Flying. It’s not for everyone. And these days, buying and understanding what is and isn’t included in the price of your flight is, quite frankly, a massive challenge. It’s not just remembering to check this stuff, it’s knowing you have to in the first place.
So what should be the start of a great trip – the potential and promise of the holiday to come – can actually be quite fraught. Which is why I’m going to totally forgive the young family near us in the queue for easyJet flight EZ7283 last month.
If you’ve flown with the airline, you’ll know boarding is done in order: speedy boarders (who’ve paid for the privilege to be 1st in the queue), then families with young children (under five) then the rest. The first two had been called and the invitation for ‘all other passengers’ to start boarding involved a fair bit of barging, not much eye contact and a lot of under the breath grumbling about who’d been there first.
Enter to our left, a young family, hurtling at a speed of knots to the front. The mum was gently reminded by a fellow passenger the queue now started ‘over there’. Quick as a flash, and with momentum on her side, she declared, “I’ve got a child” sped past us all and onto the flight she and the not-that-small (about 10-years-old) child went.
To use children as collateral to queue jump felt just plain wrong in this non-emergency situation. I wasn’t the only one who thought so. An audible gasp went up around me and looks we’re exchanged amidst a few snorts of disbelief.
Nobody stopped her, mind.
Did we behave this way pre-budget airline? Before the £7.50 extra for speedy boarding, the £25 (each way) for sports equipment, a further £12 for more leg room? Before the angst and anxiety that comes with fighting for your place, and after the stress and confusion of online booking?
The opportunities to connect with customers – to communicate with them so that their start to finish flight experience adds to the holiday adventure – are completely missed. All we feel is stressed. So stressed that some of us are prepared to use children as surety.
The week after I got back, easyJet announced its trial for numbering seats. Great! Now all we need is clear, simple and honest communication.