August 2013

Hand baggage

kofferHe was fighting a losing battle. Even from my place at the end of the queue I could see that his suitcase was never ever going to fit in the box of 55 by 40 by 20 centimeters. Also, the boarding steward wasn’t going to give in. It was either fit it in or f*ck off.

I knew the man was Dutch before he opened his mouth and started to argue that the box’s measurements were incorrect and that therefore he refused to pay the extra fee. The accent confirmed what his reluctance to follow rules already told me. Country of origin: the Netherlands. Once again the stereotype was true; the Dutch are stingy rule breakers.

Part of me wanted to scream. “Look, you twat, you just paid £21.99 for a plane ticket from the UK to Holland. For this amount of money you wouldn’t even make it halfway across the Netherlands in a crowded NS train that is probably delayed and smells of beer drinking, pot smoking youngsters. Get this straight: you spend under 25 quid for a journey that would cost at least five times as much and take six times as long when travelling by car. Do you realise you paid less money for a flight than most people would spend on a haircut, a new shirt or a meal? What do you expect? That they let you take more than the allowed 10kg of luggage? Dream on!”

I kept silent though. Maybe the guy was stupid (he surely didn’t look very intelligent, breaking what sounded like a few CD cases while vigorously jamming his fists on the side of the suitcase) and – as he was trying to explain to the boarding steward – genuinely unaware of Ryanair’s strict cabin baggage policy. (After all, 30 minutes earlier I didn’t know that a lip balm was a liquid. I assumed the fixed state of the lipstick, together with its inability to flow, was a bit of a giveaway and put it automatically in the category ‘non-liquids’. However, the security staff taught me that even syrups and pastes were considered liquids nowadays. Better rewrite those Chemistry books, guys).

Then again, you can’t be that dumb if you manage to book a flight with a budget airline. It takes quite a bit of persistence: searching online for the best prices, entering your details exactly as they appear in your passport and carefully making your way through the booking process while avoiding the extra charges (priority boarding, rental car, text message, hotel, sport equipment or preferred seating anyone?), like a soldier avoiding landmines on enemy ground. Also, it’s pretty impossible to miss the cabin baggage allowance as it’s displayed EVERYWHERE – I even received an e-mail from Ryanair titled ‘Travel advice for your trip’ and explaining the bag restrictions in what can only be described as a 100% idiot-proof manner.

I felt bad being a Dutch girl, almost embarrassed on their behalf. Here, in a queue consisting of mostly British people, everybody obeyed the rules and behaved normally – apart from the one crazy Dutch guy, his wife and their teenage son (who kindly offered to jump on the suitcase to make it fit). Why on earth did they expect that Ryanair would make an exception for them? Because they can correctly pronounce the word ‘Scheveningen’? Why did they assume this would get them a VIP treatment?

Finally, after what seemed ages (and was almost as entertaining as watching the Jerry Springer show – albeit with less shouting and most of the swearing done in Dutch so the airline staff couldn’t understand), the guy managed to jam all his stuff in his wife’s suitcase, ignoring her weak protests to mind the just ironed clothes which he was now crumbling and creasing in order to stuff his mega laptop in.

A little voice in my head wanted to tell him. “Look mate. Next time please spare us the unnecessary delay. Just deal with the fact that you’re one of the sheep in this animal-like transport. You knew the rules on forehand and agreed to them when clicking on ‘purchase’. Embrace it, or at least accept it. Either pay for check-in luggage or leave your bag behind in the future.”

However, I didn’t say a word and waited for my turn in the queue. When I made it to the front I lifted my Ryanair-proof suitcase in the box with one hand, making it seem as easy, breezy, and effortlessly as possible so they wouldn’t make me weigh the damn thing (at least 15 kg). I tried to smile to the boarding steward without sweating – made even harder by the four layers of clothing I was wearing – and handed over my passport with the other hand that also held a magazine, water bottle and Giant Duty Free bag. When receiving the passport, I made sure nothing fell out of my over-bulging pockets. I semi-casually swung the Giant Duty Free bag (obtained when buying a £ 1 water bottle on the airport) over my shoulder, taking great care the handle wouldn’t brake as it was overloaded beyond duty; containing my handbag, books, camera and high heeled shoes.

Well, what can I say. The Dutch don’t like following rules I guess, especially when it comes to hand baggage restrictions…

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