Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Air Rage

So I’m just back from a couple of days in Istanbul. And they were great days, believe you me. Super days. Crazy days. Ever so slightly smoky days. (DAMN YOU, ALEV!!!) I loved the city, and my hostess could not have been more charming and hospitable without seriously jeopardising her marriage. However, two things marred the trip.

One was the flight out there.

The other was the flight back.

So it was with this in mind that I have spent the last few hours working on this relatively cathartic blog post. It’s not going to help me find a lady, probably, but it will hopefully help lower my blood pressure.

This has been building up for some time I might add. It hasn’t just been inspired by the flights to and from Turkey. In fact, if I’m honest, most of my gripes come from flights I’ve taken over the last couple of years. Ryanair flights. I loathe Ryanair. But they’re far from the only evil at work in the air travel industry. OK. So, in no particular order…

The 20 Most Annoying Things About Air Travel


Why is it that the vast majority of the people employed by airlines and airports are some of the rudest, most sour-faced, supercilious and generally inhuman, humourless swine you’re ever likely to meet? Particularly those, I might add, who work in security.

These people are the first or the last people you see before you enter or leave a country – as such surely it should be drummed into them as part of their training that they are ambassadors for an entire nation, and that their country’s reputation is in their hands. Instead of making their country proud of them, most of these people (not all, but the vast majority) merely make the rest of the world despise both them and the soulless hellhole they represent.

Just be nice for God’s sake! I know it’s not easy working in the service industry, especially in security in this day and age. I know you have to deal with some awful, aggressive, miserable wretches. But we’re not all like that. Please don’t talk to me like I’ve got bombs buried in my cheeks. And if I smile at you, the least you could do is smile back. (Oh, and if you are going to smile back, please make it convincing. An obviously false smile is even worse than a scowl.)


If there is some kind of technical fault on London Underground – such as a signal failure, for example – and you have to wait for more than 15 minutes for a tube, TfL are obliged to compensate.

Airlines on the other hand are allowed to be up to five hours late before they are obliged – on request – to give you your money back. Of course, people tend to put up with hideous delays because it’s not like you can just leave the airport and order a taxi to Cuba. So as a general rule, secure in the knowledge that you’re pretty much screwed without them, airlines don’t give a damn about you, and they have no qualms about making it crystal clear that they hold you in utter contempt.


I don’t know if Ryanair are the worst at this, but they probably are. They’re worst at a lot of things. And the charges speak for themselves. Even if you have no bags to check in, but you choose to check in physically as opposed to online, they’ll charge you £4. Just for the pleasure of queuing up for an hour and being scowled at. If on the other hand you have one bag to check in, which I’ve always assumed was every traveller’s inalienable right, and free to boot, Ryanair will charge you £14. Two bags, £34. And so on.



Ryanair and EasyJet are the main culprits here I think, and it’s a rare flight indeed that doesn’t include an exhortation to gamble like a prole. But it’s not the fact that they big up the charity angle so proudly and then keep 99% of the profits for themselves that bothers me. After all, budget airlines have to make their money back somehow and pretending to care about children with cancer is as good a way as any. What really bothers me is the assumption that all of their passengers are braindead baying dolts who can’t get over the channel without suffering Idiot Tax withdrawal symptoms.

If you want to encourage me to donate to charity, offer me something slightly more sophisticated. I’d be much more likely to buy an enamel ribbon for instance, or a garish key fob, than a scratchcard. Still not bloody likely incidentally, but still, probably less offended. Offering me scratchcards is like patting me on the head with a copy of The Sun. Oh, and once on a Ryanair flight, they were selling some Crazy Frog merchandise and they had the nerve to play that dreadful music over the tannoy. I nearly imploded. Ryanair: we are not morons!


Actually some of us are morons, and a great many of those of us that are seem to congregate on budget aircraft these days. And one of the main problems with morons is that they have no idea how to raise their children. So, whilst you're up there, thousands of feet up in the air, desperately trying and failing to flee consciousness, it isn't uncommon to find yourself being kicked violently in the back or slapped violently about the head and neck with a pair of sticky hands. In fact, it's really quite common. And it's very, very annoying.

