Queuing system breaks down at City Airport…

I don’t usually make personal gripes on Slugger, but I was possibly not the most unhappy person at the City Airport this morning. One guy queued from 4.45 until close to 6.30 for the BMI flight. He had a connecting flight to Portugal to catch at Heathrow. There were just three people processing two large planeloads of passengers due to take off within half an hour of each other. To be fair that is all City Airport have given them. It aslo didn’t help that the airport anouncer kept telling us that the gate was about to close, when a good dozen of us had not even booked in. Not sure who to blame, but in the meantime, my advice is to avoid those two BMI services on Saturday during summer holidays: if you can possibly help it.

  • Cruimh

    Could it in any way be linked to increased security after Glasgow attack, or was it just poor organisation?

  • Don’t you know the nickname for BMI Be My Maybe?

  • miss fitz

    Having almost finished my globe trotting and been through about 10 airports in the past few weeks, I feel that overall security has increased since Glasgow, but that there is still a much higher level of scrutiny. The problem seems to lie with people who are completely unprepared for the one bag only rule, and who still have liquids or gels in their bags. If you go prepared and leave plenty of time, it works a lot better. Still, that doesnt seem like it would have helped in the scenario Mick has painted!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick,

    BMI do online checkins, as far as I know. This way you can check in before you go to the airport; so all you need to do is drop off your checked baggage and head for security.

    [I think the message should be to avoid flying whenever you can help it. There’s absolutely nothing pleasant about any time you have to spend in an airport. They’re stuffy, smelly, usually busy, full of overpriced shops and restaurants that serve really bad coffee. And your decision to choose flying means that you are automatically considered to be a potential terrorist, until it’s proven that you’re safe. Nightmare all round. ]

  • They’ve been quite short staffed at check-in for the last few weeks. Yet there are always two staff on the Sales desk – who never seem to be moved across to help process the bag droppers at check-in.

    Travelling with hand baggage recommended!

  • Jamie Gargoyle

    I’d quite like to avoid flying, but as I live near London, and my folks live in Belfast, I’ve not got a lot of choice. Train & ferry? An extra day each way to take off work for the journey. Coach? Did it once when I had absolutely no choice – never again if I can avoid it.

    On the whole I don’t mind airport security too much, providing it’s done with a modicum of politeness and professionalism. I know it’s not the bloke at the X-ray machine’s fault that I can’t bring a bottle of water I’ve bought in the sodding airport through security, so I (unlike some other travelers) don’t behave as if security people are part of the Secretary of State / Boots / WH Smith overpriced water cartel.

    Of course, the ludicrous liquds restrictions brought in last year make it awkward to travel with a single piece of hand-baggage… toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, shower gel – even contact lens fluid, all come in bottles typically over 100ml, so you need a hold case to pack them in, or be prepared to stock up on arrival (cheaper than Boots in the airport), or in my case keep a stash of essentials in my folks’ place (not useful for other destinations, mind…)

    The worst instance of overzealous security I’ve ever experienced was in Birmingham airport, but to put it in context, it was a few days after the Canary Wharf bomb. I bought a bottle of Coke within the line of sight of the bloke at the security gate, then stepped up to be searched. In addition to the usual pat-down (we’d already filled in “the card”…) the guy got me to remove the Coke bottle from my pocket, and then he held it up to the light to check the cap for bombs. Idiot.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jamie, the cynic in me believes it is no strange coincidence that liquids are still banned from being brought through security, a decision which obviously boosts trade in provisions such as perfumes and drinks on the airside.

    And what on earth are the security implications of bringing more than one bag through security anyway ?

  • TAFKABO

    I flew from Belfast international to CDG PAris yesterday. I arrived at the airport to find it packed, with massive queues everywhere.
    Within minutes of joining a queue for the Easyjet flight to Paris, the staff had opened another desk, specifically for people who were due to take the flight, which was leaving in one hour.
    Having made it through the check in in five minutes I arrived at the security area for those going into the boarding lounges. Again, the staff had everything running like clockwork, with different flights being directed to five different queues as we showed out boarding passes. Even though everyone had a thorough search, including removing all shoes, it still moved smoothly.

    Well done to all at Belfast International, great service under diffcult conditions.

  • Valenciano

    CS – not flying isn’t really a practical option for some of us. It would take me 40 hours by bus to London plus the time from there to Stranraer/Belfast.

    It used to be much worse though when the prevention of terrorism stuff was still in force. Being 19 at the time I was forever being singled out just to give the same old information over and over again and spent numerous frustrating two hours waits on train platforms after just having missed trains as a result.

    Flying is becoming distinctly less pleasant. Heightened queues, ridiculously over the top security, not to mention the increased taxes and baggage charge fleeces.

  • Good to see lastminute.com have an advert on this page.

