‘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.

Berlin or Bust!!


The penultimate weekend in April saw a small rugby club from south-west London venture to the German Capital for a game of ruby. A game not many know about in European’s strongest economy. We helped that reputation a little bit more with what and how a rugby team can!

We all met on Friday 19th at Heathrow at Terminal 1 at 7am. Most came by shared taxi looking suitably dressed (well disguising the bleary eyes) with the club tie duly worn showing footballers how a tie should be worn. This included those who started off drinking at this ungodly hour! Passport sorted and security c;eared, it was through to airside for Duty Free and a good breakfast. Our flight was boarding after 30 minutes delay on it arrival from its previous departure point.

The Lufthansa A321, full, departed for the 1hr 20min flight to Berlin Tegel. The International Airport for the German capital after the closure of historic Templehoff (more on this airport later), and the continuing developments issues surrounding Schoenefeld Airport. On board we had a packed lunch! Well a bag containing either a ham or cheese sandwich, and apple, a sweet (mint)and a chocolate). The drinks came just afterwards – coffee, tea, fizzy and or alcohol.

We landed, picked up our bags, went for a drink in the Red Baron bar, complete with a model of a Fokker Triplane (DR1). It was then off to get a bus to start our journey to our hotel. The ticket on the bus was valid on most transport systems ( a bit like the travelcard in London). We then needed to get off the ‘bendy’ bus and on a train. Our station appeared and off we traipsed to our Hotel – one of the Generator line.

It looked like an Office building. The interior on the ground floor was metal walled with a scheme made to look like a generator/engine room . The rooms we had were a matter of 4 or 3 to a room (generally 2 singles and a bunk bed), with en suite shower and toilet. The view outside were of concrete buildings and a Velodrome and Swimming pools, partly submerged and covered by a park with walkways/cycleways. Having sorted out who was sharing a room with whom and dropping our bags off, we when on a tour of Berlin for some lunch and of course drink!

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So it was onto a tram this time to Alexndraplatz and a restaurant or beer haus. A table had been reserved by our fabulously organised tour manager. The drink (or large tankards, full of beer) flowed and the choice of meal was a mixed platter, consisting of various meat and a few vegetables. Fabulous. After this is was off again to see more of Berlin. Not much was found, more through going to the wrong areas, we should have just stayed where we were. There was even bungy jumping of a tall office block, no one in the club volunteered.

We then decided to go and see more of the city – Berlin wall remains, Checkpoint Charlie , walked past a Trabant museum and then the Brandenburg Gate. We even ventured into the Ardlon Hotel for cocktails. It was the plushest in Berlin. A great experience.

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We ended up not far from the hotel, having come back on another train! Public transport was very good but it did get a little tiring. The venue that became a favourite over the weekend was a kebab shop that had a bar at the back of the shop. Very hospitable if a weird mix of shop and bar.

We were getting more information as to where the rugby match tomorrow (Saturday) was to be played. We were to play the first full Gay Rugby team. They called themselves the Berlin Bruisers. Our very original opponents had called off at the last-minute. Now the only problem was where to play. It was a case : we have a pitch, no we don’t , we have a pitch, no we don’t! Oh well – lets see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday – up for breakfast at around 8am (some got down later due to drinking to the small hours). The weather was good, dry, blue sky, if only a little chilly! So where will  be playing (well, not me – I retired due to shoulder operation I had to have). 3 Taxis had been booked to take us to meet our opposition. We met them at a sports club where there were changing rooms. They were a mix of American, Canadian, German, British and Irish men.  We crossed the road and into a public park. And what a public park – the grounds of historic Templehhof import!

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The famous curved terminal building and apron was evident as were the taxiways. The runways were away for our impromptu pitch (a football pitch with goal posts either end, used for conversions).There were the remains of an aircraft used by the old airport fire service. There were also the remains of what looked like an assault course, rifle range and deathslide.  There was even a crazy golf curse utilising parts of aircraft and other bits found around the airport. There were still signs the Americans had a military presence – US Army Aviation on hangar doors and Softball pitches.

The team we were playing and some of the match was being recorded for a documentary so we could be famous at last!!! After the match, we returned to the sports club for after game drinks and games. In the bar there was a picture of Templehoff taken for the other side to what we saw, and during what looked like an airshow in 1989.

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The opponents were great fun, nothing but the genial hosts and entered in the spirit of the games (unlike our recent tours around Britain). The games were – Spoons (utensil type), Sumo (a club favourite) and the name escapes me but involves going round a broom stick having downed a pint of beer ad running back from where you started. Speaking from experience on other tours – not that straightforward. We made our excuses and headed back to get changed for a night on the town, what was left of it anyway.We won the game which made things better.

Some started off in a hotel round the corner from our’s and headed up to the cocktail bar, before heading out for a meal. This was an Italian restaurant just round the corner from our hotel and not far from the kebab shop bar.

Sunday, arrived and so did the bleary eyed revellers. It was also the day to check out of the hotel and we had a few hours to kill before we headed off to the airport for the return home.

The time was taken up with a river cruise, booked again by our irreplaceable tour manager Dev. The Spree river cruise was interesting. The bridges, the architecture along the banks, from before, during and after reunification. We even ventured down a canal and had to keep a low profile due top the low bridges down here. Lunch was served on board and some got decent service other had to ait till near the end of the cruise. It was good though. Then when berthed, off the boat (with our luggage) and off to a bar for the initiation of the tour virgins. 2 were non playing, the other 2 were not so fortunate!

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Taxis were ordered and duly arrived to take us off to the airport. On arrival, we queued for check in, visited the Red Baron bar again before going through security. The german reputation for efficiency fell flat here. Through a single door, passengers for 4 flights were expected to pass security and customs. One lot of security even asked us for our nationality and noted it on a sheet of paper. Surely this could be obtained from the check in desk! It was only our Lufthansa flight that was being asked! It was a slow process and we did not get through security until 1810 which was our expected departure time.

Once in our seats, the captain apologised for the delay and also mentioned incorrect information about the flight being due to depart another hour later due to some mix up with UTC (GMT) time and local time difference. This at an international airport!

I later find out the Berlin mayor was responsible for opening Tegel and closing Templehof, having tried to get  Schoenefeld up and running. Millions were spent, but no improvement on the facilities in Tegel was obvious. The Mayor of Berlin which is a City state comes from East Berlin therefore is still running his office in the socialist manner and is making Berlin bankrupt. Being the largest part of berlin, the East is still likely to vote for him or a fellow East Berliner in the near future. Such a shame. Not a got reputation on German efficiency.

All in all an dintersting trip to a European Capital. Next year – who knows where!