Jim Duffy: Amateur hour at the airport with the trolley bag travellers

The popularity of the trolley bag has made the experience of getting from A to B in an airport, or finding empty locker space in an aircraft, a frequent frustration for Jim Duffy
The popularity of the trolley bag has made the experience of getting from A to B in an airport, or finding empty locker space in an aircraft, a frequent frustration for Jim Duffy
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Frustrated by over-loaded ditherers who are on a day out, Jim Duffy suggests we could all do each other a huge favour when flying if we put our luggage back where it belongs - in the aircraft hold

It used to be the case that you would rock up to the airport, check your bag in at the desk then hit security, duty free and the lounges. Now, we have adopted a new behaviour that feels a lot different. It would appear that Boeing is making 737s and Airbus is making A320s in completely the wrong format. For sure, the passengers are upstairs in the big composite tube that is called an aeroplane. But, what is happening down below? The area beneath our feet - the hold - used to carry luggage. Now it would appear it is completely empty: void of suitcases and bags. Why? Well, we now carry on our cabin bags and it has made our lives a whole lot more stressful.

There is no doubt that airlines just love the fact that we now do all the work. Firstly you have to pack your travel case. And this isn’t easy. You have to make sure that your liquids and sprays are less that 100ml. And make sure they are wrapped in a clear bag. Unfortunately, these 100ml deodorants, toothpastes and shampoos cost a bloody fortune: almost as much as the standard sizes. And you have to have this ready to take out at security.

As you walk into the airport, which anywhere in the UK right now seem to be bursting at the seams, you have to navigate your trolley bag through other passengers with trolley bags. This means in effect that the floor space in the airport is 50 per cent less than if no one had a trolley bag. I’m not sure the planners worked that one out. So, there is congestion as you make your way to escalators and stairs. If you are in a bit of a hurry, it’s worse. There are people walking at a snail’s pace everywhere. I call them the amateurs. They don’t understand that the airport is a busy place that has a function – to get people as quickly from A to B. For them it’s a day out. They walk slowly in front of you with their trolley bags and slowly towards you with their trolley bags. It’s a minefield. And as your trolley bag is pulled behind you, it makes you wider. Your footprint moving forward is you plus your trolley case at the side. So, you have a choice. You can steer and dodge and weave, or you can ram-raid. This means picking a path, making no eye contact with anyone and just walking straight ahead. I’ve given up bobbing and weaving and just walk on these days. People inevitably then steer around you. But beware – it takes skill and nerve and you may meet your counterpart doing the same thing coming towards you. Yikes!

Then you hit security and have to empty your trolley case of stuff. It’s not a pretty site, as I watch people open up badly packed trolley cases to search for liquids and such that are buried deep inside. I am always amazed by the huge number of standard-size deodorants etc that are surrendered at security, as people have no idea that these are banned and have been for years. What planet are they on? I often wonder if the security staff take them home and have cupboards full of smellies or whether they could go to less well off people in foodbanks? Worth thinking about.

Then having had your trolley bag x-rayed, fried and scanned, you also get x-rayed, fried and scanned. You then wait for your trolley bag to come through and watch as the amateurs make a lunge for their bag and start to re-pack it while it is still on the rollers. They put on their belts, watches etc while you are trying to just get your case and move to the area designated for this very purpose. The amateurs then leave their plastic trays on the rollers and clog up the whole system, walking away oblivious. It often makes me wonder what I would do if the plane goes down on water and I have to get out that door. How would I deal with the amateurs? Anyway, you are now through security and heading for the gate and the inevitable queue.

But the fun is only just beginning. Now that the airline has had you endure all this frustration and stress, you have to fight to get on that aeroplane and secure a space in the overhead locker for your trolley bag. As you climb the steps from the tarmac, and the wind howls and the rain pelts down on you, you envisage an empty overhead locker above your seat at 28E. You will find it empty and all will be well ... maybe. But what happens if it’s already full when you get there? What happens if all the lockers are full and you have to launch yourself through the cabin to find a space? And all the while, the hold beneath you is totally empty! Go figure. You may be seated in 28E, but your trolley bag could be located in 14E. And let’s not forget those amateurs who stuff trolley bags into overhead lockers that will just never fit. It’s hilarious to watch, and the cabin crew simply do that – watch.

Yep, Boeing and Airbus are designing planes that should have smaller holds and more lockers. Or does that just spoil all the fun?

Jim Duffy MBE is co-founder of The Moonshot Academy. His new book, Create Special, about how to think and act like an entrepreneur, is published by Harriman House