‘Is This the Right Aircraft to….?’



I have recently started work at a certain airport in southern England. It’s an eye opener as the characters of staff and passengers you have working or passing through.

Everyday is a fashion show with the clothes worn by passengers as they traipse down the gates for their flights to somewhere exotic or home, or business. Whatever it may be. Hen and stag do’s are the wackiest although there are a couple of lone travellers who would not look out of pace on a stag or hen do with what has been seen

I digress from what I was going to write about.

It seems to me, dress code apart, passengers its seems, lose their confidence and brains when they enter an airport.

As soon as they enter the terminal building, they are like jelly, putty or miserable and it has been known aggressive. My piece here will deal with a jelly like brain and lack of confidence. It is not intended in any way to be a piss taker, but some stories I will recite are very funny – ridiculous in fact but true. I hope this makes people think and ensure they arrive on time at their gate

A certain low-cost airline as do others at the airport in question, operate a WIWO policy – Walk in – Walk Out of the aircraft. The aim is to speed the disembarking and boarding of an aircraft when required – returning from a flight and going out on one namely!

When the passengers check in and make their way to the boarding gate, this is where the big problems show. Each flight has a limited time for passengers to board before actual push back of the aircraft. It is around 20 minutes before aircraft is pushed back that the gate closes, not allowing more passengers to board. With this passengers have an attitude.

GatesOh I have paid for my ticket so they won’t unload me!!’ – Oh really! Why should the airline hold up the hundred plus passengers who are already on board and who made it on time? Just because you have not bothered to make the gate on time or spent too long in Duty Free or even the bar! What a selfish attitude. Priorities go out the window for many passengers. Duty Free or my flight? Oh what a quandary!!

With the WIWO loading, there is cut off between front and back loading passengers. Generally it is around rows/seats 1-14 at the front and 15 onwards are to the rear. This of course can include going out side where the front loading passengers generally going through an enclosed jetty. Understandable reticence if the weather is not conducive for the passengers to not ‘own up’ to being in the rear half of the aircraft.

There is however an issue with basic numeracy, even A level maths students are prone to not knowing what numbers are after 15!! So when they are told – ‘Seats 15 and above at the back’, one is asked ‘does that include 22?’ etc? Errr yes, of course it does!!!

If it is outside, other questions come to the fore. The favourite seems to be ‘Which set of steps are for…Alicante?’ When viewing the aircraft from outside, there are 2 sets of steps on a remote stand but with a jetty stand there is one – at the back. The Jetty has steps coming from it so people seem to get confused. However the steps and jetty are attached to the same aircraft depending on the stands themselves. The aircraft is not like a train and so will not separate in half. The back will go to the same place as the front and at the same time.

Another question is, ‘Is this the plane to…Bodrum?’ A worthy question, but when you consider what the passenger has been through, Check-in, security, boarding gate, one would as with the previous issue think they should by now know they have come to the correct gate and aircraft. Admittedly a small number slip through.

The particular airline in question operates a policy of one piece of hand luggage per passenger, unless you have paid extra for  speedy boarding. This allows another piece of hand luggage and priority boarding, as long as you turn up early enough at the gate. The one piece of hand luggage is one bag (small wheelie or rucksack etc). Handbags etc are classed as another piece. Your boarding pass (certainly if printed out from the website) does state this but again passengers fail to read it. They are then shocked when asked to combine the hand luggage into one.

If the bags cannot be combined, they are put in the aircraft hold at a cost to the passenger. Ignorance is not an excuse. However, depending on the aircraft used, there is a limit on overhead locker space. This is worked out using the ICAO bag dimensions. Not all bags will match exactly so its on average. It would take too long to measure every bag on every flight. So on average an Airbus A319 allows 55 bags before more are sent to the hold. In an Airbus A320 its 65 before hold bags are taken. This is free to passengers. There is no charge.

Another thing passengers forget to consider is if they require assistance. This is invariably a wheelchair. They tend to forget this on their flight to airport. Wen you meet the aircraft, and the door opens, the cabin manager tells you where they have arrived from, how many passengers and ‘specials’ on board. There is a delay as those who have booked special assistance are off loaded. This can include a high loader that rises up to the opposite door. Especially if the passengers particular trouble walking and would not be able to walk up the jetty or down the stairs. Those who haven’t booked will tend to have to wait longer as the assistance is generally elsewhere as no one knew about the particular passenger in question.Some people seem to think they should be given priority even if no one is aware of them. This request can be sent on down the line from the outbound flight ops.

