Sunday, November 13, 2011

Up diddly-up-up

I know that modern commercial aviation is a truly wonderful thing, and this post is rather unfairly written to highlight its recent shortfalls rather than its benefits. It's a bit of a cathartic rant. I basically agree with the sentiments of Ford Prefect, who “...always found the actual travelling-through-space part of space travel rather trying.”

Indeed. Air travel is similarly afflicted, being the several rather expensive hours of discomfort between where I am and where I wish to be. I lack the wherewithal to fly Business class, and I don't fly enough to earn sufficient air miles for upgrades.

I swore off Emirates, Dubai’s flagship airline, way back in 1997 after a disastrous Eid trip to the Maldives where the said airline contrived to bump me and two fellow passengers off our flights three times in 24 hours and then mislaid our luggage. How wonderful to arrive on a diving holiday with nothing but the clothes on our backs. My letter of complaint made shortly thereafter received a curt “it’s our airline and we’ll snub who we want to” response.

But for the most recent trip to the Philippines, Emirates represented the only realistic combination of schedule and price that would get both me and Beloved Wife from Doha and Dubai respectively to Manila and back again. Maybe Emirates had improved after 14 years.

Credit where credit is due. Our bags were not mishandled and we got where we needed to be, eventually. All cabin crews were polite and accommodating where they could be. You can’t blame the airline for bawling brats.

But four flights, and not one of them took off less than 45 minutes later than advertised. After an hour queuing to check in, trying to get me and Beloved Wife into adjacent seats was “sorted” in Doha, but by the time we had rendezvoused in Dubai it had become “impossible” and the best the airline could manage was placing us on opposite sides of the cabin in nearby rows.

At least the entertainment system worked. Sleep was impossible in the packed cabin, as was movement.

I must agree with the website (for the more frugal traveller!): Manila's Ninoy Aquino Airport is a dreadful place to wait. Having negotiated check-in and immigration, the possibilities for entertainment are limited to a modest selection of duty-free shops and an even more modest choice in food and beverage outlets. We bought our instant noodles and then tried to find a quiet corner of floor where we could sit down and eat. The concept of a restaurant providing seating for patrons seems an alien one.

With over three hours to go before take-off, there were announcements that passengers for the Emirates flight to Dubai should make their way to the departure gate. It was very clear through the glass that there was a big empty space where our Boeing 777 should have been. It finally trundled into position about twenty minutes before the scheduled departure, at which point we were advised that departure would be delayed. Duh.

In other airports, there might be a business case to keep passengers on delayed flights in the terminal, where they’d buy food and drink, but not so in Manila. Perhaps the policy is to prevent the terminal from becoming totally clogged with people by removing travellers to the departure gate sheep-pen as early as possible and holding them there with nothing to do. And no, you can’t use the lavatory. Why not? Because we say so.

Many hours later, the Emirates flight touched down in Dubai but didn’t park at the Emirates terminal. Such is the case with Dubai, where the weary traveller arrives at his destination and then spends half an hour in ever-increasing circles, looking for a parking space. The airport bus trundled the length of the airport, depositing all passengers at Terminal 3 where Beloved Wife and I parted company. I underwent airport security yet again: the authorities clearly need to check that we transit passengers haven’t sneaked any contraband into our personal effects on the trip between aircraft and terminal. And then the 1km walk to Terminal 1 for the Emirates flight to Doha. Why not the Emirates terminal for an Emirates flight?

The lateness of the Manila to Dubai flight meant that my three hour stopover was now only two hours. I decided not to avail myself of the “SnoozeCube” at Dh65 per hour, but instead crashed out on the floor between one of the travelators and some airport seats for a fitful few minutes of kip. My carry-on wheeled suitcase does not make a particularly effective pillow.

And the Doha flight was delayed by half an hour, which actually turned into 45 minutes before the doors were finally closed and we were on our way.

I look forward with no little trepidation to my next long-haul trip. The idea of being able to cross a third of the planet or more by simply paying money and then showing up at an airport is a truly marvellous one. It seems such a pity that the actual experience always leaves me feeling as if I’ve gone several rounds against Manny Pacquiato.



Mme Cyn said...

Yes and I get to fly Emirates again in December. Happy happy joy joy.

Anonymous said...

no one told tmil that a l-o-n-g trip was taking place. Good thing tmil is independent. Hope it was a better trip than was the travelling. tmil

Jayne said...

I refuse point blank to fly Emirates again, special offer or no special offer. On long haul we fly business class & the last time we did so on Emirates, they used an 'older' plane. Once in the air, the passenger in front of Hubs reclined his seat as far back as possible, which trapped Hubs' legs & was threatening to snap his feet right off! We called for a stewardess, who told Hubs (after his legs were realeased) to stop complaining, because the rag'ead in front had every right to lay down! From that day we swore never again!

I dunno Mr Goat, nowadays jetting from one side of the world to the other, or spots in between, really does seem to have become an unpleasant experience. We see TV programmes about the 'efficiency' required for airlines/planes to keep their time slots, but it's like they don't give a damn anymore. The security checks have become borderline hysterical (what are you gonna sneak in between alighting from a plane & getting into the transit lounge FFS - (had the same experience just recently btw) a small illegal immigrant in your hand luggage?) I've also found, after several long haul flights in the past 3mths, that there's an air of "we gotcha by the short & curlies, so you'll just have to put up with our crap" attitude from airlines & airports in general.

Ian the Dog said...

As you will not from my blog, the travails of getting to Doha have started long before I leave the house. But if Lady Luck and the Saudi Embassy smile upon us, I may be rallying in your backyard next weekend. Maybe we can meet up?

Grumpy Goat said...

Regrettably, Mr the Dog, I shall be in Dubai this forthcoming weekend. Is meeting for a beer going to be possible on either Wednesday night prior to the rally or the following Sunday evening?

Martín said...

living some 13000 km away from home (plus whatever the airlines, all of them, seem fit to add with their stopovers), an average of 30 hours of travel (one way) a couple of times a year, and anywhere between 600 and 2000 euros per shot, I can nothing but relate to your misery. Welcome to the global village. Are we happy now?


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.