The absolute worst part of a holiday is going home, especially if you’re flying. Even if your trip has gone swimmingly on the white sandy beaches of Croatia, or it has poured with rain and your luggage never made the trip with you, rest assured that the day for travelling home will be the most tiresome part of the journey. If you’re organised, long hours of waiting are inevitable… waiting to check out of your accommodation, waiting for your bus to the airport, waiting for the bag drop-off to open, waiting in the security queue, waiting to board your flight, waiting to land, and finally waiting for that last mode of transport that takes you back to where you began. That’s if it’s all gone to plan. When it doesn’t all go to plan, it can often mean more waiting because you missed your flight, or it was cancelled, or arguably even more frustrating, it was simply delayed.
Easyjet has won the vote of my bank account on many occasions due to its comparatively low fares. However, on the last three occasions I have flown with them I have been delayed three times for more than 2 hours. This might sound like nothing – grab something to eat, find a place to charge your phone, read your book, have a nap – 2 hours can easily be consumed. An extra 2 hours is much harder to digest after you have been ID’d, scanned, stripped, X-rayed, ID’d again, cattle mustered onto a plane, fought for an overhead locker space, asked the person in the aisle seat to allow access to your window seat, strapped yourself to a hard plastic board, checked whether you still have a passport, decided how you will occupy yourself for the thankfully short-haul flight, and finally, paid attention to the flight attendant’s recommendations for surviving a fatal crash while taxiing to the runway. Then you hear the broadcast by Your Captain that, unfortunately, the flight has missed it’s take-off slot and will now be delayed about 3 hours while they wait to receive a new slot. Not to worry, you will be kept updated on any changes and hopefully an earlier slot will become available.
This was the deflating news given through the plane’s speakers on my most recent flight with Easyjet. At this point I wasn’t sure whether I felt like crying, wringing the pilot’s neck, or lurching for the nearest emergency exit door as the claustrophobia settled in. I was literally trapped with no fresh air, no food or water (without paying the price of gold for it) and limited access to the toilet.
“I wasn’t sure whether I felt like crying, wringing the pilot’s neck, or lurching for the nearest emergency exit door as the claustrophobia settled in”
I settled for flagging down the flight attendant and demanding more details and explanations for this inexcusable delay. ‘Think about us,’ she gestured to herself defensively, ‘We are in the same boat as you, we are tired and we want to get home, but our shift has now been extended’. In what way was this information reassuring, or even slightly apologetic? How could she lump us in the same boat as her? We might have been stuck on the same inanimate plane, but our situations were vastly different. She was not tethered to a plastic board, she had access to free water without considering the toilet sink, and moreover, she would be getting paid for these 3 wasted hours of her life! I, on the other hand, was destined to miss the last prepaid train home from the airport and be forced to fork out an extra £100 for an Uber instead.
My mood was somewhat placated by my boyfriend beside me whose opinion on the matter was a lot more vocal than mine, ‘An absolute joke!’ He bellowed at her, ‘Treated like animals! You’ve boarded us and trapped us! I want to get off! I don’t care when the next flight is, you need to let us off now!’ As he voiced my own thoughts, I witnessed the comic relief he was giving the other passengers (myself included). Deciding to adopt the role of the calm, sane one instead, I reasoned with him, ‘There’s nothing we or they can do. Getting upset is only going to make this more uncomfortable for us and getting on another flight will get us home even later. Unfortunately, this is still our quickest and, let’s be honest, our only option.’
It was a long and painful shift. My feet were in blisters as I hobbled on board the final flight of the day. I resumed my classy, cool composure as Flight Attendant for one of Europe’s far from classy or cool airlines. Fortunately, I would be home before 10pm tonight and I could spend some quality time with my feet up in front of the telly, snuggled against Ed. Touching up my peach lippy and patting the bun on top of my head, I plastered a smile across my face and welcomed the passengers on board. After patiently explaining to five passengers why they couldn’t just move to another empty seat and finally getting a teenage boy to remove his headphones before take-off, I had my 2 minutes of stardom as I mimed the safety procedures to a disinterested audience. When the captain didn’t call us to our seats on the runway I knew my telly night with Ed was but a sweet fantasy.
Groans of indignation erupted around the cabin following the delay announcement. I wished I could vaporise on the spot to avoid the imminent confrontation from nearby passengers. A young woman was the first to attack with a torrent of rhetorical questions that we both knew I couldn’t answer. After all, I was a passenger much like the rest of them: if they were delayed, so was I; if they couldn’t make the plane take off sooner, neither could I. Feeling helpless and scratchy I reminded her that we were in the same situation with the same inability to change it. I opted not to remind her that at least she was stuck here with her loved one, having spent the last few days of their lives lounging on beaches together. Her bank of good humour should have been replete, while mine was overdrawn.
It always amazed me that pre or post holiday, flying brought the worst out of people. For me, it promised adventure and escape from mundane routine, or to bring you back home to loved ones and your own bed. Elevated thousands of feet in the air, I could feel disconnected. Suspended above the blankets of soft clouds, I became a spectator of the beautifully insignificant world below. I marvelled equally at nature’s vast landscapes and man’s architectural achievements and it gave me a sense of gratitude and pride to emerge again beneath the clouds and be part of it.