The dragon and her winged sister were chatting on the phone last week and decided it would be nice to get together; they haven’t seeneach other for all of a month. She came down here last time, so it was the fire breather’s turn to go up there; up there, being Glasgow.
When she goes to Scotland she normally goes by coach, it takes about eight hours and you see nothing but motorway all the way up. Chris, (hot breath’s sister,) has been travelling up and down by plane for the last couple of years. It only takes an hour and she reckons it’s so cheap it’s virtually free.
So the missus decided to fly this time.
As I’m a PC mechanic by trade I was nominated to book the flight online; it was even cheaper that way. Crikey! I thought, if we save any more money they’ll be paying us to fly with them. So, encouraged by this prospect I logged in to their website, found the flight info page, typed in the dates and times of departure and booked her onto the 10 am Saturday flight. She was due to come back the following week and the return flight was available.
This was so easy that I was already planning a trip abroad myself while I was filling in her details. Prague would be nice, or should I head for warmer climes? Palma, Tenerife?
Two mouse clicks later I was faced with the flight prices and there was a special on the Saturday morning flight. £10 to Glasgow and £10 return. Chris was right, this really was cheap. I thought about getting her a window seat, then decided to save the extra cash, skipped drinks and food, she could eat before she left, nor did I bother with the offer of a bronzed, handsome, muscle-bound masseur. She could call an escort agency when she got there if she wanted one of those.
Photo courtesy of David W Robinson
Then I got to the add- ins, and the high I was gliding on suddenly hit turbulence
There was airport tax, bag tax, green tax, fuel tax, being mean tax, (for not having the sandwich and masseur,) and getting angrier by the minute tax. (Okay I made that one up.) All in all, the total cost of the flight had gone from £20 to almost £70 and we hadn’t taken into account airport car parking charges at both ends for dropping her off and picking her up.
Just before hitting the ‘no way, I’m not paying that, button,’ I thought I’d better check the price of the coach
That came in at £60, there wasn’t too much difference and she would save all those hours travelling. So I thought ‘blow the expense.’ and paid the extra £8, I could always remind her of my generosity the next time she pulled me up for getting the cheap washing up liquid when she sent me on an errand.
Time passed, then, about ten days ago, she received a letter from Easy Air Baby telling her that the flight had been cancelled and that we would have to go online and book another one
There was no option for the original day of departure. Instead we had the choice of the Friday evening or the Monday afternoon.
Monday was out as I had an appointment with three of my friends and the pub landlord. (I’m on holiday too.) Anyway she was booked into a hotel in the wilds of the highlands, (Ullapool,) from Sunday onwards. Friday was the only viable option, but she didn’t finish work until 3.30 and she would have to get home from town, shower, dismantle the kitchen sink for packing into the case etc, then get to the airport two ridiculous hours before the flight took off at 7.00.
It was going to be tight
The only flight available for coming back was on the Sunday night. Jackpot! An extra day away for her and an extra day of peace for me. This wasn’t so bad after all, I didn’t even quibble at the extra £8 each way the new flights were costing.
I offered to pick her up from work and drive her to the airport, it's only twelve miles away but in the rush hour it can take a while. She had a full, cooked lunch at work to keep her going until she landed. I skipped lunch, planning to head for the chip shop after dropping her off. (No home cooked meals for me for the next 10 days; it was going to be pizza and takeaway heaven all the way.)
Picking her up was the easy bit
The traffic on the way home was heavy and we didn’t get back until 4 .00 pm. By the time she’d showered, packed her bags and strapped on the sink, it was pushing 4. 45. I offered to make a sandwich as she got ready, but she said she wasn’t the slightest bit hungry and could wait until she got to Scotland to eat. I put my foot down and despite getting stuck behind a Royal Mail van for a mile or two we made it bang on time. Then we got to the check in queue and I began to understand why they asked us to get there two hours early.
