6.12.10

ENG – Up in the air – The frequent flyers

The frequent flyers share plenty of habits. For a while, I was also one of them: not a business frequent flyer but a low cost frequent flyer for sure: once, while boarding on the Friday night ryanair flight from Bergamo to Charleroi the steward asked me if I got sick cause he didn’t spot me on board the week before.
When you catch a plane more often than a bus and the bus that you catch is the one to the airport, indeed, some behaviors become natural to you but makes you different from those who don’t fly very often and those who have never flown before.
Leaving to the airport
You know exactly how long it takes to get to the boarding gate considering it’s that day of the week at that time of the day/night, so once you decide when it the leaving time you don’t look at your watch anymore. You could do all the way from the lift to the stairs to the car/bus/metro with your eyes shut and  you know already all the adversities on your path: the escalator from the metro station to the ground level that is never out of service is the one on the left (like in Milano Centrale), the pavement to the shuttle bus has a hole where the wheels of the trolley could get stuck so it’s better to run on the street to catch it, you also know which one of the two shuttle bus  companies make an extra stop adding 15 minutes to the length of the journey so you’ll take the other one even if the guy that sells the tickets tells you that it will leave 15 minutes later. When you get on the bus you’ll try to take the seat in front of the rear door, so you ‘ll be the first to get off without getting stuck in the front passengers queue. (If you are going by car to the airport you know already which parking has the biggest amounts of free spots and you ll go straight to the highest level or the lowest underground level (depending on the construction) while the newcomers will hang around the whole first floor after the entrance trying to find the only free spot because of which the light of that level was green.) If you are on the bus, you ‘ll rise your eyes from your free press copy taken before during the metro trip just two minutes before the arrival. You know it’s just to minutes before the arrival because you have your signal in the panorama from the window. My own, arriving to Bergamo Airport, is the sign of the factory CAFFE’ CARISSIMI (that in Italian sounds like either very expensive coffees or the dearest coffees :-D) I even have already saved in the sms draft the message “ I’m at caffé carissimi, will call before boarding” to send to my mom. You’ll get up to be in front of the rear door just in the very second that the bus will stop.
At the airport
You came to the airport with exactly the amount of minutes necessary to complete the necessary operations: check in,  boarding control, passport control if you’re flying out of the Schengen Area and boarding on the plane. The only inconvenience that could happen to your efficient procedure is being after  one of those who don’t fly very often or, even worse, one of those who have never flown before. You spot them quite easily because they look lost or they have a monumental luggage or they keep the ticket all the time in their hand like they wouldn’t be allowed to walk inside of the airport without evidence that they are passengers. If they fit all three description, then they never took a flight before and you’d better speed up your walk to don’t be waiting in line behind them,
If your travel doesn’t last more than 3 days you always manage to pack yourself in the hand luggage, not only cause with the low costs is for free but mainly because that way you don’t loose time in collecting the luggage at your arrival. But if you have to check in some hold luggage, you have to take into account that someone who doesn’t fly very often or never flown will try to not to pay the extra fee for a luggage weighting 12 kg more than the allowance: initially the passenger will pretend he didn’t have a clue there was any weight allowance for the hold luggage, then he’ll try to ask for the financial understanding of the stewardess because to pay the extra weight will cost him more than the ticket itself, eventually he’ll beg the stewardess to make an exception. Once he’ll understand that the rules are the rules and he must pay for the extra weight, he’ll leave the queue barking some bad words about the stewardess and muttering that he’ll never fly anymore with that company, feeling abused and victim of a pure injustice, without even noticing the swear words thrown at him from the other passenger that he made wait in line an extra 20 minutes.
At the security control  you frequent flyer have already placed on the belt your belongings in order of recovery after the control: first the hand luggage, then the tray with laptop and camera, then the tray with your jacket/coat, then the tray with the stuff from your pockets and as last the shoes (not in all the airports is required to take them off but its better to do it before they ask not to loose time at the metal detector). Even more, as a frequent flyer you had already chosen your outfit to travel putting the majority of metal pieces (belt, jewelry, handcuffs, watch, glasses) in the hand luggage bag, not to loose time in taking them off and putting them on during the security control. All those that don’t fly very often or never flown before seem to be immune from the constant information bombing about the items allowed in the hand luggage ( besides weapons and inflammable items, at the Dublin Airport is also specifically prohibited to board catapults), the restrictions for liquids and the undressing procedure (banners written in 18 languages, lcd screen 50 inches that repeat a loop of eloquent descriptive images, airport stuff that repeats constantly shouting like paperboys : please place into the trays any metal item, mobile phones, laptops etc).  