Of course, it’s not the kids’ fault. They are after all - in many important ways - not yet real human beings. It’s the parents’ fault. For they are morons. And because of these morons, there seem to be at least half a dozen spoilt hyperactive brats on every plane. (Incidentally, all children on planes are - by dint of being up in the air and not up a chimney - spoilt.)

Once onboard, these brats are allowed to run around making a hideous amount of noise and, worst of all, they are allowed to stand - and jump up and down no less - on their chairs. What is it with parents who allow their children to STAND ON THEIR CHAIRS on a plane? Or indeed anywhere.

I reckon, every time a child stands up on an aeroplane seat, their parent or guardian should be tasered. Spare the taser, spoil the child, that’s what I say. Believe me, today they’re jumping up and down on aeroplane seats, tomorrow they’re trepanning old ladies with platinum dildos.

Frankly - I don’t want to be draconian about it - but until I have children of my own, I decree that all children under the age of 15 should not be allowed within five kilometres of any airport.


I’m still not convinced that these so-called ‘liquid bombers’ ever actually existed. Was anyone actually charged with a crime? I mean, come on, a bomb in a bottle of fizzy pop? The very idea. In fact, the more the War on Terror continues – no matter what it’s called – the less I believe anything I’m told. Which is fine in a way, because governments are self-serving fiends who lie pathologically in order to follow their own agendas, and I would expect nothing less of them. But when that means that I have to sacrifice fine liquor… actually I’ll come to that in a moment, but for now, the most infuriating thing about the liquid ban for me is that it is ILLOGICAL.

(I'm using A LOT OF CAPITALS TODAY, aren't I?) (Cool.)

At Heathrow airport a mother is allowed to take a bottle of baby milk on board, but only on condition that she tastes the milk to prove that it contains no nitroglycerine, acetone peroxide triacetone triperoxide or whatever. So, my question is, why on earth can’t I taste-test my water in front of a security officer? Having said that, why aren’t other people allowed to take a swig of their contact lens solutions or their bottles of perfume? If it’s simply a case of proving liquid isn’t dangerous, then they should let us do that.



I went to France last summer and I took a couple of bottles of wine onto the plane in my hand baggage. No problem. They were unopened, clearly corked and foiled. Yet two days ago in Istanbul I had to throw away a bloody fantastic bottle of wine which was bought for me as a gift. Again, it was unopened, clearly corked and foiled. So what was the difference? Am I more likely to blow up a flight from Istanbul than I am a flight from Toulouse? Well, I am now, I can promise you that.

Oh, and before the surly bastard responsible made me ‘throw it in the trash’, I was asked if I had a receipt. Apparently that would have made a difference. Like terrorists are not given receipts for the wine they buy and fill with explosives. Pfffft. What a lot of balls.


‘I’m sorry, sir, you can’t take that unopened bottle of wine that was an expensive gift from a friend,’ says the security screening man. ‘Even though it has plainly not been tampered with since it left the factory, you must either go back to check-in and somehow attempt to get it in the hold of the plane where it will be destroyed by reckless baggage handlers, or you could just throw it in that bin there, from where it will later be sneaked away and enjoyed by myself or one of my colleagues. But don’t worry, sir, a mere 30 feet away when we finally let you in, you can purchase an identical bottle at a small discount.’

(When this kind of thing can happen legally, as far as I’m concerned the terrorists have won. Really. Even the occasional plane going down was better than this.)

What’s worse still of course, is the fact that, because you’re not allowed to taste-test your water or soft drinks, you then have to buy more refreshment from a shop or vending machine in the departure lounge, or of course at a vastly inflated price on board the plane.

Who exactly is profiting from this so-called terrorist threat? Why, we are, answers the Good Citizen. For if it weren’t for these heightened security measures, then Great Britain would be vulnerable, playing right into the hands of the rapacious terrorist Hun. Hmmm. The soft drinks companies do pretty well out of it too though, don’t they?

And as if that weren’t enough, I noticed in Luton Airport the other day that just before trial by security screening, there is a sparkly new vending machine selling small plastic bags in which you can store any liquids you might have that amount to less than 100 ml. These bags used to be free. Now they cost £1 for four.

