Anton Coaker: My short-haul away day with help of 'Sleazyflight'
Having cause to be at the other end of the country recently, a couple of colleagues and I hopped on an early morning flight with one of those cheapo airlines.
It wasn't the worst experience I've ever had, although woe would surely betide you if you failed to make things very easy indeed for 'Sleazyflight'. I believe there were a host of little surcharges for the unwary, but you generally get what you pay for in life.
I wasn't going to go, having other commitments, but was prevailed upon at the last minute. By then I'd missed the cheapest of the deals, but hey-ho. I allowed my computer operative to book my tickets once she'd cooked tea and helped the kids with homework. I don't like to let her feel left out.
Then I had a query regarding some detail which couldn't be answered on the website, and I eventually tracked down a phone number. That took me to a nice lady whose Indian accent I couldn't really understand, and even if I could, I don't think she knew much about the workings of UK airlines. Fascinating.
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And now I notice unbidden messages keep popping up on my screen from the self-same airline. Sly little beggars. They somehow retain your info and try to sell you more stuff.
I'm informed by my betters that this involves something called 'cookies', although they don't look like the chocolate chip variety.
Come the day – or rather the 'very early morning'– my group of intrepid travellers found ourselves in a regional airport, where parking costs nearly as much as flying. After an industrial strength coffee with the rather lovely 'Ola' – a very sweet Pole – we made our way through check-in.
As you probably know, nowadays this involves X-rays and searches, looking for Semtex socks with which you might blow a hole in the plane, or sharpened bits of steel to prod the pilot into flying you to Cuba or Beirut. The latter seems pretty unlikely, since I doubt if 'Sleazyflight' allow the pilot an eggcup more fuel than he needs.
I rarely get searched, despite my decidedly dodgy appearance. In fact I was principally interested in getting some kip on the plane, rather than issuing my demands or crashing it into the Palace of Westminster.
One my colleagues however, who, I think it's fair to say, looks like what he'd really be interested in is his carpet slippers, a comfy chair and his paper, apparently always gets searched… always.
I'm not aware that he's caused Special Branch any worries in his long distant youth, but I'd be pretty surprised if he'd be up to anything too nefarious nowadays. And sure enough some security guard pulled our man aside to carefully frisk him.
Anyway, we made our destination in time to fulfil our allotted tasks, planning to catch the evening flight home. I'd love to tell you the details of our day, but that would rather spoil the vague illusion of jet-setting importance. In fact it was all rather mundane, and once dealt with, it was a taxi back to the airport that end, where, sure enough, one of our party was frisked once more. He wouldn't mind, he admits, if it was some smiley maid doing this frisking, but it's always a plank-faced bloke.
This time, to while away a few minutes in the departure lounge while Biggles rewound the elastic band, I fell into conversation with some chap flogging tickets to win a rather swish Aston Martin. Being a natural sceptic and relatively quick with maths, I soon raised questions pertaining to the number of tickets sold and details of the draw, which revealed that the odds were somewhat stacked against me.
He optimistically kept up the patter, especially when I revealed that I was heavily into gambling. Sadly, I explained his odds didn't strike me as much fun as, say, punting a few grand on a parcel of oak trunks, or a pedigree bull I fancied.
Or, for that matter, typing out the mundane doings of what's caught my eye this week, hoping the editor will give it the nod.
Mind, the next traveller he snared – a spotty youth in pin stripes – was evidently mug enough, so good luck to him. And as they say, taking a fool's money is fine… the world has an endless supply.