A few weeks ago I watched “Up in the air”, the new George Clooney film.
This post isn’t supposed to be a review, so I won’t spend too long saying that, although entertaining, I didn’t think it was so original and funny to deserve an Oscar nomination (it was hailed by some press as the dark comedy where women finally do to men what men usually do to women, but I didn’t REALLY find that happening in the movie, and even if it did, so what?). For sure I didn’t think the two main actresses deserved a nomination (for what? Ability to stick to only one expression all through a movie? I suppose that might require concentration…)
Clooney was playing his charming, maverick, womanizer self so no big deal.
Anyway, I was amused but not impressed let’s say, but this is not my reason for writing. In “Up in the air” Clooney plays this salesman who spends more time travelling than home, and who knows exactly HOW to travel by plane: what to pack, how to pack, which queue to go for, so that he’s always the first to get on and off and through and past, under the shocked eyes of the “occasional travellers”, who of course manage to be hold up at every single step…
I thought, hey, that’s me!!! I I must say every time I travel with somebody I realise how much longer in takes than flying solo. This is because people fly without a clue. They don’t read the small print. They don’t know the rules. They ttravel by plane as if they were travelling by car, carrying useless stuff they’re never going to use. Flying by plane means being essential, compact, precise. There’s no place for randomness and last minute shoes shoved into extra bags.
You must know your itinerary, you must know your airport. You must know whether you’re going to be hungry or not…
Until twenty years ago travelling by plane used to be glamorous, expensive and exclusive. It was smooth because there were not too many people flying so you could expect top treatment wherever you went and if some problem happened – bad weather, strikes, delays – you were pampered, entartained, fed…
…Back then you could carry 3 suitcases and two liters of wine and nobody cared. Back then you were assigned a seat, so it didn’t matter whether you got on the plane last… Well, that time has gone.
Since Ryanair, Easyjet and similar appeared on the flying scene, things started changing in a drastic way. Nowadays a return flight to London costs as much as a night out (at least on paper, read on to see what I mean), cheap airlines, internet bookings and smaller airports have made it possible for everyone to afford a weekend abroad.
This is great, it’s democratic, and even though I know it’s not “enviromentally friendly” I’m convinced travelling is important for people’s education, it opens your mind, it allows you to see how differently people live. I don’t think reducing carbon footprints should mean preventing people from flying as often as they do now, because cheap flights are an important social equalizer, or at least that’s what I believe. However, there’s no doubt that flying has now lost all its glamour and has become in most cases a sort of nightmare, made of queing, shoving and being shoved in order to find a seat on the plane, paying for drinks and food, and being squeezed between groups of high school children on a school trip, football holigans and neurotic mother with screaming bilingual babies.
To make it even worse, cheap flights are only cheap on paper because for the non-adept they hide so many extra fees, when it comes to the final bill you might end up paying as much as you used to when going Alitalia or British Airways.
BUT, it is still possible to be like George Clooney and fly smoothly, in style and, more importantly, quickly and cheaply.
Here is how:
- BUYING A TICKET:
THINK ON YOUR FEET AND ACT QUICKLY. Yes, iIdeally in order to find very cheap tickets you should book well in advance, but not necessarily. If you’re planning to flight at off peak times (ie not at Christmas, Easter, school holidays etc), very often no frills airlines offer last minute deals where you can buy tickets without paying taxes for instance. If you subscribe to their newsletters, they’ll keep you informed on such offers. When you find out about an offer, go on the website, find the cheapest option and BUY IT. Honestly, sometimes Rynair offers zero plus taxes flights, which means 30 pounds/euros. Most of us can afford wasting 30 euros. So it’s worth buying the ticket and if worse comes to worse and you can’t go, well, you’ve wasted 30 euros. Unfortunately what most people do is they find out about the offer, say oh great, this is good news, then they ask their partner/friends/relatives if they would like to go, they reply sure, that’d be great, but right now I’m busy doing my hair (or working, or going out or checking whether they can take time off), let’s book tomorrow. Well, I can guarantee by the time tomorrow comes, the 30 euros flights have gone and be replaced by 65 euros flights. If you wait a week, the flight will be 80 euros. And so on. SO DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. BUY IT!
IGNORE PRIORITY BOARDING and INSURANCE Cheap airlines make their money on extras. So to really fly cheap don’t fall into the mistake of buying a stupid priority boarding/speedy boarding or whatver they call it. In most airports you’ve shoved on a bus anyway so there’s no point in going through first. If you have small kids, they’ll let you pass. What’s important is to LISTEN TO THE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!!! The priority people board first, so for Heaven’s sake don’t stand in front of the boarding desk if you dont have a priority pass because you’ll only be hindering the boarding process. Sit down and wait for your group to be called. This doesnt mean you need to sit down at the other end of the airport and board last. That’d be silly. Also make sure you don’t waste time at Duty free and miss the boarding call Don’t bother buying the insurance. If you travel a lot buy a year travel insurance from a bank, post office, supermarket or website.
