Monday, August 14, 2006

WARNING: This blog may contain mild ranting

In light of the current ruckus at airports around the world my recounting below may seem a tad unimportant.

But I have a bone to pick.

And since I am in charge of this portion of web space, I choose to pick that bone here and now.

We have been flying internationally for over 14 years. For the last 11 we have flown British Airways, as a family, 6 times.

On three different occassions we have been chosen as we stand in line at passport checks at Gatwick and Heathrow airports. (On the other three occassions we avoided leaving the secured area so we wouldn't have to face the passport line again!)

You see, BA prints luggage requirements and restrictions on their tickets. (all airlines do)

And in case you were unaware the BA employees in England delight in following those requirements to the letter (or number as the case may be.)

On one of our first trips, before we understood the restrictions, Jeff's carry-on that held his Bible Study books was chosen randomly to be weighed. We were told he would have to check the bag and that we would be required to pay 1500 British pounds for this "assistance". (that's nearly $3000 folks!)
Jeff congratulated the man on being the new owner of a Bible Study library.
The man, apparently not a fan of Bible study, asked us to wait a bit while he could see what he could do to help us. In all of about, um, 5 seconds the helpful friend had decided that we should only pay 50 pounds ($100) for the checked bag.
So after 45 minutes of angst, embarrassment and stress we paid our $100 and boarded the flight.

Fast forward 5 years.

We are traveling back from America with a two yr. old and an infant. I have one diaper bag and a carry on (which, by the by, measured according to regulations.)As we lined up at the passport check we were "chosen" yet again by another helpful BA public servant.
He said that my diaper bag "looked" as if it weighed too much.
"Excuse me?" I said.
He asked to see my ticket and with much joy pointed out in the tiniest of print, that there was a new weight restriction on carry-on baggage.
I think it was 6 ounces.

He gleefully directed me, with my 25 pound one year old wriggling in my arms and my two year old crying in the stroller, to the last aisle of check in counters where I should take care of my "untidy" luggage.

At the counter I became aquainted with Ms. "I'm having a rotten day and I'm going to take it out on you." Another helpful BA employee.
She quickly informed me that I was not only a problem but an annoyance. And that I should learn to pack my bags better. "Don't you read the restrictions on your ticket, dear?"

I emptied my bags of everything of weight (into another bag they just happened to have for sale next to the "your bag is too heavy" racketing counter) until the only things remaining were changes of clothes for the children, diapers, wipes and baby food.
I was still .5 ounces (or something like that:-)) over weight. And my helpful BA friend would NOT budge.

I cried. Threatened breakdown. Had breakdown. Ranted a tad. And spoke with the manager.

Who apologized for the unkind woman. But held stoutly that I remove the .5 ounces.
Out went some baby food with their strong insistence that food for my young ones would be available on the flight.

Too bad my children aren't fans of kidney pie and prune pudding.

Now fast forward 5 more years.

We are traveling with four children. We each have one carry on and Jeff and I have our laptops in backpacks.
We have read the fine print. Measured our bags. Weighed our bags. And stand before the passport check with confidence that we are indeed playing by the rules.
Our passports are cleared and we begin to pass through the narrow door to security.

"Excuse me, Ma'm. May I just check that bag's dimensions?"

Sure! I knew I was okay. No problem. No worries.


New requirements.

Bags can't measure the numbers in the fine print. They have to fit well INSIDE the numbers in the fine print.

My $300 bag from REI...1 cm too long.

Now in some places there is mercy for Moms.

Not at BA counters.

Moms are synonomous with meat.

The kind BA public servant in my face this time, said I could remove anything from my 1 cm too long bag and put in my backpack. As long as it only weighed 6 ozs. :-)

The line behind me was long at this point and the passport man (also intent on being helpful) begins to point out that over 30 people are waiting on me.

"Open your bag." "What do you need?" "Hurry ma'm!" " Everyone's waiting on you!"

I was feeling the love.

Jeff carried the bag to the check in. I cried. Kinley cried. We cleared security and went to wait at our gate. Every second bringing a new reminder of one more thing I should have grabbed from the bag before we checked it.

I ran out of diapers on the flight. And as I stood washing out Silas' soiled pants in the tiny airplane lavatory (extra clothes in checked bag) I reiterated in my mind again all the reasons I should fly Sabena.

So, faithful blog readers, there you are.

My ranting will now conclude.

I'll end by saying I'm ALL FOR security and following rules. Which is the real rub. I THINK I am following the rules. I TRY to follow the rules. And my bag gets taken anyway leaving me with the embarassment of the "scene".

Ah well....

It looks like my carry on woes may be over.

I sure hope they print those plastic bag dimensions clearly on my tickets.


Lynn said...

Looks like to me we will need to take KLM through Amsterdam again. Nasty city, but at least the airline folks were friendly and helpful. Besides it was cheaper. Rant on girl. What are blogs for?

Jeff Cash said...

Cheryl there are three other times that I can think of off hand where we had problems with BA in London. Do you remember the time when they were weighing the carryon bags and said my little bag was too heavy? They would not allow me to throw away the contents of the bag but they wouldn't allow me to carry it on. I went and put on every stitch of clothes that I had! 2 pairs of pants covered by sweats, shirts sweaters, coat. I put my walkman on my waist. and filled the pockets with the most of what was left in the bag. I walked up looking like a clown. They weighed the bag and let us through. As soon as we got past them I had to remove it all for the security guy and put it back in the bag! That was too funny.

BA stands for the airline with Bad Attitudes.

I'm with you Cheryl. We need to fly with a different airlines. Maybe we would get better service from on of the middle east airlines like Emirates or Gulf Air.
Maybe they would be nicer to mothers.

Cathy S. said...

oohhhhh, I do empathize with you all...I flew home from Calif. just the day before all the latest airport woes began. I know here on domestic flights you are allowed to check two best friend flew from Dallas to El Paso, and her bag was too heavy, so she unzipped the bag, took out an extra suitcase that she had packed (thus making the "one" too heavy) and checked "two" bags. Just remember, you're home now and can rant all you want to here where it's safe and you know you've got loving friends with their shoulders at the ready. We love you.

Ike Graul said...

We can recommend Emirates; the attendants look like princesses and they give you free candy bars!

Sorry for the travel woes. We've been there done that, but not NEARLY as much as you! (Thank God, my sarcastic mouth would definitely get me detained in some foreign country.)

Jen said...

Ugggh! I am so sorry that you had such a difficult experience! Although, I must admit it made for a very good story!

Thank you for reminding me about, "The Happy Room," by the way, I found it and bought it to share with my sisters. I sure enjoyed every time we had the opportunity to just sit and chat. You are truly a delight to so many people! Rant on ....

Lori Ann said...

Sure Cheryl, we know how you are a rebel!

I am afraid my mouth would get me in trouble too. Then Ron would have all the kids to handle!

Glad your home safe,

Sandi said...

Ugh, Cheryl -- this is a hilarious post in a kind of sick way. I am so sorry for all of the problems you've had in traveling with British Airlines. My main complaint with them is the food -- seriously, I almost vomited when I had to eat some strange cheese sandwich (well, I didn't HAVE to eat it, and I didn't! But I was hungry!)...