Of the hundreds of flights I experienced over the years, I only took 6 trips with budget airlines and that was 5 too many in my book. This kind of cheap transport may have made international travel accessible to the masses, but it also defined a new low in “bad service”. I am sure everyone whoever used such airlines has a horror story to tell and my limited experience is not the worst, by any means. My story today is the penultimate time I ever used this type of airline, which out of cowardice, I will call Easy Bryan Air, or EBA for short.
I took the 5-hour flight on a Friday afternoon from Paphos, Cyprus to Gatwick Airport to attend a wedding the following day. Having had a long week at work, I was looking forward to being left alone to relax for 5 hours and as it was an EBA budget airlines, I wasn’t expecting to be fed, watered, sold cheap perfume or entertained by Mr Bean every 5 minutes as was the practice with other commercial airlines.
After the mad rush to board the plane with my fellow passengers, I finally settled in an aisle seat next to a middle-aged couple with the woman taking the middle seat next to me and the man securing the prize window seat, which he made the most of by staring out of that little window for pretty much the entire trip as though he was trying to get maximum return on his investment of £45 he paid for his ticket.
I took my jacket off and hung it on the hook on the back of the seat in front of me, brought out my iPod and headphones with a book to read for the next few hours. As a frequent flyer, I accepted the ridiculous rule of having to turn off my “personal electronic gadget” as the airlines stipulate (including EBA), made sure my seat was upright, I put my seat belt on and inserted the earphones in my ears to reduce the effect of air pressure when we climbed to the heavens. However, I did not connect the earphones to the iPod, which was firmly switched off and totally out of sight.
With all passengers seated and doors shut, the ritual of preparing for take off began with one of the EBA charmless flight attendants going up and down with her clicker counting us like Little Bo Peep and another less charming one walked up the aisle inspecting our seatbelts, reclining seats, or loose and dangerous items such as whaling harpoons and pretty much found something to say to at least one passenger in every row she passed. As I had already gone through my safety checklist, with harpoon safely tucked away, I was pretty sure I would be left alone. Slowly she made her way towards me and slowly I tried not to look and wonder at her talent for finding something to instruct the passengers; the woman must have been an ex Marine sergeant.
Finally, she came alongside my row and looked to her left and was disappointed not to find anything to say to the three passengers in that section, she reluctantly turned to the right, looked at the couple next to me and they almost presented their palms-down hands for her to inspect their fingernails. I continued to pretend to ignore her by inspecting my own fingernails.
She: can you turn off your music sir?
Me: I am not listening to music
She: you have earphones in your ears
Me: they are not connected to anything, look
She: can you take them off anyway?
She: safety regulations sir
Me: what regulations?
She: our regulations
Me: your regulations say I can’t have things in my ears
Me: what about hearing aids?
She: please take your earphones sir
She: to be able to hear my instructions in an emergency situation
Me: but we have been talking for the last 2 minutes with these things in my ears and I have been able to hear every word you said, loud and clear
She (thinking hard): I still would like you take them off
I recognised defeat when I saw it so, I grudgingly took my earphones and stuffed them in my pocket, closed my eyes and waited for take off.
Woman next to me: can you take your jacket away please?
Woman next to me: it is infringing on my personal space
Me: how is my jacket infringing on your personal space? It is hanging on the hook in front of me!
Woman next to me: the sleeve is crossing over the dividing line between us.
Wisely, her husband maintained his deep interest in the nothingness outside of his window and for the second time in less than 3 minutes defeat washed over me. I took my jacket off the hook and rested it on my lap, closed my eyes and tried not to think evil thoughts.
Returning from her inspection, the stewardess from hell saw the jacket lying on my lap and thought Christmas, Easter, and her birthday were rolled into one and delivered in a beautifully wrapped package.
She: Sir, your jacket must be stowed in the overhead locker as it may be a danger to other passenger in an emergency situation.
Me: Oh, I am so sorry, what was I thinking?
I closed my eyes again and prayed hard for an emergency situation or at least access to a harpoon. Sadly, I have to report that there was no emergency situation, much less harpoons. We all survived and I went to the wedding in a disgusting frame of mind.