- YOUR JOURNEY: Make sure you know exactly how long it takes from your house to the airport`. TO THE MINUTE!! I’m appalled at people either missing their flights because they left too late or having to wait hours in the longe because they’re far too early. If you’re going by public transport, use one of those websites that calculate distances. If you’re driving, calculate the time with google or a GPS. ADD 20 minutes in case of queues. DONT GO AGES IN ADVANCE!!!!!! It’s not true you need to be there two hours prior departure, not for short hauls, that’s for sure. CHECK IN ONLINE, ALWAYS, and be at departures 55 mins before your scheduled take off time. This way you won’t have time to waste at the duty free and you wont be tempted to buy that terribly expensive anti-wrinkle cream…
- 3) AT THE AIRPORT:
NEVER WITH LUGGAGE. All cheap airlines now charge for luggage. It’s a rip off, it’s a theft and they should be sent to prison but it’s the way it is. So, unless you’re planning to go away for two weeks, pack small and only bring hand luggage. Bear in mind only ONE PIECE OF LUGGAGE if allowed. So if you’re also carrying a handbag, a computer, a huge camera, make sure it fits into your hand luggage. There are some very precise measurements for hand luggage so make sure you don’t go over. DONT PACK A WHOLE BOTTLE OF SHAMPOO, CONDITIONER and BODY LOTION IF YOU’RE ONLY GOING FOR A WEEK!!! How many times a day do you wash yourn hair for God’s sake??? Besides, if you’re staying in a hotel, they provide shower gel and body lotion, so leave them at home. Use small 100ml flacons (Boots sells them and if you live in a country with no Boots equivalent re-cycle old flacons) and pour the shampoo from the big bottle into them. Have all your little 100ml flacons into a transparent bag (buy a transparent bag so you don’t have to use the crappy ones at the airport) and keep it in a pocket easy to reach.
Before approaching baggage control, extract the transparent bag, and walk to the X-ray with your luggage and your transparent bag in your hand. This will make your suitcase look smaller. If you have a laptop, also take it out of the suitcase. Don’t wear metal. If you have a belt, take it out. If you have boots, take them off. Don’t wait for the officers to send you back, you’ll waste time. Arrive at the x-ray machine without jacket, and with all your metal in a separate place.
Remember to chuck away water and drinks you might have bought on your way to the airport. NEVER BUY DRINKS BEFORE CUSTOM, ITS A WASTE OF MONEY!!! Come on, how thirtsty can you get in the journey home-airport? resist until after baggage control and buy drinks on the other side. Bear in mind water at airports is overpriced.
Carry a passport and not an ID card!!! Passports are scanned easily while with ID cards the officers will need to insert the card details into the computer, wasting at least 2 minutes.
If you’re arriving at an airport you don’t know, find out in advance how you’re going to get from the airport to your accomodation. Unless you’re jumping on a taxi, make sure you know which kind of public transport is available, from which side of the airport they leave, where you buy the tickets, at what time the buses/trains/shuttles leave. This is vital because if you’re past custom at 8.05 and you know your train is at 8.15 you might want to ignore the pretty furniture at the arrival hall and just run to the station.
- ON THE PLANE
CHOOSE CAREFULLY It’s ridiculous how fussy people are about their seats. You’ll think it’s hard to find a good seat on cheap airlines when you don’t have a priority boarding and are surrounded by families and school kids, but if you’re wise it’s dead simple. You must be aware that most people want to sit together. Especially if they’re young or if they’re families. And most people want window seats. So passengers tend to go on a plane and walk from the front to the back until they find their perfect spot. This is highly moronic and a waste of time, but allows clever travellers, especially single travellers, to easily find a single seat at the front. So choose the first free corridor seat towards the the front that has space in the overhead lockers. If you’ve packed wisely, don’t have a huge bag and havent bought anything from the duty free, finding enough overhead space won’t be hard. Whatever happens, sit at the front. This will allow you to disembark first. Getting OFF the plane first is much more impotrant than getting ON first. It’s easy to get your luggage from the overhead ockers if you’re sitting near the aile and the sooner you’re off the plane, the sooner you’ll be at passport control, avoiding the queue. If there are no free seats at the front, sit right at the back so you can disembark through the rear door and quickly walk to the front. No matter what, NEVER sit in the middle. You’ll be stuck there forever waiting for the woman with five babies to get off.
BE ANTISOCIAL Unless you ARE sitting next to George Clooney, dont attempt conversation with your nieghbour. Read a book, listen to music, no matter what you do, avoid socializing! If you befriend your neighbour they will go on chatting to you until the end of the flight. By then you’ll feel forced to wait for them to disembark together and you can be sure they’ll be the slowest people on Earth. They will also probably have luggage to wait for and dear relatives waiting for them on the other side they will want you to meet… Remember, solo is faster. So, unless it’s the man/woman of your life, be rude.
NEVER WITHOUT FOOD If you’re flying at a time of the day when it’s likely you’re going to get hungry, make sure to buy some food BEFORE getting on the plane. The food sold by Ryanair and Easyjet is horrible and very costly. Even better, bring a sandwich from home.
Summarizing… if you buy on the day of a special offer a flight with no luggage, no priority, no insurance, if you pack wisely and keep your liquids and laptop at hand so you’re quickly through security, if you leave at exactly the right time so you don’t have to wait for ages at departures nor run like mad, if you don’t waste money buying horrible food and choose a strategic seat, ignoring your neighbours and jumping off the plane as soon as it lands to beat the queue, you’ll be guaranteed a very smooth, quick, pleasant flight.
Thank you for reading me today, it’s been a pleasure to entertain you. I wish you a pleasant stay.