Why is it that departures on major journeys almost invariably occur in the middle of the night? As thrilling as travelling to exciting places as, having the taxi drive at your door at 2.30am is less thrilling. Then, in my case, usually a a coach ride of 2.5 hours to Helsinki airport. To cut a long story short, arriving at the airport, after dosing off on a chilly coach, doesn’t make me a happy camper.
And then, you are forced to do the check-in yourself at a self-service automat! Everybody seems to have some problem with it, and the young assistants there just don’t have enough time to help all passengers quickly and efficiently, no matter how hard they try. Somebody has their boarding passes crumpled and stuck inside the machine, while others are struggling to get all the information of their final address typed in correctly.
Travelling to Hawaii recently, and wrestling with the wretched automat, I could feel my blood pressure rising, and my mood getting lousier by the minute. What finally broke this camel’s back was that there was no way to proceed if you didn’t know the zip code of your address in the US! I didn’t have the zip code! The unfairness of the situation and customer neglect was palpable, in my fuming mind at least. How could airlines do this – reduce staff, to make more profits to the owners and share-holders?
Finally, after trial and error, lots of sweat and frustration, and even being reprimanded by the assistant for using foul language in front of child passengers (!), I got our boarding passes printed. Phew, after all that you’d expect the baggage drop to go nice and smooth. Fat chance! There was a long, slow queue in front of us, and it turned out we had to still see a flight attendant at the check-in desk, to get our bags tagged and ready to go. In the end, it took more or less as long for the attendant to do this, as it would have done to print the boarding passes at the same time. And doing that, how much happier would customers be with the check-in experience, and the general performance of the airline!
Self-service seems to be the norm at Scandinavian airports now. I wonder how foreign tourists to Finland, for example, feel about this inhospitable lack of service at Helsinki airport. I would imagine, it doesn’t promote a very positive country image, does it? What a pity, it’s only money that seems to rule in this part of the world these days. Or maybe I’m just getting more miserable with age, and the younger generation of self-contained globe trotters find nothing strange about this.
How pleasantly different our flying experience was coming back from Asia at the beginning of this summer. I and hubby flew back from Hong Kong, again early in the morning. No shortage of staff anywhere! In fact, I particularly noticed people proudly wearing vests with ‘trolley assistant’ printed on the back. (Needless to say that at Helsinki airport you are lucky to find a trolley anywhere, and usually have to walk quite a while to spot one.)
What’s more, instead of the cold, uncompromising machines, we had real people with friendly smiles doing the check-in for us. And to help us avoid queuing even for a while, we were swiftly directed to the priority check-in, even without any priority tickets. Finally, the real icing on the cake was that the efficient VIP assistant managed to secure my long-legged, tall hubby extra legroom for the long-haul flight to Europe. How awesome is that!