Inexorably, once at the metal detector, they’ll make it ring at least three times (ops, I didnt know I had to remove the pen from my breastpocket, ops I didnt know I had to take off my belt, ops I didnt know I had to empty out my pockets from the coins) and then they’ll argue with the security officers that a bottle of diet coke isn’t a liquid and they’ll end up, rather than to leave it there, to drink it all at once risking to choke for the bubbles up to the nose. Then they’ll leave muttering they’ll never fly anymore with that company, even if the security is managed by the airport.
After the security control and the eventual passport control, if your time calculation  is correct ( and it is correct) and the plane isn’t late  (but this doesnt depend from you), you’ll get to your boarding gate while this is already started, so you won’t waste time standing again in line to board. If you’ll have to wait (so the plane is late) you’ll go to work with your blackberry in the lounge you can enter with your silver card, then gold card, then platinum card. There you’ll find other frequent flyers working on the blackberry waiting for their plane delayed. If you are traveling low costs and you are in an airport where food is good, you’ll take the advantage of buying a sandwich and an half bottle of mineral water to bring on board with you rather than buying M&Ms and a small can of seven up on the plane.
If you are a low cost frequent flyer you know there’s no reason to hurry up on the boarding because the last one that get into the shuttle to the plane will be the first one to get inside the plane, regardless of having bought the priority card. You’ll usually walk straight to the seats on the wings next to the emergency exits because they have bigger space for the legs or, alternatively, you’ll seat in the firt row to be the first one to get off.
On the plane
Wheter you sit next to the emergency exits on the wings or in the first row, you know, as it is diplayed by the sticker in front of your seat, that you can’t keep with you the coat and the bag.  Those who don’t fly very often and those who’ve never flown look at the stickers and pretend not to see them, even if they get terribly offended when the steward come to pick their coat and bag because it is not allowed to keep them as they would obstruct the emergency passage.  They will give to the steward their stuff showing all their displeasure, muttering that they’ll never fly anymore with that company. The thing is that they will fly again , when they will fly, with that company, if it will be again the lowest fare for that trip, you know that, the steward knows that, but they won’t ever admit it.
You frequent flyer understand immediately if your neighbor passenger suffers from anxiety of flying and/or likes to talk a lot, i mean, A LOT. So, unless you are in a particular will to socialize, you are already falling asleep or you take out a 900 pages book with a title so sounding to discourage any attempt of conversation. If the book is written in an unusual language, even better: polish on a geneva – paris, cataln on a bergamo – dublin.  If you fly business you’ll probably have next to you another frequent flyer already working off line on his laptop, so you can safely choose if to work or to sleep for the whole flight.
Before the taking off you won’t look at the security measure dance of the crew but you’ll keep quiet while reading your book or newspapers, while those who don’t fly often or have never flown make loudly comments on the concept of “unlikely event”. (If you are in Italy, on a low cost flight and at least one stewardess is pretty, you’ll hear a whole stadium chanting from the bottom rows). After landing, you won’t clap your hands because the fact you are back safely on the ground isn’t a favor but the job of the captain.
Arrival
Once you are arrived to the destination, your belonging to the frequent flyer category is obvious for everyone else: you’ve been already in that airport, you know already the fastest way to the passport control including a quick diversion to the closest toilet and you also know where to go to pick up the luggage. If you don’t have a business mobile, you take out of your wallet a pre-paid sim of that country or you just buy a pre-paid sim at the first newsagency/mobile shop in the airport so you won’t pay a coin in roaming. Before reaching the exit you’ve already send a txt to say you landed to the person who’s caring for you and after the gate you’ll find waiting for you a dear one or somebody with a banner with your name and a logo (how many mr Vodafone and mr Accenture exist in this world?) or, simply, another bus/taxi or train.
Final remarks
What’s the difference between those who don’t fly often and thoe who’ve never flown? The first ones if they recognise a frequent flyer will follow him/her, so they will also be faster.
That’s the way to behave of a frequent flyer but often there is also somebody else living this trip at the same time: the spouses  of the frequent flyers. To the next time ;-)

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