SOPHIA MONEY- COUTTS MODERN MANNERS Sometimes it’s good to fly off the handle
After I was told I’d have to wait 12 hours because my flight had been overbooked – well, they saw a completely different side to me…
Ipreface this story by telling you that, in real life, I am a fairly placid person. Slow to anger, I almost never shout and would rather eat my own foot than “cause a scene”. But last weekend, arriving at Colombo airport for my 12-hour flight back to London, I reached the check-in desk to be told that the airline had overbooked the lunchtime flight and I was being bumped to the next one. This was 12 hours later, taking off at 2.20am. In the meantime, I would be shuttled to the Colombo Hilton with a food voucher.
Well, I tell you what, nothing takes the shine off a holiday like a voucher for a festering buffet at an airport hotel. So I decided to Take a Stand and get angry. I was not going to be a mouse on this occasion, I was going to make life difficult for the airline staff.
“THIS IS 2018,” I shouted at the check-in lady, before remembering what year it was. “I MEAN THIS IS 2019. HOW ARE AIRLINES STILL ALLOWED TO DO THIS? IT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL.” The check-in lady was unmoved and told me she thought the hotel had five stars.
I carried on protesting. Loudly. Why hadn’t I received an email or a message about the overbooking? Why was I being booted off when, all around me, others were still checking in? At the “VERY LEAST”, could I be upgraded to business class for the 2.20am flight so I could get some sleep?
This suggestion was met with a shrug. “Ma’am, could you sit down while we arrange your voucher and the transport to the hotel?”
I refused to sit and remained leaning on the desk. Sitting down would be cowardly. I was General Allenby and check-in desk 17 was my front line.
There are moments when public meltdowns such as these are embarrassing. We’ve all witnessed one – someone shouts their head off in an airport and we all pull faces at one another, grateful that we are not that person. If your bag is overweight, or you have arrived too late to check-in, then shouting at a member of staff is reprehensible. Some airport crises – a delay or a drone, say – might make you want to shout, but these aren’t necessarily the airline’s fault, and so screaming at a hapless employee in a hi-vis vest may not get you anywhere.
When it comes to overbooking, however, I reckon it’s your social duty to kick up a stink. I was booted off with a fellow solo traveller, who’d spent Christmas away from her young daughters and wanted to get home to them. While standing beside me bellowing at the check-in desk, she was frantically changing pickup arrangements with her ex in London. This was all the airline’s fault. I gave them hell.
It didn’t do much good, of course. We were allotted to the 2.20am flight and that was that. Although can I offer a tip if you’re ever in the same situation? Do shout and scream, because I think we must protest against such behaviour even if it has no effect, ect, but, also, carry a spare pair of underwear in your hand luggage.
“Ma’am, are these yours?” said the driver who took me to the Hilton Colombo for my buffet and 12-hour delay. He handed me a pair of cotton M&S smalls that had fallen n out of my bag in the back.
“Yes, thank you,” I snapped, taking ng them. “I’ll definitely be needing those ose now.”