I really hate to say this, but Tom may have been right.
I suppose, statistically speaking, that it has to happen every now and again but, even so, the possibility still comes as a surprise.
Last week we were sitting around the table, toying with our final lunch and pretending that we were not all keeping an eye on the clock. Our boy Christopher was off to Barcelona that afternoon, for a year’s study at the university there. And time was ticking away.
I was already missing him, and trying to pretend that I wasn’t upset that he was leaving. I was not succeeding, but at least I was trying.
He was getting increasingly nervous about going, and trying to pretend that he wasn’t. He had just come back from a summer in New York and wasn’t really ready to leave home again quite so soon. He didn’t know anyone in Spain, or too much Spanish come to that, and, worst of all, everyone who had ever been anywhere near Barcelona was telling him how much he was going to love it. Absolutely love it.
No pressure, then.
Tom, meanwhile, was warding off any silences, or meaningful last-minute conversation, by conducting a monologue on his new favourite topic – the perfidy of budget airlines.
He has been talking about this at every opportunity, legitimate or manufactured, since we went to France in July. Early July.
He had done some research for the trip and discovered the airline that was offering, by far, the best deal. He searched, for a very long time, for a phone number so he could discuss our journey with a sales rep. I had no idea why he needed to talk to a sales rep about it. We were going to France, not Tibet, but I was busy so I left him to it.
His search was in vain and so, after a considerable amount of sighing, tut-tutting and complaining about the state of the modern world, he broke down and bought the tickets online.
That, as it turned out, was a mistake.
The day arrived and so did we, at Gatwick, with our e-tickets, confirmation number and…bags.
The very nice lady at the check in desk looked at our passports, looked up our confirmation number and…looked at our bags.
She studied our information on her computer. Carefully. She stared at the bags, making sure she hadn’t been imagining them. And then she looked at Tom.
And asked why he hadn’t purchased a luggage allowance when he booked the tickets.
“What, bags aren’t included? That’s outrageous’…or words to that effect, he said. And then began informing her, in glorious detail, about his complete astonishment at, and total disgust with, this policy.
A policy, he added, that was only in place to trick people.
He elaborated more about this theory to the equally nice woman who was taking his credit card and charging him £100 for adding two bags, at the airport. An amount which more than tripled the cost of the ticket.
And he has pretty much been talking about it ever since.
Christopher, who it must be said is normally a very polite individual but who was, at this point, rather on-edge, what with the imminent move into the unknown and all that, could take it no longer and suddenly shouted that everyone on the planet knew that you had to buy baggage allowance on budget airlines and that you couldn’t blame them if you didn’t read the terms and conditions properly. Or words to that effect.
We left for the airport.
And, without too much drama or delay, arrived.
At the check-in desk, where the very nice lady looked at his passport, and at his ticket reservations and at his two bags. She smiled, and chatted, and told him how much he was going to love Barcelona, and then she asked him to put his bags on the scale.
Together, they weighed 38kgs.
She looked back at his details on her screen. She looked at the number on the scale. She looked at Christopher and said…you’re 18kgs over.
Christopher explained, politely, that he wasn’t because he had booked, and paid for, two bags so he was 2kgs under.
She regarded him, a little sadly I thought, and explained that their new policy was that you could buy additional baggage but that it did not come with an additional weight allowance. That cost more. Apparently this was explained on the website, if you clicked on a link to a link to a page to a paragraph on ‘excess baggage’.
So, basically, the new policy is that you can take as many bags as you want, provided you paid for them, as long as you did not exceed the weight limit for one bag. In theory, you could bring 10 bags but, once you take into account the weight of the bag itself, they would all have to be completely empty.
“Why”, Christopher asked, “would anyone do this?” “How”, he went on, “did this policy make any sense at all?” “And”, he continued, “why wasn’t it obvious when he booked his ticket?”
Or words to that effect.
And so, after much sighing, and tut-tutting and complaining, he paid an excess baggage charge, purchased at the airport, that would have left him gasping if he wasn’t now in such serious danger of missing the flight entirely.
We waved him through Departures and, after a moment or two spent staring at the spot where he was last seen, started on the journey home without him.
Tom, I suspect, used the time to expand upon his theme of unscrupulous business practices as pertaining to air travel, while pausing every now and then to gloat about how he had been proven right.
But, I don’t really know. I wasn’t listening. I was too busy trying to figure out how many days it was until my boy would be back. Speaking Spanish. And having loved Barcelona.
Perfidy…or a question of the buyer at fault for not sufficiently bewaring?
Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)