Low Budget Airlines

I don’t know whether it says more about me or Easyjet that I cannot immediately recall the company’s slogan.

I’d like to think it was due to having the good fortune of limited exposure to the brand, but my recent experience suggests something else: Slogans, at least powerful or memorable ones, cost money. And Money is something that Easyjet does not like to spend. What they do like to spend is your time. After refusing to provide a refund of £5 for a cold bacon roll, a member of staff was labelled, correctly might I add, ‘A little prick’, by an aggrieved customer, who also happened to be common. Apparently voicing this frank yet accurate opinion necessitated back up in the form of the Maltese police force- and an extended runway stay for the rest of us on the plane. But more on that later.

Necessity is the mother of invention. This maxim guides most of my decision-making and helps me to avoid preparation and pre-planning in almost all situations. Such was the case this past Christmas morning when I failed to procure any gifts for my Grandparents who were due over at any minute. In most families this would be reasonable enough, some families have distant relationships with their grandparents. However, not only do I live round the corner from my Grandparents, and have been lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of their unconditional love and generosity throughout my entire life, they will also just be expecting a present. On top of this, I was facing stiff competition from my siblings, and whilst it was not immediately clear what their presents were from studying the outline through the wrapping paper, one felt they were expensive, or at the very least, well-thought-out. I am not one to be outdone.

I scanned the cupboards and gathered some basic materials to work with; a large piece of cardboard, a marker pen, a sheet of gold (coloured) wrapping paper. Scissors. Before you could staple a pair of balls to your estranged Auntie, I had two golden tickets for my Grandparents, entitling them a holiday to a Mediterranean destination of their ancestry. Not only did I have an unsurpassable gift, but it didn’t (immediately) cost me a penny. My grandmother’s distaste for spontaneity ensured I would not have to make good on this promise for at least a few months, and in all likelihood, my Grandfather would have forgotten about the whole thing in its entirety before the week was through. Either that, or he would conclude from precedents set by my earlier year’s gifts, that I was probably not being serious. For instance, in 2011, I gifted him a bicycle which my friend had left in my garage for 5 days. The very next day my friend came to pick it up, and much to dismay of all parties involved, we had to prise it back off my Grandfather. He subsequently bought his own bicycle and has been cycling avidly ever since. I am an ideas man. In fact, the majority of the gifts I have given to my eldest brother have been comprised mainly of lists of things that he may, or may not, have considered buying for himself. This technically makes it impossible for me to buy him something he doesn’t want, although I do understand it makes it equally impossible for me to buy him anything at all.

Time has a habit of passing, and before I knew it we were in March. My grandmother politely reminded me to make good on my promise and urged for preparations to begin for a trip in May. For someone who booked his last trip, (to another continent no less) 8 hours before the flight departed, this aforethought seemed utterly reckless. Anything can happen in two months and I was obliged to remind her that planning two weeks in advance at her age was nothing short of optimistic. When I began receiving daily texts 30 days before the flight was due to take off, asking if I had checked both of us in yet, I started to regret being so generous, and under the pressure, I was forced, under duress, to lie to my Grandmother, both for her sake and for mine. ‘Yes Mama, we are checked in x’. We were not. I don’t like lying, and especially not to the over 70’s. But I did not want to run the risk of being seated next to her by checking in early. We had the next 3 days together, these 3 hours would be my last bit of solitude before the long weekend, and I planned to cherish them. Unfortunately, my plan to surreptitiously check her in on the morning of the flight failed, after I forgot that I had recently changed phones and did not have her passport details. A sheepish phone call and a panic attack later, we were ready to go.

