Jim Duffy comment: Airport model is bound to breed in-flight fights

You may have seen the alarming footage of the Ryanair flight from Glasgow this week. Essentially, a fight breaks out where blood is splattered on the overhead lockers. People are heard screaming and fists fly.

The new age modernity of the airport business model is making us all angry, says Duffy. Picture: contributed.
The new age modernity of the airport business model is making us all angry, says Duffy. Picture: contributed.

This took place on an early morning flight, not a late evening boozed-up stag do affair. As I watched the footage, I had to keep reminding myself that it was not a Saturday night in Sauchiehall Street at 3am when all the bars and clubs were spilling. No, this was a scheduled flight where people were subject to the Air Navigation Order and where everyone’s safety was paramount. A trip to the airport used to be fun. But, I fear, the new age modernity of the airport business model is making us all angry.

Firstly, there is the stress of checking in online. Within this model, airlines require fewer airport staff and desks, so they save money. While you – the customer – have to tick all the boxes and are accountable for your own progress to fly. At this stage in the business model, you are also offered a shed load of stuff that you don’t need. It is sell, sell, sell as the airlines throw holiday insurance, car rental, hotel offers and of course priority boarding at you. And this is before you have even reached the airport…

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The next part of the “anger journey” is arriving. No longer the offer of a free drop off. No, you now have to pay for this basic necessity. What do they expect you to do – parachute in? So, being proficient and effective at the drop off points is a key skill set. After all, who wants to have to pay even more, simply to arrive at the front door? Of course, you can opt to park. But, here again, there is a myriad of options. You can park half way up the M8 and get a bus in for peanuts or you can park at “express” or “midstay” parking slots that ramp up the charges. You are now on the credit card roundabout and it only gets worse.

Having checked in and navigated the parking conundrum you have to fight through security. This part of the airport business model is perhaps the most frustrating. Despite warning signs and security staff literally shouting at us to make sure we have the right stuff out and the wrong stuff discarded, there is always one numpty in every queue, who gets it completely wrong - holding you up - right? And if you are a frequent traveller, the best bit about this whole process is that every bleeding airport is different, with absolutely no consistency whatsoever – take your shoes off, keep them on, and so it goes on with never enough staff – to save money.

Having exited the security area, you are then attacked by well meaning folks urging you to buy, buy, buy. Try a tester of perfume or a nip of this new special airport-only whisky that is on offer at two bottles for £70. Duty free areas are now huge, taking up massive real estate in airports. And as you try to walk around the winding white brick road to get out, you bump into bewildered travellers who are in awe of this Aladdin’s cave of goodies are over inflated prices.

But, the bit that truly gets us all angry is the boarding process, which again has no consistency from flight to flight, from carrier to carrier and from airport to airport. So-called priority-style queues now snake for miles around coffee shops. You can actually be sitting at an airport eatery, which by the way are also vastly over priced, with passengers queuing up 40 minutes before their flight standing over you as you try and get some peace to sip your drink. And whatever you do don’t try and complain, as it will fall on deaf ears or you may be singled out as a trouble maker.

And let us not forget that having endured all of this, you now have to find your seat in the hope that there is overhead locker space near you. If not you are traversing the cabin for space, cheesing others off, while the cabin crew look on from the front or the back galleys.

It’s no wonder, we all feel a bit stressed as we eventually sit down in the hope that the people around us are decent, respectful and peaceful – but then someone takes their shoes off and all hell breaks loose.

- Jim Duffy MBE, Create Special