Saturday, 23 October 2010


Am freshly jetlagged and back home in wonderful British Columbia. Thankfully back in the bosom of friends and neighbours with much to celebrate. Although if it had been down to some half trained half wits we'd still be stuck in a certain UK airport. I recount the following hilarious episode for the edification and caution of my reader.

Passport check before check in;
Functionary. "Passports please." Slightly surprised at the challenge, we dutifully handed over our ID for scrutiny. There was a brief pause. "Can't let you board"
Me. "Pardon?" Who is this person? They work for the airline? WTF?
Functionary. "You haven't got the right visa for Canada." What?
Me. "Oh yes I have." Point out correct piece of paper in passport.
Functionary. "It should be there."
Me. "Excuse me, I've had to learn Canada's immigration rules from the inside out and there's no such ruling." Bill Sticker's patented steely gaze is brought out of cold storage and applied liberally at this point. The 'don't screw with me bozo' look fulfils it's function. My wife tells me my eyes express my inner anger quite adequately.
Functionary. "Oh." (Thoroughly browbeaten with brief look of confusion) Puts 'approved' sticker on passport.
Me. "Thank you." Delivered in very careful and formal tones to express that no thanks whatsoever are due to said Functionary. We move on without looking back.
Mrs S. "What was all that about?" Said my wife in a bewildered aside.
Me. "Come on Hon, let's go."

We move to the next episode at the Check in desk. People with slightly overweight bags are being humiliated into repacking their smalls in front of a long weary queue. I raise an eyebrow at this, but otherwise maintain silence.

Check in.
Hand luggage presented which came across with us from Canada. It is actually a specially designed piece of luggage manufactured to the airlines specifications. There was no problem with it when we left, and none was anticipated, but;
Check in person. "We can't take that as hand luggage."
Me. "Pardon?"
Check in person. "It's too big."
Me. "It was bought to your airlines specifications. Have the rules changed in the last three weeks?" Is someone deliberately trying to get us angry? If so, they've succeeded. Mrs S is flushed and visibly upset.
Check in person. "It has to be able to fit in that cage." Points out battered looking blue tube steel construction carrier. Baggage presented, fits. So where's the fucking problem bozo? By the way; why do so many male airline staff affect that stupid camp accent? It's very irritating. Bewildered look at Check in person.
Check in person. "It has to fit under the arrow." The baggage is the right size. We got told this both by the manufacturer and check in at Vancouver. It was bought for this specific purpose and has been used on several transatlantic flights since without comment.
Me. "Supervisor. Now." Mrs S is about to explode, and I'm not far behind her. We've been on the road for the past few days and we're visibly tired, and getting angrier by the nanosecond.
Check in person. "There's no-one available."
Me. "We'll wait." It is helpful at this point to imagine my words being delivered with the speed and spin of physical slaps. Apologetic remarks are exchanged with people behind us in the queue. These are of course delivered in a gentler, more placatory tone. Sympathetic gestures of mutual frustration exchanged. Check in person is blushing furiously and will not meet the Bill Sticker patented steely gaze. This impasse continues for almost ten minutes. Supervisor, a youthful bespectacled person; arrives, and with fingers ticking off points as though memorised, informs us that Check in person is "Just doing their job." We stand our ground. Bag is cleared because it is plain that Check in person has included the handle in overall dimension. The poor level of training is transparent, and the manically tick box driven delivery of service abrasive. After much unnecessary glaring and increased blood pressure, the matter is resolved to my grim satisfaction. Result; Airline Nil, Bill Sticker 2.

It is interesting to observe that both Mrs S and I moved through security and passport control five minutes later almost without breaking step. The aforementioned frustrations were meted out purely at the hands of airline staff. Call this customer service? Because I bloody well don't.

Now while one appreciates that no-one wants to be saddled with the extra cost of having to transport deported passengers back to their point of origin, or have their aircraft too heavy to get off the ground, one would like to think that the people who make the day to day decisions should receive better training in the rules and their proper application, and their people skills. Needless to say, 'air cattle truck' will not receive our custom again. No matter how cheap they are.

More tales of discumbuggeration at the hands of UK officialdom to follow when I'm properly rested. What a country! I'm so glad I don't live there any more.


SadButMadLad said...

At least you didn't have the badly designed bag measuring cage which rejected cases that actually were within limits. You want to know why it rejected the valid sized cases? Because the corners of the cage were rounded rather than square. Cases have square edges so they would clash with the cage.

Someone cocked up when ordering the cages and rather than fix them, the numpties carried on using them because they relised that they could charge extra for the cases on the basis that they would have to go in the hold - at extra cost. Sounds ok, but as always happens - you get found out eventually. And then a situation which sounds good for the company actually turns out to be a PR disaster.

Would have been cheaper for the airline to recall the wrong cages and replace them with the correct ones.

Bill Sticker said...

You know, the cage may have been the type you describe. The carry-on bag did seem to ride a little higher than it should.

As you say, the numpties don't know the difference, leading to my increased blood pressure and an avoidable confrontation.

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