Traveller's tale: Singing the airport blues

I still have that childlike, excited sense of anticipation before setting off on a flight. It's very difficult to sleep the night before I fly, knowing that this time tomorrow I will be somewhere new and exciting. I'll be even more excited if it's a family visit, especially if I haven't seen them for a while.

But that bubble is quickly burst as most airport experiences are painful, no matter how patient I try to be.

The starting point of my adventure - and rising stress level - is loading up the taxi and setting off for the airport. Passport and tickets.

Check. Luggage. Check. Taxi? Late, as usual. I have a black suitcase and one cabin-sized backpack. Both are within the weight and dimensions detailed in black and white on my air ticket. But when I arrive at the airport, late, because of the traffic congestion, my stress level creeps up higher.

Why am I one of the very few who follows luggage rules? Overweight suitcases are the norm at check-in. I doubt they have even been weighed beforehand - bursting at their zipper - just waiting to explode en route to their final destination. Or worse still, on arrival. Where the bag's uncensored contents will revolve around the baggage carousel in view of all the passengers, until the red-faced owner picks them up. Does he really have underwear like that?

How often do you see passengers at check-in having to unpack their passport and tickets from their suitcase? Or shifting heavier items from the overweight suitcase to the carry-on bag? Not just a couple of kilos but 5-10kg over. And then there's the hand luggage.

 

The oldest trick in the book is to have your friend who is not travelling, hold onto your oversized or extra carry-on bag, around the corner and out of sight of the check-in desk.

Never mind that there is often another cabin bag check before you board.

Possibly the worse is when other passengers cut the line at check-in.

Sometimes a couple in front of you will let in another 15 couples who are part of the same tour group, usually led by a vertically challenged tour guide - often an angry aunty with a large red flag.

They then wonder why you get annoyed. Or the impatient man behind you who can't help but accidentally push his trolley into your ankles every time the queue inches forward.

And the person in front of you that has forgotten the credit card used to purchase the ticket online, although it is clearly stated at the time of purchase.

More time wasted. Or they have packed something listed as prohibited.

Solution? Check in online and get there as early as possible, avoiding these less experienced travellers.

 

Now everyone can fly, and that is part of the problem. First-timers are clogging up the system, as not everyone knows how to fly efficiently or considerately. And when you have no choice but to check-in with the masses, an MP3 music player and limitless patience will be your best friends.

Make those last minute phone-calls while waiting, so as to maximise your duty-free shopping experience after the security and immigration lines. The X-ray machine is your next hurdle. Be patient with those who have not removed their boots, belts, laptops and liquids from their bags beforehand, which they could have done while queuing for the last half hour.

After Immigration. you're finally through. But why is the guy in front of you always the visa over-stayer? Or you're behind the family with small children who look nothing like their passport photographs, and need further investigation.

And when you eventually get through to the duty free shopping area, you discover that most of the prices are higher than usual and you can't even ask for a discount. All that's keeping me sane is that my final destination will be worth it. With all that airport stress, I really need this holiday. Now to deal with the 14-hour-long flight...

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