I was booked on a RyanAir flight from Gatwick to Cologne. That cost ?69.00 GBP including taxes, so it?s a great deal.
Unfortunately, Gatwick airport is run like a British train terminal. I asked the RyanAir passenger wrangler if this was normal and she said they were short staffed. However the basic logistics of the airport are doomed, the heightened security process makes it worse. Also I am sure the counter staff check-in the fewest people per hour of any airline I?ve travelled with.
The basic structure at London Gatwick is you check your flight on the departures board, and that tells you your check-in area, in my case Area C. Then you plus enough people to reenact the Omaha beach landing trek off to your designated area. Those who survive the migration eventually join queues for we hope the correct areas. It look an hour for me to progress 20m in the queue.
Anyway the standard approach seems to be we mill in the queue, without barriers or guidance until our anxiety about missing our flight forces us to cut to the front. Eventually crowd wranglers arrive and start calling out city names and begging those travellers to move to the two counters on the left. But if you jump the queue and attempt to use these too soon they tell you to rejoin the long queue. Such was the fate of the cute Spanish girl in the line ahead of me.
Eventually my bag is checked and I answered all the security questions at checkin. Now to clear security. No liquids allowed, I knew that but it seems the travelling British didn?t believe the reports. The security pre-check was pilled with bottles and tubes. It still took 20 minitues to clear that obstacle. I had to repack my carry-on to fit the size requirements. I keep my laptop power supply in an external pocket, and a jumper as extra padding around the laptop itself. That made thebag too fat. A quick repack to the side of the queue and I was ready to go. Unfortunately people insist of repacking their bags in situ, so I had to wait 3 minutes longer for a woman to repack before I could also prove to the guard my bag fit.
Then I queued to get through the x-ray machines. At 15 minutes before my flight I gave up being polite and started barging through, ?sorry my flight leaves in 15 minutes?. By the time I got to the x-ray machines I?d reached people on my flight and couldn?t push in anymore.
Again delays, the X-ray technicians were stopping the machine very regularly. Shoes and belts were ordered off, and I cleared X-ray with 8 minutes to go. I still didn?t know my gate number as the boarding pass does not reveal such sensitive information. I looked at the departure board and saw I was at gate 2. A sign noted I should allow 15 minutes to get there. How far can gate 2 be from the entrance? Well they had gate numbers up to 100 so I started jogging through the bowels of Gatwick airport.
When I arrived at the departure gate, I was the only passenger in sight. ?Oh-oh,? I though. The staff checked me through but I had to ask for directions. I wondered through a temporary looking structure, up some stairs and made some guesses on which way to turn. Luckily I found the airbridge and joined the end of that queue.
RyanAir do not allocate seats so I thought I?d be sitting in a middle seat. Luckily I got the last aisle seat in the second last row. 20 minutes later people are still boarding!
Anyway, we finally pulled away, the engines were started, sweet cool air started flowing from the air-conditioning and we left for Germany.