Budget Air Travel – beware – a saga

It was touch and go but we holidayed in Portugal last week. Following my husband’s massive nose bleeds of the week before, we didn’t make up our minds until Tuesday before flying on Thursday.  That was the upside. The journey to Gatwick was beset with rush hour traffic, bad weather and roadworks. We arrived an hour after check-in began and 35 minutes before the gate closed. Anyone who knows me will realise I turn up early, never late and can’t do with that kind of stress. Not a good start. Of course, the gate happened to be miles away from security. I raced while husband followed gamely and lamely behind. No time for breakfast, barely enough time for the toilet – but we made it. This is a long story. Enjoy a photo of the view from our hotel in Lisbon.img_20190928_174449-effects

We were travelling Easy Jet. Need I say more. The plane set off late, we were starving. Our tour company had placed us in the middle row. For an hour we had to watch the slow process of the food and drinks trolley wending its way towards us. I felt faint with heat and hunger, attempting to bat away the faintness with my menu card, images of sandwiches, toasties and baguettes before my eyes. Why oh why did they do away with handing out a meal to everyone. They may not have been that tasty but they were food and quickly distributed. Here I had to watch the palaver of people making choices, drinks being poured, money being taken, over an over, slowly and ever more slowly. At last, it was our turn. ‘I’ll have a ham and cheese toastie, please,’ I said, with relief.
‘No sandwiches left,’ said the hostess.
‘A calzone, then, please.’
‘Nothing left, only muffins.’
Now I had decided I needed sandwiches and a muffin, so great was my hunger. Let me tell you, a muffin doesn’t take away hunger pains – it barely tickles the stomach. I told the hostess, I was not impressed. ‘We have this,’ she said, handing me a carboard box. On the menu card, it looked okay. A tapas of cured ham, little biscuits and some kind of dip.  Unwrapping it, all that was in the box was a thin plastic wrap of what looked like unappetising raw meat. I think the biscuits and dip may have been hiding somewhere I couldn’t see them. I handed it back.

So we arrived in Lisbon in a bad mood. Lisbon airport is in serious need of some TLC. Bussed from the plane a long and circuitous way, another long walk, we arrived in the baggage area and waited. We waited and strangely enough there didn’t appear to be that many cases for the number of people on the plane. There wasn’t. Neither of ours appeared. We formed a queue at lost baggage. A form had to be filled in, questions asked and cases described. In all our many years of travelling and numerous flights, this has never happened to us before. I had become blasé, too trusting. Our sum total of luggage were the clothes on our backs, two phones, a kindle and an ipad (with no charger). Dear readers – pack spare knickers and your medication in your backpack.

Luckily our hotel was opposite a shopping mall. That was probably the only useful thing you could say about it. More of that another time. Another thing you need to know about me, I loathe shopping, especially shopping malls. Soulless temples of consumerism. I hoped upon hope that one shop would suit. For my husband it almost did. Boxers, socks, a baseball cap, a shirt and trousers – all in one place. He travelled in thick jogging pants so he didn’t have to remove his belt in security. A wise move we thought at the time.

Have you ever tried shopping when you are unsure of sizes? I needed an M&S or Target. I needed large, comfy M&S knickers. All I got was bikini briefs in supermodel sizes. Even their extra large was barely enough. I just knew they would begin to slip and slide until they slithered off altogether. Finding another pair of trousers was impossible. Their winter stock was in and yet the temperature was 26 degrees outside- all signs of summer clothes had disappeared from the shelves. However, I could last until the next day when our luggage would arrive. At least we had food.img_20190926_210926

Dear reader, it didn’t. Other people returned from their tour of Lisbon to be reunited with their cases. We remained forlorn, wandering lost souls and frustrated. More shopping – this time to the pharmacy. Another wonderful thing about the EU is that pharmacies are legally obliged to supply one week’s medication without a prescription to traveller’s in need. If you are outside the EU or EEA this does not apply. We simply told the pharmacist what we needed and it was supplied at a lot less then we expected.

I needed to track our cases. First step EasyJet lost baggage website – didn’t work. I tweeted Easy Jet, they sent a link – didn’t work. I tweeted again and received another link – that worked. I logged on to track our cases – still tracing, it said. I saw how the young man at Lisbon airport had made a hash of noting our address and post code down on the form, so had to edit it. Not easy – the website had a mind of its own. So our bags were somewhere but unknown. The hotel had tried calling the airport, our rep had tried calling the airport baggage office. They didn’t answer the phone.

Our son got on the case. He spent an hour first trying their useless website, then phoned Gatwick. After half an hour on hold, he was told our bags were still at Gatwick and would be on the first plane out. Relief, at last an answer. I would just about cope with wearing my trousers for a third day.

Later that night, the phone in our room trilled. ‘Hello, my name is George. I did not expect to find you in the hotel. I was ringing to find out which hotel you had moved to. On the form we have, it says you moved today.’
‘No, we are still here. Who are you?’
‘I have your bags, they are at Porto airport.’
‘They are supposed to be at Gatwick.’
‘No they arrived in Lisbon this morning and were sent on to Porto.’
Gatwick lied. Lisbon erred.
‘We can keep them here for you or send them back to Lisbon, I wouldn’t advise that.’
‘Why not?’
‘Lisbon – well they …’
‘Don’t answer their phone.’
‘Yes, and they might not get the bags to you before…’
‘We leave on Sunday morning.’ Right – not a difficult decision. However, that means four days without bags. Another attempt at shopping. I gave him the name of our hotel in Porto. George was lovely. He told me that my mobile number on the form was also wrong. I didn’t point out that my mobile number was on each baggage tag attached to the cases. One would have thought, the first thing to check. Hey ho.

So – four days in the same trousers in 26 degrees. Two days in the same T shirt. I hope the other passengers didn’t have to hold their noses. We did get our bags back – four days after setting off. I am not keen on having a large carry on case, always making do with a small backpack. Well guess what? Never again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Rosemary Noble

Writer, author, amateur historian and traveller
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