I can feel him looking at me. Trying to catch my eye. I should have pretended to be asleep but I’ve gone for the sunnies on thoughtful gaze out of the window method. Risky but remain motionless and I’ll be ok. Drake blasting out of my iPhone blocks any possibility of communication, “just hold on we’re going home…”
He walks down the plane, squeezes his hand luggage into whatever space is left over head and sits down. The aircraft doors are pulled down and the seat next to me remains empty. Feeling pretty smug about the double amount of real estate I have just acquired from Ryan Air, I sit back, relax and think of how I got here.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, air travel was a once or twice in a lifetime experience. Customers were treated like Kings and your holiday started the moment you arrived at the airport. These days the airport/ flight can be a right faff with flight companies wanting to squeeze every last Euro out of you.
They will charge for bags that are too big or too heavy, surfboards, receiving a text message to confirm your flight and getting on the plane before anyone else. If you managed to get on the plane without paying any more money other than your initial ticket price, you’ll be subjected to hours of being sold at. 4 Euro Cup a Soups, 5 Euro tinnies, scratch cards, sleeves of Marlborough lights, all the good stuff.
Having spent the best part of the last decade on the road (in the air), I seem to have acquired a certain set of skills to get me to the waves without breaking the bank before I arrive.
Get to check in early. If you are travelling with a surfboard this is the most stressful moment. Getting there early, the staff will have just clocked on and in general will be in a much better mood. You know the aircraft is not already full of luggage, and it would seem you’re least likely to get stung for additional baggage fees. Make it as easy for the staff as possible. Have your passport and ticket out. Take the straps off your board bag. Your check in man/women will probably be trying to catch up with his colleague next to him. Smile, be polite and importantly discrete. You’ll pass under the radar with a few extra kilos of luggage.
If you didn’t have the heart to hand over £5 for getting on earlier than everyone else, make sure you head towards the gate on time, chances are only a handful of people will have actually paid for them. Typically the aircraft will open both front and back doors to board passengers. The “speedy boarders” will enter from the front. Sneak round the back and straight down the middle to the emergency exit seats.
At which point slide your bag onto the seat next to you. Slip on some wraparound sunglasses. Tilt your head towards the window and turn the volume up on your iPhone.
Arrive to your destination to a fanfare trumpet played over the PA announcing your arrival, which apparently is free of charge.