Mile high — 75 times this year…but struggling to find any kicks!
Today marks my 75th flight of the year.
I may celebrate — not because of the quarter century milestone — but because so far there are no delays, no cancellations and I am where I should be.
Right now, that’s about a mile above northern France on the way to London from Zurich.
Most of my travel is in Europe — arguably the continent with the most connected economy and travel infrastructure.
Every business person knows we have to get on a plane, and since the collapse of Lehman Brothers most of us don’t fly Business Class — indeed most of the airlines I fly don’t even have a Business Class!
We all travel via flying bus!
Just an aside I’m on a BA flight today on a small plane — only two seats each side in a row — there is Business Class (or Club Europe — get you — as BA calls it). The passengers up front are still elbow to elbow, but for the extra maybe £100 quid they paid for their ticket, they get a doily on their headrest and a small breakfast on a saucer!!!!
CFOs of all you Swiss Banks take note: if you are not looking after your own money, should we trust you with ours? This is only an hour plus flight for goodness sake. The Tube from Heathrow to Central London takes about the same time!
So back in the clouds what has this year’s travel so far taught me???
Well a lot actually about airlines, their nations and how they treat passengers.
So here is my #take5 on air travel in 2018.
- Avoid the UK.
A bit tough when that’s your second home. But hey — if I have to sacrifice my family to avoid almost all UK airports then I would.
Manchester Airport is officially the worse airport in Europe — I’d connect in Mogadishu to avoid it.
Someone will say they are spending squillions on re- development and it will be world class when finished.
It won’t — it’s a mentality thing, the millions need to be spent on staff training (apart from the EasyJet team at the airport who are World Class — this year I bought them a big tin of Quality Street for helping my family from a travel nightmare — thank you very very much!!!)
I could write a book on the failings of Manchester airport — don’t panic, I won’t — but never hire a car from there. It will add an extra hour to your journey both ways. Tip for Airport boss: if you have a bus service to the car hire centre, how about having some busses to put on that service. Just a novel thought.
Luton Airport is the home of low-cost airline EasyJet.
Last week I was in the north east of England at a Halloween bonfire and the BBQ was in a cow-shed.
Luton airport feels pretty much like that cow shed. Cold, drafty and dark. I think there may have even been straw on the floor of the check in.
Just because we fly low cost, don’t treat us like cattle.
The new management at Gatwick have improvised the place, but it is still sub-optimal.
And just as an aside I miss the lovely BA music in the train between the North and South terminal…Zurich has the yodelling and cows moo-ing on its Skytrain. BrandBritain — you must try harder.
Post Brexit — ahem — improvements needed for all those new business leaders from across the world flying in when Johnny European doesn’t love you anymore.
2. Security queues.
Have I mentioned Manchester Airport — really!
I spend 45 minutes before the scanner queuing recently and then my bag was pulled for a check. I think waited another 20 minutes while 200 bags also pulled were also checked.
A row followed when a Canadian gent — I use the word advisedly, he was a rude jerk — harangued the security staff. But it’s not their fault. Poor training, and low staffing lead to the delays — rows of scanners were unmanned and closed.
This morning I got the train to Zurich airport. Got off the train, went through security, transferred to the correct departure terminal and was in the lounge in less than 15 minutes.
I’m not getting at Manchester Airport — but why not divert some of the millions you are investing into a little trip to Zurich and see how it’s done properly
For the record they both handle about 27Million passengers a year!
Other security queue tips — avoid Paris, Nice and just about any other French airport.
The Scandi’s do security well. And Oslo and Keflavik airports feel so friendly — and funny enough they can handle snow!!!!!
And thank you to a nice man at Newcastle airport who let me leave the sleeping baby in the pram and let us simply push it through without waking him. That made a whole journey so much more pleasurable.
But the queues aren’t all about getting out. Avoid French Immigration at all costs — 45 minutes to have passport checked with a two-year-old, no loos and 2 hours sleep was no fun in Geneva. Yes, I know Geneva is Switzerland — but it’s in the French bit and therefore doesn’t work (a bit like half of Basel airport!!!)
3. Duty Free
If I want to shop — I’ll go to the shops!! When I want to fly its planes I am looking for!
Sorry Newcastle — nil points! Just redeveloped so the moment you come through security you have to walk through Duty Free. It’s a growing trend in all airports — stop it. You are transport hubs, not shopping centres.
Let me get to my gate quickly without having to flight though gin junkies and nicotine addicts.
In Paris I needed a new shirt — I also needed a new mortgage when looking at the prices!
4. Cancellations and Delays
They happen — to me they happen a lot. At least 30% of my plans are disrupted.
Thanks Eurowings for stranding me in Cologne. Only had to drive 600km home that night in order to make a meeting the next day.
(And by the way you haven’t yet replied to my compensation email!!!!)
This year I have been delayed in London, Paris, Dublin, Nice, Zurich, Basel, Cologne, Isle is Man, surprise surprise Manchester and the executive washroom that is London City.
Consumer groups always crow about compensation for flight delays — but in my experience once an airplane approached that 3-hour delay point where they have to pay-out, then they cancel the flight.
5. And finally, airlines
Firstly — I don’t fly Ryanair. I have very few personal rules, but they appear to treat their passengers and staff appallingly. Charge for the air your breath … and for that fanfare alone on landing, I won’t go there anymore.
The National carriers are defined by the food/snack they service
Swiss — if you are lucky a fab Gruyere cheese flan, if you are unlucky a bit of what appears to be dry bread
KLM — a dry sandwich a dry waffle and a cup of water. But lovely Dutch packaging
Air France and Lufthansa are so bad I have repressed any memory — and fly Air France as last resort, you have to change at Charles De Gaulle — a labyrinth of Gaelic confusion and secondly their whole fleet feels like it hasn’t had the interiors updated since 1983 or maybe 84.
BA — crisps or shortbread — when did it all go so badly wrong for BA?!!!
Other than food and interior colours it’s usually an expensive ticket and not much difference — although thank you Swiss for still giving out a lovely little bar of chocolate or a choco football during this year’s World Cup.
Then there are the low-cost carriers — head and shoulders above is EasyJet. Good for prices, service and customer support — legacy airlines watch and weep.
But a magnet for drunken stag parties and foul-mouthed hen groups — or vice versa. They usually try to mate mid-air.
EasyJet management — sort this out. When you say you have a zero-tolerance approach then enforce it. EasyJet on a Friday night to Newcastle, Amsterdam, Dublin — well any destination with a bar really is a pretty horrible experience. Why not ban a few passengers or pay the local police to be waiting at landing?
So back to flight 75….
Currently BA has me arriving 10 minutes early — I can live with that — its all I really want from my travel plans!