If ever something made me want to bomb an airport, it was that vending machine.


OK, so let’s say that the mythical Liquid Bomb actually exists. Assuming it does, I have a couple of questions.

a) If I can put enough nitroglycerine or acetone peroxide triacetone triperoxide or whatever in a 200 ml bottle to blow a hole in a plane, why can’t I get enough in a 100 ml bottle to blow a slightly smaller hole (about 50% smaller) in the same plane?

b) If Science can answer that first question suitably and a 100 ml bottle simply cannot contain enough explosive material to bring down a plane, then why on earth do we need to put our tiny bottles in pointless plastic bags? Surely if a liquid is dangerous, we need to keep it off the plane. If it’s safe, what’s the point of putting it in a tiny plastic bag? Is that going to save us? I don’t think so. There’s a reason armour is made out of steel or Kevlar, and there's a reason it's not made of polythene.

Am I missing something here? Or is the tiny plastic bag thing all complete nonsense?


How difficult is it to microwave a sandwich so that the contents are hot all the way through, but not so hot that they can burn a hole in human flesh? Well, at Food Village in Luton Airport, the answer is ‘far, far, far too difficult’. But at least when it was piping hot, the astronomical temperature masked the unpleasantness of the taste. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the smoothie I bought from their fridge was effervescing. It was very depressing. Still, it was better than most inflight comestibles, which quite frankly, and generally speaking, are enough to have a chap with a sensitive stomach reaching for the sick bag.

Still, airport and airline food may be unspeakably awful, but at least it isn’t disgustingly expensive. Oh... wait. It is!


It really annoys me that I’m not allowed to go to the toilet when the ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign has been illuminated. It wouldn’t annoy me, I swear, if it applied to everyone. And that includes the cabin crew. But when they’re walking backwards and forwards trying to remember what they’re supposed to be doing, practising their vacuous, contemptible smiles and completely ignoring that spoilt little shit jumping up and down in its seat, why the hell am I not allowed to nip to the loo before I soil myself? I PAID FOR MY FLIGHT! THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT! LET MY URINE GO!!!

Alright, this is a bit of a flimsy one maybe. It’s obviously for my own safety that I must stay in my seat in severe discomfort, and cabin crew are trained professionals, and it’s part of their job to stay on their feet at all times, even in the event of an illuminated sign. But for God’s sake, a little compassion. I didn’t even have a bottle I could pee into. Oh, the inhumanity.


In these days of budget flights, it’s not unusual for it to be more expensive to get to the airport – which is often no more than an hour away – than it is to actually get to your destination country (excluding tax of course). The Stansted Express for example, will charge you £15 to get from Liverpool Street to Stansted, a journey of approximately 45 minutes. This is pretty much par for the course too. Bastards. Generally speaking, setting up a service which specialises in ferrying people to and from an airport is basically giving yourself a licence to steal.


Or in other words, being instructed to keep your window blind open during take-off and landing. I once asked a member of the cabin crew why that was and was informed it was so that I would notice if a fire broke out on the wing. Thing is, if a fire breaks out on the wing, I’m not sure I want to notice. If I’m going to die on an aeroplane, I’d really rather not know anything about it till I wake up in Heaven being pleasured by Vivien Leigh and Charlotte Bronte.


If you want to use the internet before you catch your plane in Luton Airport, it will cost you £1 for ten minutes. Or, if you prefer, £6 an hour. Courtesy of BT Openzone. Thanks, BT! At least if you’re mugged in the street, you’ve got a story to tell your friends.

15. GERMS.

Some say you’re no more likely to be struck down by illness in an aeroplane than you are crossing the road. I don’t believe them. Maybe it’s the low barometric pressure and oxygen content in the air cabin. Maybe it’s the humidity. Maybe it’s the engine fumes. Maybe it’s the vile children jumping up and down on their seats and coughing their vileness all over you WITHOUT COVERING THEIR MOUTHS! Heck, maybe it’s the stress. Whatever it is, I never seem to be able to take a trip on a plane without at the very least contracting meningitis.