    Online check-in is definitely the way to go.

    As someone whose carbon footprint over the last 6 months has been totally immoral, I can concur with all of the above. I’m just amazed that the authorities are prepared to strangle the aviation industry with meaningless security. All of the precautions at airports in place before July did not prevent the Glasgow attack.

    “They’re stuffy, smelly, usually busy, full of overpriced shops and restaurants that serve really bad coffee.”

    You could always send the bourgeois pigs to a labour camp, CS. And if you want really great food I recommend Le Plein Ciel at Geneva Airport – best food I’ve had anywhere in years.

  • slug

    “I’d quite like to avoid flying, but as I live near London, and my folks live in Belfast, I’ve not got a lot of choice.”

    For longer visits it is quite pleasant to drive via Holyhead and take the fast ferry. Motorway up from Dublin is very quick now. Or take the overnighter!

  • Comrade Stalin

    CS – not flying isn’t really a practical option for some of us.

    What would you (and the other chap who said “I have to fly because I’m in London and my parents are in Belfast”) have done a couple of decades ago ? What you’ve (we’ve) got now is a luxury that we didn’t have back then. What you’re saying is only true now that flying is a practical option due to the fall in price over the past number of years. Prior to that, flying around the place was somewhat reserved for the elite.

    Watchman, no, I’m not one of those “planes are evil because they harm the environment” people, if I was I’d be a hypocrite (although I don’t think that it’s right that the aviation industry gets tax breaks (on fuel) that other public transport does not). But that doesn’t change the fact that airports are generally not nice places, and there is nothing pleasant about flying on a cheap flight or in economy class; it’s worse than being on a long-distance bus.

  • Jamie Gargoyle

    Slug – the drive from Stranraer down through Dumfries to the English border is absolutely beautiful – unfortunately the same can’t be said for the M6 or the M1… As for taking more time off, I’m a (not especially well-paid) contractor I don’t get paid for the days I take off, so I can’t afford to waste the guts of 36 extra hours in transit, never mind the fact that coach/ferry/coach or train/ferry/train is invariably more expensive than a flight booked well in advance.
    CS – what would I have done a couple of decades ago? Hard to say, though I’m tempted to say “sit my 11+ and play in the street on my bike…” I dunno – maybe I’d’ve stayed in NI or gone to Dublin or Scotland rather than SE England, or I might’ve just taken the ferry as the cheaper alternative to extortionate flights, or just flown a lot less, i.e. the t’dishnal Xmas exodus.
    Must disagree with your assertion that “cattle-class is worse than a long-distance bus” – flying with Ryanair from anywhere in NI or RofI to GB is over with in less than 2 hours, whereas a coach from Victoria to Stranraer took about 9 hours. Personally, I think easyJet are substantially better than Ryanair – flying with them is usually the calm after the turbulence of navigating my way through airport security…

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry I’ve been away since this thread began. I got it down in Heathrow just after landing, and could not check it since.

    I should make it clear that checking in had nothing to do with the delay. Those who checked in online were little better off than those of us who left it to chance at the airport.

    Dropping the bags was the problem. BMI only had three people checking in the bags of anything up to three hundred people travelling on two aircraft scheduled to take off within a half hour of each other. In the time our queue had moved ten yards people who arrived at the same time as me had sailed through a similar length of queue for Flybe, and were happily heading to the departure lounge.

    I can’t be absolutely sure of exact figures, but the Airbus I travelled on was certainly full. By the time I got my bags dropped, security was not a problem, I was told to get straight to the head of the queue. It was no worse nor no better than normal. Glasgow does not seem to have made much difference.

    The issue here is capacity folks. BMI don’t have the staff nor the facilities to run two full planes so close together out of City Airport. Certainly not at the commencement of the Twelfth fortnight. I suspect they will have lost a few prospective customers over the experience, though I think the airport needs to answer questions about why it allows scheduling it cannot offer the facilities to service adequately.

    I’d be interested in hearing other stories of a similar nature. It may be an early warning that the new airport’s facilities are already being overstretched, either by increased demand, or simple mismanagement.

  • JokerN

    Cant help feeling that poor management (and not giving two hoots about customers) are a big part of the problem.
    Anyone flying BMI from the city to Heathrow will have their own nightmare stories.
    This is the airline that will quite happily cancel Heathrow flights if there are not enough people on board.
    It would be nice to have some competition for the Heathrow route.

  • Pounder

    Slightly off topic but I notice not one person in this thread has called airport on our side The George Best Airport.

  • The bag drop is the flaw in the whole idea of automatic check-in, either online or via those irritating little machines at the airport. You still have to leave the bag (and hand luggage only isn’t always possible) and show ID at that point, and the moment large numbers start to do that then you still have to queue. As has been pointed out, Easyjet manage it much better with real people and one queue at Aldergrove.

