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OPINION - What happened to flying? Airlines are a rip off, flights are delayed or cancelled and then service is terrible

 (PA)
(PA)

I’m not being funny but… whatever happened to air travel? Once considered a luxury, an experience, these days most of us dread flying more than anything. The mere thought of having to get through airport security or those never-ending customs queues makes my skin crawl.

The feeling of being a second-class citizen in Europe is not the way someone wants to travel. Last year saw an unprecedented amount of disruption in the industry, from cancellations to luggage mishandling.

Apparently, we’re still seeing the repercussions of Covid staff losses. What they’re really trying to say is “we got rid of everyone during the pandemic and now can’t offer a decent-enough wage or employment standards to lure people back into work”.

This seems to be happening not just with airport operators but airlines too. The standard of service has dropped, I think, due to the fact airlines pay peanuts in comparison to what they used to. It’s well-documented how European national carriers have been slowly getting rid of employees on expensive legacy contracts, or forcing staff into renegotiations, and with that we see a steady decline in service.

I’m not saying this is across the board, we know there are some incredible people working in the aviation service industry. However, when some companies make their staff fly up to four trips a day, it’s only natural they can’t maintain the standards that used to be. I’ve had multiple conversations with crew, and it’s sad to hear that many of them don’t quite enjoy the work as much as they used to.

We’re expected to fork out £800 to go to Mykonos when that should be able to get you to Barbados instead

Despite some airlines not being able to provide a decent level of service, they still charge exorbitant prices. All of a sudden a two-hour European flight in economy costs as much as it did to fly business. We’re expected to fork out £800 to go to Mykonos when that should be able to get you to Barbados. It’s just not right that there’s no accountability for these companies, when they’re more than happy to charge you for not checking in on time or changing your flight due to an emergency and so on.

I am not just talking about me, by the way. I know I’m in an especially privileged position to fly mostly in business when work permits, but this problem affects all travellers. OK, so some of my troubles include the fact that the lounges are practically high-school canteens, or the food and drink served onboard is horrendous, or I get pissed off when I don’t board first (haha!). You think that’s it? Hell no! Do you have any idea how many flights were cancelled last summer? Or going back to my earlier point — how insanely expensive everything has become? How many pieces of luggage were lost? Or how airlines hadn’t had time to clear the septic tanks between flights on more than one occasion I was on board last summer, because they want to squeeze every last penny out of a trip regardless of passengers’ onboard well-being?

It’s shoddy and lazy and we shouldn’t stand for it anymore. They’re turning billions in profit — so what excuse is there for handling their customers like animals? We’re here paying business-class prices (including on “low-cost” airlines!) for a budget experience. I proposed to my partner in New York in October. Do you know how our trip of a lifetime ended? They cancelled our flight and booked me onto the next one, while Stavros had to fly all the way to Madrid and get a connecting flight. It’s just laughable.

Travel across the board has been pretty disastrous. We have a government that couldn’t give two s***s if the entire country is disrupted by strikes every other weekend. We have train companies cancelling trains and routes from one minute to the next.

For a country that’s proudly been at the forefront of travel for decades, I don’t understand how things could have slipped so far. Our fares are sometimes tenfold what they would be in the rest of Europe. Who’s listening? How do we fix this? I know within air travel it would be tricky for individuals to effect major change due to it being a free market, but what about public transport? I’d love to hear more and I’d love to do more. See you next Wednesday.

Track of the Week: One Day I’ll Fly Away — Randy Crawford

Fat Tony is a DJ and best-selling author