Have a good flight next time you go flying with an airline. Be on time to the gate and read the luggage requirements to minimise the delay of your flight. Book special assistance if required.

History on Screen – is it always correct?

I am not talking about dedicated documentaries. I know many people have a tendency to fall asleep at such programmes. I am referring to TV and programs and Films shown at the cinema. The latter is more shocking. Why I say that will become clear.

This particular blog has come about (the 1st in a long time from me), because of a program I saw last night on British TV. Its  a popular detective mystery series called Midsumer Murders. Set in and around a fictional village/ town of Midsumer which is somewhere in the English countryside.

The population of the surrounding areas are being bumped off regularly and the local detective and his sidekicks have their work cut out – for 2 hours every week to discover how and why these people are being murdered.

Last night’s was of interest to me for one thing – flying. A flying club was at the centre of the evil shenanigans. The episode was called the Flying Club. A flying instructor and organiser of the airfield’s airshow was murdered when he went to check an aircraft out on the dark airfield (he was working laet). He saw a light shining from the cab of a Cessna 150/152. This is a 2 seat light training aircraft, popular with flying clubs. On investigating he was bashed on the head with a wrench. The assailant took off and dropped the victim out the passenger door into a lake from about 400ft!

Nothing much wrong there. The problem comes later when there is a Spitfire flying at the display. It is the famous Mark IX Spitfire MH434.The actor portraying the commentator said it was a Mark II. There is a difference.

Spifire Mk II _1471

From these photos the main difference are the Cannons, protruding on the MkIX (right hand picture), non existent on the MkII. The MkIX was also faster and had a more powerful engine This may seem a petty statement but when a number of people learn their history from TV and Film, it would pay the program and film makers to get their facts correct.

People also get ideas on how to do things!

Last night in Midsumer Murders, it showed a man:

  1. Pre-filght checking an aircraft in a hangar, – Not to be encouraged (besides the better light outside enables you to see better)
  2. Giving a cursory look under the wing – NO- check properly for damage and water content in the fuel
  3. Starting up the engine in a confined space next to other aircraft and containers.! No way – not under any circumstances

Programs like this generally have a more restricted budget then big blockbuster films. Hence my comment earlier – take time to obtain correct fact when making films. The one film with a huge historic error that comes to mind is U571. A film about how the US Navy found the German Enigma machine which then led to a drop in attacks on shipping convoys and ultimately a reduction in the length of time the war could have progressed for.

It was of course the British Royal Navy who found the Enigma machine. HMS Bulldog boarded U-110 in may 1941 and recovered code books etc aswell.  There was a note to say the Americans were not the first but this was in the small print with the credits! Who actually reads them at a cinema?

Hollywood is notorious for re-writing history. It distorts it too, just to make it more entertaining! The fact they may insult and or disrespect those who took part in the actual event being portrayed seems not to matter. But with those who go and watch, they may know nothing different. America, as a whole is not known for having worldly-wise citizens, the image is somewhat of naivety to the world and events that have happened or happen. It doesn’t help when America is seen to some as the only country that matters in the world.

Not getting the facts correct in films and programs that are produced does not with help this image. The same unfortunately can be said over here. Some people here in the UK are just as ignorant. A recent survey said that youngsters – (14-25yrs) thought Churchill was the dog from the insurance advert and not the greatest Briton who lived – Sir Winston Churchill, wartime (World war II) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. They had not heard of him. Mostly because they are not taught history as they should be or are not encouraged to learn it. No one corrects them when they are wrong.

I saw a program (I hesitate to say a reality program) where someone (aged about 30-35) didn’t realise the First World War was started by Germany and who it was involved. They only just grasped the reason for the outbreak of the Second World War.

Americans and British youngsters would be able to tell you the ins and out and gossip around popstars and celebrities, but ask which historical figure did what and what happened when, they would be less able and forthcoming if at all bothered! Mainly because the media cuts costs and corners with the important facts.

A travesty with society and as history is known to repeat itself a frightening prospect. So lets be prepared by knowing our history and ensuring others know their’s!