I WONDER what it is we have collectively done to the airline industry to deserve the treatment we get back from them? Obviously times are tough, fuel costs are at an all-time high, and passengers are flying less than normal in the current belt-tightening conditions, but I really don't see why they should be taking it out on us, their remaining customers.
I don't normally have much sympathy for supermodel Naomi Campbell but I must admit I felt that she was really quite justified in 'throwing a wobbly' recently when, having paid an extortionate amount of money for a first class ticket to the US, she was told that her luggage had been lost by British Airways in the chaos of Terminal Five - bags which contained the designer outfits which she needed for the photoshoot to which she was travelling.
When she 'threw a fit' and attacked the airline staff, it was only what the rest of us would really love to do if only we had the nerve; after all, BA had effectively 'stolen' her rather expensive luggage and its irreplaceable contents. As a 'bonus', she has been banned from flying with British Airways ever again.
At the other end of the airline market, Ryanair clearly make it part of their mission to be as nasty as possible to their customers. They are reasonably ok if you don't have any luggage and your flight takes off and lands on time - which, to be fair, it usually does because they mostly use small uncrowded airports in the middle of nowhere. You have to queue for an hour or so to check-in at their deliberately understaffed desks - not too bad really, considering the low fare.
But woe betides you if you need to take luggage, are disabled, or if there is any problem with your flight, because then you are very much on your own. They have no way in which you can contact them by phone or email, and if you write a complaint letter it will be ignored.
Back in the 1970s when I started flying regularly, British Airways had just launched their 'shuttle' service from Edinburgh to London. It was very convenient for the customer - you literally just 'turned up' ten minutes before the scheduled time and they guaranteed you would get on the flight - even if it meant them flying an extra plane.
There was no cabin service for the simple reason that the crew spent the entire flight collecting fares from the passengers, so you just walked on and walked off at the other end and could get on with your journey. You could get from city centre to city centre in around two hours.
These days it takes at least three, often four hours to make the same journey. The security checks are obsessive - after the incident of the 'shoe bomber' they make you take off your shoes rather than simply altering their scanners to scan shoes properly. You are searched, scanned and photographed at a central security area and then you have to negotiate the massive shopping mall that is a modem British airport terminal to get to your gate. The other day at Terminal Five, I passed not one, but two, different branches of Harrods on my way to the gate for my Edinburgh flight, a 15 minute walk.
Now that airlines need customers more than ever I wonder when it will occur to them that they need to start treating us all a bit better .•