I realise there are many more important things happening in the world. The horrifying drought engulfing the Horn of Africa for one, which is still being swept off the front pages by other news. But having just got back from my annual week in the sun, I'm afraid there's one thing on my self-indulgent mind: budget airlines.
Every year I pledge never, ever, ever to fly with a so-called low-cost airline again. And every summer I find myself, like a hopeful sheep, queuing yet again at some out-of-the-way airport that I have paid way too much money to get to, praying that this time it will be different.
And of course it never is.
First there is the queuing to check in, enhanced now by the stress of wondering whether your luggage will fall within the authorised weight limit (mine didn't – that's £20 per kilo, on top of the £40 already paid for checked baggage) and whether you have successfully checked in online (£6 each way plus £6 for paying with a debit card – ker-ching). In front of us, a French teenager who had neglected to do so incurred a £40 penalty. Her mother swore, elegantly, in perfect English.
Then there is the queuing to get through security, now enhanced by the stress of fishing all the little things classed as liquids out of the bottom of your bag (I am a lip balm and hand cream addict) and stuffing them into a different, see-through bag. Believe it or not, Luton Airport no longer gives away plastic bags – you have to pay £1 for four, despite the fact that you only need one. Woe betide you if you have accidentally packed your expensive facial serum in your handbag and it's more than 100ml in size – in the bin it goes.
If you are travelling with young children, your buggy must be collapsed and any drink you are deigning to take on board for their consumption, including formula milk, must be opened and tasted in the presence of a person in a uniform. They don't actually frisk under-fives but it can only be a matter of time.
I could go on about the flight (the pocket-less seats, the mind-sapping muzak, the shameless plugging of "smokeless cigarettes") but that's probably enough ranting. All told, getting to another out-of-the-way airport in a hotter place than here and back with my daughter (£40 return with no seat and no baggage allowance) cost me more than £300: not exactly budget. It wouldn't have been much more expensive to fly with BA, and I'd have been allowed more luggage, a handbag, a carry-on bag, a buggy, a car seat AND had free drinks and nibbles. Oh untold luxury.
So will I be doing it all again next year? I say no way now. I've even been looking into trains. But there's a whole year to forget...
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