It was one of my first times up in an aeroplane. We were coming in to land in Berlin, and there was that delicious unspoken anticipation of death, followed by the screech of the wheels on the runway, a bounce or two, then the thud and whoosh of the plane readjusting to terra firma and slowing itself down. And that’s when it happened. The passengers suddenly burst into applause. Slowly, unsure of the protocol, I joined in.

Of course it’s not just Germans. Sorry about that. And it doesn’t always happen. But when it does, I consider it poor form. Air travel is safer than crossing a road, we are constantly told. Yet you don’t applaud a bus driver every time he negotiates a pedestrian crossing without mowing someone down.

Actually I think what really annoys me about it is that it’s the last thing I feel like doing is applauding a group of people who’ve just pissed me off in so very many ways.


What really annoys me about this is not that I have to turn off my phone because leaving it on might interfere with the workings of this giant steel bird that is about to carry me five miles into the air, but rather that LOTS OF OTHER PEOPLE DON’T! What is wrong with these dolts that they assume they can just ignore specific instructions which, unlike all that nonsense about wine bombs, are clearly there to ensure that we don’t fly into the nearest mountain or telephone mast?

Nearly every flight I’m on I see someone who refuses to heed the warning and just sits there messaging or playing snake like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. If they’re sitting next to me, I will generally say something. I’ve done it twice now. The first time, this girl just smirked at me like I was an idiot. The second time, this woman actually refused. Scowled at me and said no, she needed to receive messages. I felt like a bit of a telltale tit but I actually told the stewardess. The stewardess made her turn it off. Then I had to sit there for two hours with this crazy woman staring at me with nothing but pure hatred in her eyes.

I guess that people don’t turn off their phones because they think it doesn’t actually make any difference. Well, take heed, you smirking bastards!

OK, that’s my opinion. My friend Keith meanwhile, says this: ‘You absolute fucking sap. It’s just crowd control. Do you honestly think they would allow mobile phones onboard at all if there was any chance whatsoever they could interfere with the flight? Next thing you’ll be telling me that you believe in TV detector vans. People like you are the reason people like Gillian McKeith are on TV.’

Keith has been a bit narky lately. He also has a bit of a bee in his bonnet about Gillian McKeith.

But after he put his case, I think he may have a point about mobile phones.

On the other hand, he may not.

Either way, it's equally annoying.


I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about being five miles up in the air and moving at 500 miles an hour that kind of freaks me out. It ain’t natural, I tell ya. And if you’re involved in a car or train accident, the chances of survival are quite high, but if anything goes wrong up there in the sky, that’s pretty much it. This is why turbulence makes my palms sweat. It just sounds so much like the end of the world.

Jesus. Air travel is mental. Why would anyone do it?


Imagine the scene: you’re enjoying a beautiful summer’s day in an idyllic glade, maybe in the Lake District. All is balmy calm and pastoral perfection – maybe you’re about to feel the soft lips of a long lost loved one on your own, maybe you’re reading the bible, when suddenly, tttthhhhhhhwwwwp. You’re pinned to the turf by a spear of frozen urine from an overhead toilet facility.

Chris Morris was obsessed by it. And rightly so. Because it happens. And when it does happen, I can only assume, it must be terribly, terribly annoying.


For some this would be the most annoying thing about air travel. For me, it doesn’t really come close to losing that bottle of wine.

Although die-hard anti-environmentalists will deny it till their cataracts are dripping down their melanoma, air travel clearly does have a very bad effect on our ecosystem. If you’re one of those Kyoto pooh-pooh-niks, do me this favour: catch a snow-white turtle dove, pop it in a cage and leave it on Heathrow runway for a week. Then we’ll talk.

The most annoying thing however, is this: if I wanted to travel to Newcastle let’s say, at the beginning of February, I would have to pay £154.50 if I wanted to leave less of a carbon footprint and travel by train, or I could choose to fly with EasyJet and pay a total of £36.98.

If I can get there an hour or two quicker and for a quarter of the price, where’s the incentive? As far as I can see, the message here is, balls to the environment.

If Stelios and O’Leary had their way, we would all be catching planes to go to the shops.


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand relax.

