettes and lighters. After another endless wait behind some airhead bimbo who had somehow forgot the idea that you had to pay for stuff..
Upstairs, flipping and flopping as fast as I could. Like a penguin on a wooden floor. Knocking small children, old people and armed policemen out of the way Finally get through the plastic, light up. Aaaaaaaaaaahhhh. Temper subsides.
"Mate, got a light ? "., "Sure". "Mine got confiscated. Where did you get yours ? "
""The shop downstairs"
(Repeated three times in five minutes.)
Back to the pub. Catch the eye of the Francis Rossi (Status Quo) Lookalike Bartender (He's been the bartender each year that HADSL has went to the Mouse, and has an engaging manner, quick wit and best of all, pours beer quickly). "A guiness and as much whisky as you can get in a glass, good sir!"
"Bing Bong. Flight Boarding"....
Race around to the gate (Visual: Fat Penguin, Laptop, iPod bouncing around neck, running across wooden floor...). An hour before the plane flies. Spend 10 minutes in another queue, to be passport checked (again) and frisked (again) - this time, not by British rent-a-cop minimum wage guards, but by US rent-a-cop minimum wage guys. Perhaps it was the "Charles Manson" stare, or the flip flops. ,but I got waved through again.
Checkout. Best customer service smile. "I've had a really bad morning. Go on - upgrade me"...I tell her the Duty-Free story.. She smiles and nods...
Her eyes survey my apparel, the wild staring eyes behind the glasses, the unshaven jowls (And believe me, I'm well Jowelled), the assorted technology pulling my shorts down.....
"Ahh. No. Tough"
Sitting at the gate, 30 mintes to wait. No toilet, No Food. No wireless. Battery running out.
"The jetty may be broken. We might have to walk you down the stairs. Sorry"
Welcome to Britain. Its a Bit Crap.
If the chairman of BAA ("Bleeding Awful Airports") or BA (just "Bleeding Awful") reads this - none of this is made up. This is now the product and service you offer. This is the customer satisfaction you have. Believe me, people will NOT tolerate this level of crap-ness. For instance,
- BAA own and operate the customs and search area. Its tiny, compared to the expanse of empty, expensive shops beyond. Why are they empty ? Because everyone's standing in a queue outside. Fuming. Getting waaaay out of the mindset of paying inflated prices for the tat in those shops.
- BA ? Why are you just a "Bit crap". Why is there more seat space in fricking Ryanair, for instance ? I'm a short guy - and yet my KNEES touched the seat in front of me. Come on. Thats bordering on illegal, as you cannot now actually stand up and easily get out of your seat in an emergency.
- BA - why was your internet checkin down for two days ?
- BAA - why is there no domestic to international transfer at LGW ?
See what happens when the greedy bean counters run the show ? Grumble, moan, mutter.