Recently, I went on a short holiday with my two girls -aged 4 and 22 months – and flew to Cairns from Sydney. If the 3 hour drive from Newcastle to Sydney Airport wasn’t frustrating enough for all of us (it included a repeated request for ‘hash browns! hash browns! from the infamous F3 petrol station/Maccas on the way and demands to put ‘The Fairies’ album on for the entire trip) I knew I was in for an even bigger treat once I got to the airport and they were free from their seat belts.
First of all, let me say – it doesn’t pay to get to the airport early. Early and efficient simply means you have to wait in line. And wait. Meanwhile all the hungover, disorganised, pyjama-wearing late arrivals head straight to the front of the queue because of that last minute call for wherever the fark they’re going.
So after 45 minutes of waiting in line all the while screeching “come back here!” and “don’t touch that little girl’s Dora bag!” and “That’s it! No plane!” I finally got myself and my kids to the security area where I got told by an officer I was carrying a knife. I laughed thinking he was joking with me. Luckily, he laughed back (as I hear the regulations regarding joking about safety are pretty harsh now. Oops) but continued to search my bag for the knife in question.
“I don’t have a knife”, I repeatedly told the officer, while still screeching, “come back here!” at my 22 month old especially, who had spotted the escalators.
He kept telling me I do have a knife but as he couldn’t find one, tipped out all the contents of my once organised airport bag and ran it through the security scan again.
As he brought the bag back, I was still screeching “come back here!” followed by a “Sienna, go get Vida” and looked at the man expecting an apology for his mistake and for holding me up for so long.
“There is still a knife in there.”
My blood was positively boiling by now and so I told him to find the damn thing so I could get on the damn plane and lock my kids in some damn seat belts.
After much scrambling around he found a bottle opener in a random compartment. I don’t know how it got there but I told him he could have it and enjoy a Vino on me and “could I freaking go now please?”
So we got to the packed gate, sat down on the floor in a corner and and all was quiet for a while. Vida demolished 2 baby cucumbers and Sienna ate a pack of Tiny Teddies and I rang my husband to tell him that, surprisingly, I had made it there alive.
Having worked for an airline many years ago (not Jetstar) I was familiar with early boarding for people needing assistance or extra time. These people usually included the elderly, the disabled or families with small children. I always thought even before I was a parent that it was a considerate thing to do as getting on a plane full of eager travellers can be challenging even for those travelling alone with nothing but a bumbag (if people still carry those around)
But there was no early boarding call on this Jetstar flight. It was first in, best dressed.
So we waited. Again. Waited for everyone to get on board and as the line got shorter I made my way up to the girl scanning the boarding passes and she told me to board the plane via the back stairs. And to paint the picture for you, that involved firstly walking down a flight of stairs, and then again walking up another flight of steep, very steep stairs onto the plane.
Wait, what? Did she not see I had a large carry bag (think Mary Poppins), a 22 month old and a 4 year old with me?
Now because of my previous experience working for an airline – call me a rebel if you like – I knew it wasn’t mandatory to board the plane this way and proceeded to walk via aerobridge which was sans stairs.
Why? Because its freaking dangerous to walk up plane stairs with two children – one still being pretty little – just for the convenience of an airline. I mean, they already shove all the babies and kids in the back of the plane so the “child noise” stays in one area – they can’t even offer us the use of their aerobridge?
Meanwhile, while we were, slowly but surely, making our way to our seats (banging a few people in the head along the way with the bag on my shoulder) I noticed that a mother and her small baby had just boarded the plane via the back stairs. She appeared to be travelling alone and looked frazzled. I asked her if she was okay.
“Gosh those stairs,” she replied, “surely they shouldn’t make us climb them with small babies.”
You are absolutely right, Mamma – they shouldn’t.
By this time I was furious (blame the long drive and knife search) and noticed an elderly man also making his way up the stairs. He could have been in his nineties.
Where is the common sense here? Is it reasonable to ask an elderly man to walk down and up a flight of stairs to ensure an aircraft takes off on time? Is it reasonable to ask a Mother with a small baby to do the same? Or a Mother with two small children and an onboard bag?
The answer is no.
Its worth mentioning that on my return leg with Virgin, I was offered priority boarding. And even though we were still shoved at the back of the plane, not a single stair was climbed and boarding the plane was drama-free.
Shame on you Jetstar for not considering the safety of individuals or even having the courtesy to treat passengers with any empathy. I do not expect extra special treatment for being a parent – but perhaps some regard for safety wouldn’t go astray.
And no, I will never board via the back stairs.