On the whole, there is certainly much to loathe about air travel, and for the sake of our children, and our children’s children, it should almost certainly be banned outright. But it does get you to where you want to go pretty darn quickly, even taking all of the delays and the waits and the checks into consideration. And you know, time is money.

And it does enable you to see the world, whilst at exactly the same time contributing to its extinction.

Ultimately however, I guess what annoys me more than anything else about air travel is that I simply can’t afford to do it in style. One day I will though. As God is my witness, one day I’ll fly first class, and then, if it’s as great as the rich swine that can afford it make it sound, the only annoying thing will be that it all has to end.

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Anonymous said...

Muahahahahahahaha brilliant. There are so many more things to hate about flying than I though of.

From my female perspective i could add this pet peeve: having to take off your shoes for security control. Quite pointless when you're wearing flip flops but so much more annoying in the winter when you have to remove your boots and are left looking like some retard trying to act dignified while tip-toeing in embarrasing Hello Kitty socks and crumpled up skinny jeans. And no matter how long you take to do it you can't get your trousers to fit comfortably into your boots once again afterwards.

Hendo said...

God what a brilliant post. Everything I've always thought about Ryanair and our horrid airports.
This blog is now in my favourites.

DJ Kirkby said...

Man o Man can you rant! Very very funny post though and I have ot warn you that it is unusual for me to get the humour in anything which likely means you wern't trying to be funny...if that is the case I do appologise! P.S. I am one of those who travel with children...sorry, sorry, sorry but I prefer not to leave him at home, he might find he could cope without me!

Hayley said...

Fantastic post! Refreshing in every form possible!

Myself I'm currently researching the public reaction to terrorism for my PhD....boy would I love to include your thoughts some how!

Like hendo said, your blog is now in my favourites!

PS...I never quite understood why people clap when a plane lands....furthermore...why are Ryan Air incapable of landing without sending me flying in my seat (I did have my seat belt on)....last phone has 'flight mode' does that make it safe?

Anonymous said...

I found your blog this morning through Todger Talk. Keep up the good writing! It kept me giggling like a maniac at 5 in the morning. I wish you luck with your lifestyle changes. No one else can do it for you. Meanwhile I shall add you to my favourites.

Wisewebwoman said...

What a great discovery this blog is!
You write of the negatives of the flying experience so well.
We carried the concept of clapping into our family when we get together so that when someone washes up or takes the dog out or does laundry, we all applaud as it is just as ridiculous as the pilots getting applause for doing their jobs. Actually the volunteer work in the home is much more applaudable. The pilots get paid.

Anonymous said...

is it me or has anyone noticed that ryanair took off just as the ira disbanded?? it has to be the only explanation for the torture they put us through. the only way to cope with the flights is to drink the baggies - alcohol in a bag of which you get two for the price of one drip not included. just came back from poland and when we landed ryanair played some music to show how proud they were that we landed fifteen minutes early!!

Free.Thinking.Writer said...

I'm a private pilot and an amateur radio operator. I know a bit about airplanes and radio equipment.

It is extremely difficult for me to believe that any piece of equipment a passenger is likely to use could remotely affect the navigation equipment.

In actuality, the ban is more about "we don't know it won't because we haven't tested for it" rather than any evidence at all that it really can. To be fair, it would be impossible to test every possible combination of equipment, so I don't blame them for that.

But it's ridiculous.

However, the cell phone ban makes sense in flight due to the information linked in the Wikipedia article. The cell phone system is very specifically designed for phones at ground level, not at 35,000 feet.

Being told to turn off my iPod because it might interfere with the navigation equipment is just ridiculous. But turning off the cell phone before takeoff makes complete sense.

Unknown said...

Great post, that. I only stumbled across this recently, on the recommendation of my friend. Actually, it was on the spit of my friend and some half-snatched syllables as she tried to describe your blog and crumpled into soundless giggling. And now you're wrapping up. Balls.

One thing: if you book a journey up to Toon more than a week in advance you can get it for 20 quid. Infinitely more preferable than smash-grabbing a seat, and quicker too, door to door.

Just saying.

La Bête said...

Cheers, Simon. Not wrapping up. Just cutting back. Thanks for the train tip too. Nice.