Stansted airport is becoming a truly dreadful place to start an overseas vacation. A holiday should begin with a good experience but airport staff seem determined to do all that they possibly can to raise stress levels as high as they can and generally make sure that this doesn’t happen. It starts at the security baggage procedure where staff would appear to be encouraged to be as unpleasant and as rude to passengers as possible.
The airport has recently introduced new rules on carrying liquids in hand luggage. They used to provide plastic bags for this purpose and this must have been expensive and I understand why they wanted to discontinue this and make an operational saving but now they insist that it has to be contained in a particular type of plastic bag which they just happen to sell for £1 a time – yes, that’s £1 a time. They are so determined to make passengers fork out this extortionate amount that they now have extra staff on duty to examine and reject as many bags as possible before even getting to the screening process. Now, one plastic bag is much like another I would suggest and if it meets with the Government guidelines which only specifies an approximate size of bag then I can see no reason for Stansted to enforce a more rigid and unnecessary rule.
At the recruitment stage staff selection must be based on selecting only those job applicants who can demonstrate that they have no manners or interpersonal skills, are unable to use the words please or thank you and who can demonstrate complete contempt for the customer.
I am not simply making this point because on this occasion my bag was chosen for extra attention but because the attitude and the demeanour of these petty bureaucrats who imagine themselves to be secret police continues to get worse every time I fly. I know it is an important and thankless job but that does not excuse downright ignorance and rudeness.
I asked him what he might be looking for but the ignorant specimen that I got on this occasion simply ignored me and then proceeded to rifle through my bag. It’s a good job that I am not a meticulous packer and make sure everything is carefully folded because this man just trawled through the contents with a complete disregard for my possessions and with no finesse whatsoever.
He couldn’t find anything so I asked if I could repack. ‘No’ he snarled, ‘The scanner says there is a CK1 incident’, ‘What’s that?’ I asked, ‘No need for you to worry about that Sir’ he continued as though I was a lower life form as he carried on and still found nothing. When he had finished this obnoxious man made no explanation or apology but left me to repack the contents of my bag while he turned his unpleasant attention to another poor victim.
This security screening is a dehumanising process. Necessary, yes, but I fail to see why it cannot be carried out in a more pleasant way that doesn’t treat the customer like an animal at a cattle market. It’s about time the airport reminded these people that it is ultimately the customers who pay their wages!
Then things improved! It was a good flight and we enjoyed clear views of the snow capped Alps that ended dramatically as the land levelled out into the flat plains of Northern Italy with colourful patchwork fields all waiting for the crops that would soon be growing there and then over the Venetian lagoon as the plane began to descend towards Pula Zračna Luka airport. It was picture-book stuff with high fluffy white clouds and a turquoise Adriatic Sea punctuated liberally by vivid green islands each with a halo of sparkling white beach of dazzling Istrian stone.
It is an interesting fact that that there are approximately one thousand two hundred and fifty Croatian islands in the Adriatic, which compares to about one thousand four hundred Greek Islands. Only seventy-nine are inhabited however compared with nearly three times as many (two hundred and twenty seven) in Greece. The plane flew in over the nature reserve of the Brijuni National Park where the Yugoslavian war hero and President Tito had created a wildlife safari park and built his holiday home and as it crossed the coast line during final descent I could make out the village of Fažana where we would be staying for three nights.
It was only a small airport but the trainee passport control officers who were being supervised by seniors were unusually officious and made a thorough inspection of our passports which they carefully reconciled to our faces and then completed the process with a theatrical application of a customs stamp on one of the document’s blank pages. I liked that, you don’t see this very often these days and it made me feel like a serious traveller and at least he smiled when he had finished and allowed me to pass through.
Post Script – November 2013
Travellers faced with drawn out and often degrading security checks at Britain’s airports are beginning to question the effectiveness of the measures in place. As part of Telegraph Travel’s Fair Deal for Travellers campaign, Nigel Richardson outlines some demands for some common sense: