Posts Tagged ‘Air Travel’

Passenger comfort is no longer in the vocabulary of airlines and airports

April 10, 2016

Travelling by air has become an exercise in minimising the discomfort imposed by the purveyors of air travel. There is discomfort involved in all aspects of travelling by air. Depending on how fortunate one is, there could be levels of discomfort involved in arriving, in checking in, in negotiating harassment at security, in getting to the gate, in waiting at the gate, on board the aircraft, in leaving the aircraft  in collecting luggage and in leaving the airport. A nightmare journey is when you experience discomfort at every stage – and that is less uncommon than one would think.

Sometime last week the US Senate declined to bring in regulation to set a minimum regulation for seat size and leg-room on commercial aircraft. I don’t disagree with that because that should not be a matter of regulation. That is about passenger comfort, and that should be a matter which engages the airlines not the law-makers. It seems that for airport designers, airport managers, immigration and customs authorities and, most of all, for airlines, passenger comfort is no longer something they feel it necessary to deliver.

As I get older I give more value to comfort. But it is a luxury which is no longer even on offer. So when I travel by air – which is still about 10 -12 times a year – my concern is just to minimise the hassle. For a journey of up to about 500 km my preference is to take the car and avoid the hassle. Time, I find, is no longer of the essence. I go early. I no longer run to catch flights. I don’t hurry, I stroll, the 2 km needed to make a transfer at Frankfurt airport. Making a transfer at Heathrow is only for the masochist. But since I am early, I usually have to wait; in the check-in line, in the security line, in the immigration line, in the taxi line. I choose a carry-on bag on which I can sit. This is essential even at the gate. When was a gate ever equipped with more seats than the aircraft to be boarded? I am resigned to paying double for my rubbery sandwich and diluted coffee. I have learned to switch off my taste buds at airports. Airport designers win awards for architecture but they would never win any awards for passenger comfort. Ground personnel resent that you haven’t used the check-in machine that wasn’t working. On Ryanair you are punished if you bring luggage. Jet Air has a luggage limit of 15 kg for domestic flights just to suit international travellers who come with a 20 kg allowance. Security personnel are required to – and do – suspend their brains as they blindly follow their protocols. You cannot take the shortest way to the gate at Arlanda because that would mean bypassing the shops. Cleaners wait for me to approach before they close and start cleaning the toilets. Low cost airlines don’t even arrive at the city they tout as their destination.

cattle class

Cattle Class

Of course the worst comes after boarding. The only defense I have found is to try and sleep through the entire time on board. I skip the meals. I ignore the passenger in front who has reclined into my face. I ignore the pain in my knees and my sore shins. Announcements on board are in 3 unintelligible languages (all recordings of course) – all about everything of no relevance. There is never any explanation of that big thump while descending.

What you pay for these days is for arrival. Not for when you might arrive. The price of being alive (just) when you arrive is however still included. Comfort is no longer included in the ticket price.

There was a time when there was a joy in travelling by air. I still enjoy arriving, but there is no longer any fun in the travelling. In fact part of the new joy of arriving is that the discomfort of travelling has come to an end. Until the next time.



Managing without flights

May 1, 2010

I had to travel to Germany from Sweden during the time when air-space was closed due to the irrational alarm surrounding the volcano eruption in Iceland.

A 1500 km journey – each way – by car over a day-and-a-half was remarkably efficient, relaxed and much less stressful than hanging around at airports. A relaxed night in Bremen on the way to Essen and in Odense on the way back. Half the journey was through Denmark and Sweden with maximum motorway speeds of between 110 and 130 km / h and giving an average speed of 105 km /h. The other half on the German autobahns, where the maximum speed in some sections was unlimited also gave an average speed just over 100km /h.

Beautiful spring weather all the way and back and the average level of courtesy of drivers on the road is remarkably high.

UK Airspace was never actually closed !!!

April 19, 2010

As criticism mounts over the alarmist behaviour based largely on bureaucratic processes, in turn based on computer modelling, it turns out that UK airspace was never legally closed following the Icelandic dust cloud !!!

Criticism is also growing in Sweden and Norway for blindly following UK Met Office projections without confirming them by measurement.

The Financial Times reports:

The National Air Traffic Services body has appeared to be the one legally responsible for closing Britain’s airspace. This is because NATS, which provides airlines with air traffic control services, made the first announcements on April 14 about airspace restrictions after the cloud of ash began drifting over the UK. On Sunday night, it announced that restrictions would be in place until at least 7pm, Monday . NATS is not a regulator, however, and cannot legally close airspace. That power lies with the Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates aviation on behalf of the Department of Transport. So far, the CAA has not used this power. “At no point has UK airspace been shut. It’s legally open,” a CAA spokesman said.

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