For a small regional airport the place was heaving
There were families and groups of young people standing around waiting for their check in desk to open. Two desks were open at the Easy Air Baby section and we joined the throng that snaked its untidy way across the floor. It didn’t take long to notice that one of the women was far more efficient at her job than the other. The younger of the two was getting through the travellers at quite a rate, but her colleague, or ‘beehive’ as she became known, (her hair was piled up 60s style, she wasn’t a honey,) took an interminable amount of time over each passenger.
After she had processed five of them she looked at her watch, looked at the lengthening queue, looked at her watch again, sighed, motioned towards the next in line to step forward, thought better of it and picked up her mobile phone instead. Ten minutes later she was still deep in conversation with some guy called, ‘fun cheeks,’ and the crowd was getting restless.
On the stroke of 5 30 she downed phone, grabbed her coat and trotted off to the coffee bar for her hard earned break
Mumblings of, ‘various swear words', followed her across the room, but if she heard any of it she didn’t let on. She was replaced five minutes later by a dark haired girl with a fixed, lop sided grin and a wonky eye. The dragon looked at me and I grinned evilly, Doreen cringed, crossed her fingers and hoped against hope that we didn’t end up at her counter.
By now the waiting hordes were getting quite agitated. They became almost manic when just as we were about to step forward to Wonky’s counter, an old lady with a huge wheeled case came hurtling out of nowhere bypassing the queue completely. She was in front of Wonky before I realised what had happened. I turned to the baying crowd for sympathy and got it in spades.
The old girl didn’t flinch, even when the soggy remains of a McDonalds McMuffin was hurled in her direction
Wonky finally produced her tickets, taped the flight details to her luggage, smiled a lop-sided grin and wished her a pleasant flight.
The old woman raised her hand, cast a hex on the baying crowd and limped off towards the departure lounge. We eventually got to the check in desk powered by Miss Efficiency 2008. She didn’t have time to greet or smile at us. Her hands were a blur as she went about checking the dragon onto the flight. I tried to start a whinge about the time we’d spent in queue but was silenced with a curt, ‘shhh’.
Tamely, I did as I was asked; there would be no light hearted banter with this one
Doreen had a grin the size of half a dinner plate on her face; it lasted all of thirty seconds. The moment her case was placed on the scales we knew we were in trouble. A twinkle appeared in ME 2008’s eye. ‘You’re over weight,’ she snapped. ‘I know,’ I stuttered, ‘but there are people bigger than her in the queue.’
Fixing me with a look that could have frozen a Vindaloo curry in two seconds flat, she pointed to the case. ‘Overweight, and by 3kg’s’.
I groaned and looked at the dragon, ‘It’s the sink, I told you.’ Doreen ignored me and asked how much the excess would be‘£18. £6 a kilo.’ ‘£9 extra, each way,’ I exploded.
‘She’s going to Scotland, not Australia.’ ‘It’s £18 each way, I’m afraid,' she sneered
I doubted she was afraid of anything. I bet she watched The Exorcist, alone. Eventually we were ticketed, the two ton container was sent off on the conveyor and we wandered across to the kiosk to pay our, ‘heavy,’ tax. Part way across the floor I was stopped by an Easy Air Baby rep trying to get mugs like me to take on a ‘super value,’ Easy Air, credit card.
I told him what I thought of Easy Air Baby, informed him that because of his company’s charging policy, I now had to take out a second mortgage to send my wife on holiday and stormed off leaving him speechless for probably the first time in his working life. I walked with the dragon to the departure lounge, gave her a peck on the cheek and a goodbye whinge.
As I walked away I heard the announcement that the 19.10 Easy Air Baby flight to Glasgow was delayed and would now not leave until 21.45
I nodded my head sagely. Because of the delays and queuing, I found I had to pay a fiver to get out of the airport car park, not the £1.60 I was expecting. On getting home, (without chips, I couldn’t afford them anymore,) I received a text message from the dragon telling me that she’d just paid £9.80 for a sandwich and a cup of coffee.