I'm a frequent flier and it still amazes me how many airport disasters I see that could be avoided. Here are some of my top tips based on eye witness disasters and general foul ups!
1. Get on the correct plane!!
Surely it was obvious that we were going to Budapest, so how did a man going to Alicante manage to miss the queue of passengers for his plane and end up on ours??? Yes folks, this is why the cabin crew check your ticket as you get in to the plane.
2. Don't bring oversized $300 hover boards with you
Picture the poor guy phoning a friend (to help out with the language problems) as the airport police arrive to try and explain that this expensive toy isn't getting on the plane. Unlike a Galaxy Note 7, there is no way he could hide the pretty box and its contents.
Q. What would you do at this point?
3. Go to the correct airport
Oh dear. Budapest had two working terminals for a short time and there was an
overlap when one was closing as the other was opening, with chaos and confusion ensuing for some. With only a taxi service and a 5 minute drive between the two terminals, passengers arriving at the wrong location, queueing for checkin and then finding out that they were in the wrong terminal was an all too familiar sight!
Similarly, I sat on a train next to an excited student who explained that he was heading to Amsterdam for the weekend. He had planned his activities and was going mostly for the drugs! He showed me his ticket that showed he was clearly running late but running late to Stansted airport when his ticket was for Luton. There was no time to get to the correct airport.
4. Don't stop for coffee when you hear the 'final call' announcement
It was the final call for the flight and a 20 Something passenger entered the aircraft and explained that she was waiting for her friend. The cabin crew raised an eyebrow but were their usual polite selves, "certainly madam, kindly take your seat. I am sure she will be here soon."
The 20 Something rummaged around for her phone but the battery was dead. Could she borrow a telephone to call her friend? Certainly! A knight in a shiny suit stepped forward and offered her assistance.
Frantic attempts to get hold of the friend failed and the crew had now been given orders to depart. More frantic calls ensued as the aircraft door swung shut.
"You've got to let me off the plane!", cried 20 Something. Our knight and others were doing their best to calm her down but she continued, "We were rushing for the flight and my friend stopped to buy a coffee". At this point sympathy gave way to incredulity. All spectators were equally astounded to think that rushing for the final call of your flight was a suitable time to queue for a coffee.
I like to think that the friend caught the early flight the next morning and they both had a wonderful weekend break but that really was a very expensive cup of coffee.
5. Check flight numbers yourself and don't rely on ground staff
I have to put my hands up and admit this one happened to me personally. I was waiting at Luton airport for my flight with (as usual) plenty of spare time. I casually checked the departure board and could see that my flight was delayed, no problem!
Later, through my headphone music mix I heard something that sounded like a final call for my flight and in a panic I rushed to the gate area. Breathing heavily (I wasn't so fit then), I found a check in person and presented my ticket but was calmly told that the flight was still delayed and given a food voucher. Nice!
Some 4 hours later the Wizz Air plane had been repaired with sticky tape and gum and was ready for boarding. So many distressed passengers queueing for a plane isn't a nice experience but I was calm until my ticket was refused entry to the aircraft. Not nice!
It turns out that my plane had left on time and the ground staff had directed me to the queue for the earlier delayed flight by mistake. Now I could understand everyone's frustration. They had been delayed by 4 hours when Wizz Air sent another plane to the same destination without them.
For my dilemma, I had to pay £50 over the telephone before I was allowed on the plane and Wizz customer services gave me the usual 'terms and conditions' and 'not our problem' responses the following day. £50 lost and Wizz lost a regular
6. Carry hand luggage only if you are in a hurry
Heathrow airport is busy at the best of times and I watched the chaos as a previous delayed Aer Lingus flight was being overtaken by the next Aer Lingus to Dublin passenger group. Many irate passengers couldn't see why Aer Lingus should not double the number of frustrated passengers by giving the new (working) aircraft to the passengers who were already 3 hours late.
Whilst heated arguments erupted, a small group of hardened travels stood waiting by the checkin gate, waiting for the final call. Yes, they were waiting for the elusive empty seats! One of the irate passengers spotted the trick but his checked in luggage was sitting in some baggage handling area and he was not allowed to join the cunning few. Clearly, the lighter you travel the more chance you have of dodging onto alternative flights!
7. Don't carry grenades in your hand luggage
I hate slow, dawdling passengers at airport security. There are TV screens showing everyone what to do:
- Take off belts, watches and heavy jewelry
- Remove laptops from luggage
- Put liquids in a little bag
It's all fairly obvious but some people really don't get what it's about.
I was standing on the 'far side', waiting to receive my belt, bag, laptop, etc, when the slowly moving conveyor of belongings stopped.
A lot of shuffling about by staff and worried looks led to curiosity by the waiting passengers and a hapless passenger claimed ownership of the bag inside the steal x-ray machine. He couldn't understand why his bag had been kept in the machine for so long and had no idea (or care) that he had kept 50 people waiting in line behind him because of a plastic toiletries container in the shape of a hand grenade.
Minus 2 points for him. The first for not separating his toiletries and putting them in a clear plastic bag. The second for bringing an item in the shape of grenade!
8. Don't carry phone cases in the shape of a hand gun
A few weeks after the previous story, I was sharing the lunacy with airport security when they told me of a case where a man was walking through the airport with a phone case in the shape of gun. He hadn't got to security but security got to him instead - in the form of a team of police officers swiftly and effectively pinning him to the floor. His first chance to discuss the phone case was with his face pushed firmly against the airport floor tiles.
9. Bring ID with you, even for domestic flights
Sitting in the coffee area of a quiet terminal building, I chatted to some dear ladies who had explained how they had missed their domestic flight to Glasgow due to traffic difficulties. In this modern age of discount flight operators, they were fortunate that the next flight had spare seats and, having buy new tickets, they were enjoying a coffee before the flight was called.
It's difficult to know how the conversation moved on to ID but it turned out that one of them hadn't bothered to bring any with her. "I don't need to. It's only a domestic flight", was the cry.
I tried to explain that the ground staff would not allow her to board the plane. After all, how could they prove the tickets were in the correct name? Passport, driving licence and even bank cards had been left at home (the friend paid for the new tickets). A loving son was meeting them at the other end so, she said, it wasn't necessary to bring anything.
I could imagine the impending argument containing quotes such as, "but I'm British" and "don't you know who I am?". All of this could be avoided by just bringing some ID. Is it really that difficult to bring some proof of who you are?
I hope my advice on avoiding airport disasters helps you avoid some of the missed holidays, confiscated items and general embarrassment that I have seen on my travels. However, I am sure that I will see more fantastic foul ups and be able to produce another article like this in the future.