    Talking of City Airport check-in queues, the flybe one used to drive me mad on Sunday evenings.

  • Ziznivy

    Online check-in is all fine and dandy, other than when I went to claim a refund for a cancelled flight to Leeds the other week (having spent 4 hrs in the departure lounge), FlyBE had me recorded as a no-show for the flight. Reassuring.

  • Animus

    Having flown out of City a couple of times recently, there seems to be a blind panic to get through on time regardless of online check-in if bags have to be dropped or even simply to wait for the security clearance. This seems to happen regardless of what time you turn up. And this often makes me wonder why City promise flights that it may be difficult to deliver on.

    It does still surprise me how many people turn up with lighters in their carry on – many of the restrictions on gels/liquids are enforced differently depending on what part of the world (or even the UK) you’re in, so people should use a bit of common sense and go with the most restrictive, rather than chancing it. The number of people I have heard wailing about the loss of their favourite perfume/make-up/etc just defies belief.

    The most ludicrous story I have about travel is bringing diluted juice in my little son’s sippy cup (he was about a year and half old) and having to throw it out – discreetly, ie in the bin next to security – because it wasn’t milk. We were told we could buy more when we went through, which I though was a cynical ploy to get us to spend more money. If I had just lied and said it was milk and taken a drink, they would have let us though with it. At the same time, we nearly had a snow globe taken off us – which we purchased as a gift for someone who collects them, at the gift shop next to the security gate – and they wondered if it could be banned because of the liquid content. They let us keep it.

  • DK

    “For longer visits it is quite pleasant to drive via Holyhead and take the fast ferry. Motorway up from Dublin is very quick now.”

    That’s if you can get through Dublin first. For those that don’t know, the fast ferry goes from Dun Laoghaire, South of Dublin. The Dublin ring road is hell and driving through the city is only marginally better.

    I drove from Belfast to France – via Dun Laoghaire, London, Dover. I can say that out of London, Paris and Dublin, Dublin is the worst for traffic snarl-ups – and it is only a tenth the size of the other two cities. One other tip – take the M6 toll round birmingham: For only £4 you get to be the only car on the motorway – sweet!

  • Gosh, we are all a lot of girns, aren’t we. Time I joined in.

    Bag drops can work really well. Often I’ve been able to get rid of my and proceed to security in just 2 minutes, including once at Heathrow.

    I haven’t had any experience of the City in years as I will not drag my father down the motorway and across town when Aldergrove is much easier. I always thought it was ridiculous to have 2 airports serving such a small population, especially with capacity issues at the City. Plus it’s daft that NI’s biggest airport doesn’t have a link to Heathrow for international connections.

    My favourite bugbear is that if you fly to London out of Aldergrove you have to travel in one of those sickly orange easyJets. A few months ago I flew BA from Heathrow to Edinburgh and was struck by how pleasant the experience was. On-line check-in, a quick bag drop, no queuing at the gate before some hopeless sap on jobseekers allowance lets you on, decent legroom and a nice light meal made it a downright good experience. Easyjet can be cheap but its service isn’t great and I’m grumpy when travelling.

    Totally agree with Mr Gargoyle over the Stranraer-Carlisle drive – abosolutely beautiful. I did it recently for the first time in years and booked a holiday in SW Scotland ASAP.

  • feismother

    < >

    It’s a few years since I’ve been on it but doesn’t the Irish Ferries’ Jonathan Swift sail Dublin/Holyhead? Stenaline goes from Dun Laoghaire.

  • Valenciano

    Comrade Stalin: “What would you (and the other chap who said “I have to fly because I’m in London and my parents are in Belfast”) have done a couple of decades ago ?”

    The question is a bit of an academic one as a couple of decades ago, living in Latvia would have been neither possible nor desirable, mainly due to the genocidal activities of your namesake in 1940. If you must know, the answer, illegal and immoral as it is, is that I’d probably do the same as I do now and bring back a few cartons of marlboro lights which I can buy for 7.50 a go. Enough to cover the flight costs but not so much that I couldnt fall back on the persona use arguments with customs. The joys of capitalism eh? 🙂

    Otherwise I’d bus it as I did in the pre-cheap flight era. The problem is, 57 hours on a bus from Madrid to Bucharest, as it did in 2003, leaves you walking like a sphagetti western star for the next few days. The scenery passing through the Austrian Alps partly makes up for it, as it makes the journey to Stranraer look like a drive through Ardoyne. All said though, it’s a bit like spending 2 hours walking to work when there’s a bus that takes 15 mins. What’s the point?

    Personally I wouldn’t shed many tears if the cheap UK flights to Riga were knocked on the head as the stag party muppets that use them have ruined an otherwise beautiful old town. The worst news I’ve had in a long time was when I heard that Ryanair were doing direct flights from Liverpool.