The Small Print at City Airport

Mimi ON Sep 02, 2013 AT 10:04 am

Airport Stress

Airport Stress

By Chrissy Iley

A flight from London City Airport to Schiphol, Amsterdam was my eighth flight in 26 days and it was an extremely stressful experience.

I know City Airport well and chose it because it’s easy for me to get to and it’s so small there’s usually a speedy trip through security and on to the plane.

The planes are usually smaller and I travelled with my Mulberry roll-on bag, the same one I’ve had for over a decade. In this bag there was an iPad, make-up, plastic bag of creams, jewellery for a special event later, heels, pyjamas, three tops and a legal document.

I sped through security like always, settled into my coffee and bircher muesli with pomegranates with the kind of contentment that is rare, the kind where your whole system shudders when everything you know and take for granted as sensible, safe, smart, is suddenly wrecked. At the gate passengers were being removed from their roll-on bags and given a tag. Most passengers did what they were told, did not question the authority. They simply handed over their belongings. This reminded me too much of scenes from films where the Jews are going to the gas chamber and they are told to hand over their belonging and go to the shower.

I told the ‘guard’ that this was not acceptable to me. If I’d wanted to go to Ryanair, I was meeting a colleague who did make that choice, I would have done. The reason I do not go Ryanair is two fold, they drop dangerously, suddenly, steeply when they land to save fuel, and every millisecond of the journey they remind you of how hard you have to work for cheap. They also only allow you tiny hand luggage.

So I said to my ‘guard’ I was not prepared to hand it over. For a start I wasn’t expecting this. If I had been I could have brought a different bag or flown a different airline. My ancient Mulberry does have a fault, the zip is broken and it doesn’t close properly. So whatever was in it would be at risk of falling out.

The ‘guard’ said I should have read the small print on the ticket and I confessed I had not. Who does read small print that says at any point we can take your bag away and you have no rights as a human being to protect your property, which is kind of the point of why I am writing this now. To warn people against what was formerly joyous – City Airport – and KLM/Air France.

He told me everyone else was handing over their luggage so he couldn’t make an exception for me. I said everyone else wasn’t my problem, I had a faulty zip and I refused to get on the flight. I saw that Business Class people were not being divested of their luggage. I offered to upgrade. He told me that he couldn’t take my credit card, I would have to go out of security and in again, and by that time I would have missed the flight.

I offered to call KLM, surely they could do it over the phone. He said not. Then I noticed the tag that they wanted to put on the luggage they were shoving off into the hold.

It said that carriers are released from a liability resulting from the above conditions of acceptance. One of the conditions said fragile or inaccurate packing. Tick – my ancient Mulberry.

Then it went on to say the checked luggage should not contain fragile items, jewellery, computers, electronic devices, business documents, negotiable papers, or identification documents.

That was exactly what my luggage contained. I saw a man moaning and reaching to remove his laptop, a shiny new Mac. Help me I said, if we all club together on this they’ll have no power. No, no, I don’t want to be late, no, he shuddered at me.

So everyone’s on the plane and I stood alone. Going back I would miss the plane. There was not another until much later that day where I would miss my event.

I asked them for tape and a carrier bag so I could remove my valuables. They brought me a plastic dry cleaning bag into which I put most of the contents of the suitcase. An empty suitcase with pyjamas and two tops travelled to Schiphol. Really, what was the point?

When I met my friend who travelled Ryanair she’d forgotten to check-in online so it cost an extra £70. Her handbag was the same size as her carry on bag. She didn’t want to pay an extra £100 for luggage so she simply took the contents of the carry on out, they were mostly clothes, wore two T-shirts round her neck, belted a pair of jeans round her skirt, and a further cardigan hung over the jeans.

Basically she wore the contents of the bag and placed her handbag inside the bag. I often see people in line for Ryanair doing that.

I am exhausted with airports and authority. On the way back, this time from Dusseldorf, a German security guard who looked like a cross between Rumpelstiltskin and Peter Gabriel with two long pointy beards, argued with me that lipstick counts as paste and is therefore illegal to travel outside of the plastic bag.

He started opening all of my lipsticks and shoving them into the plastic bag which by now was stuffed full and not big enough so he said he was going to confiscate them. By now furious I managed to swap one out for an almost empty tube of toothpaste but a Nars lip-gloss was removed without negotiation.

I find this kind of authority frightening. The fact that so few people resist even more so.

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