My concern was first piqued when, whilst queueing at the gate, an Easyjet steward announced that there was no more room for hand luggage and that all bags must now be stowed underneath the plane. This was met with grunts of disapproval, and in one case, a very loud and matter-of-fact ‘NO.’ I looked behind me and smelt it before I saw it. It was a blend of Cider breath and urine. The two characters standing behind me, one of whom the noise had originated from, would not be fit to board a train, let alone a flying vessel. But this is Easyjet. I am not religious, but my Grandmother is, so I asked her to ask God to not put them next to them on the plane. Another vocal dissident identified himself as an employee of Easyjet, a photographer who could not put his equipment in that swirling vortex of uncertainty beneath the aircraft. He was about 40 years old but he dressed like a 40 year old who was trying to look 30. The staff, initially suspicious but ultimately indifferent, granted him immunity. The steward told him to request ‘speedy boarding’ next time to which he retorted “unfortunately its Easyjet policy not to give us speedy boarding”. Now, it is one thing not giving your employees simple, naff perks like speedy boarding — it is another thing entirely to have a policy specifically precluding them of any such privileges. But this is EasyJet.

The best was yet to come. As expected, God had answered my Grandmother’s prayer — this was not too much of a surprise as she has been rather religious for some time — and had she not had sex with my Grandfather, she would still be a virgin. Instead, I was sat next to a couple with a baby, whom I assumed belong to them, that decided to shit itself before take-off. His timing — impeccable, just as the seatbelt signs turned on and no one could do anything about it for 15 minutes. His motives — unknown, but It was clearly a premeditated attack and quite possibly an act of terror. During take-off, a newly wed couple a few rows in front of me held hands across the gangway. Love triumphs almost everything, but in this case, it was not quite strong enough to overcome their singular desires for an aisle seat. As I tried to snap a photo on my phone of this moment I leaned over the aisle and stealthily angled my phone, I noticed considerable unrest emanating from the couple next to me. Only then did I realise that the lady was breast-feeding and thought I was trying to take a photo of her, presumably, in her mind, to promote some anti-breastfeeding-in-public-campaign. There was a joke about her having an EasyJet in there somewhere but I am not going to make it. This encounter was soon to pale into irrelevance.

Immediately adjacent to my aisle seat sat an outspoken, larger-than-life (and larger than everything), cockney geezer. He spoke as if he had little to no control over the volume of his voice and certainly no control over the content. Predictably, there is no such thing a free lunch with Easyjet, but that goes without saying. Whilst I dismissed the menu quicker than a vegan tells you he’s a vegan at a dinner party, my new friend perused the options with an intensity and interest usually reserved for those menus from fancy establishments that contain more words that you can’t pronounce than calories in the dish. And ordered a bacon roll. Unfortunately, half way through eating said roll he had decided it was freezing cold. The no-nonsense air steward, who looked like a very camp version of Connor McGregor (almost as well dressed and equally as Irish) decided to conduct a little impromptu detective work before facilitating any sort of currency transaction away from Easyjet’s pocket to a mere customer. After learning that no other customers food was cold, informing the customer he would not be getting a refund, and meeting his initial reservations with ‘Tough’ — my friend called him a ‘little prick’.

What ensued was a power struggle between cabin crew and what turned out to be an 8 strong crew of big, fat, bikers from East London who looked and sounded like they might support West Ham. The aggrieved, none other than the head honcho of the gang, was supplicated and protected by the rest of his minions, who took it in turn to stand next to his seat and provide him with council on possible outcomes, explanations and action plans for the coming conflict with cabin crew who were attempting to deprive him of his passport. For me, this meant 2 hours of rather large and frequently hairy backsides sticking into my face from the aisle. On the plus side I was a party to the internal workings of a bunch of half-brain fuckwits, which provided an endless source of entertainment. At one point, one of the gang proved 9/11 was an inside job with a mere wave of a hand depicting how the building came down, and that was all the evidence you needed. Everyone agreed and that was that. You had to admire their efficiency. Effortlessly returning to the case in hand, they arrived at the only explanation that made sense, and that was because the air steward was a homosexual, and was fighting his sexuality. Some members shared this hypothesis with fellow passengers seated around them, and in all their awkward-avoiding Englishness, promptly agreed. Upon meeting the Maltese police on landing, we had to wait whilst my friend was removed from the aircraft.

I still have no idea what their slogan is. But this is Easyjet.