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English as a foreign language

Living as a German in an increasingly English-speaking world

2010-10-22: Flying out of London

Flying from Gatwick this time, but the same applies to Heathrow as well.

They won’t tell you your gate at check-in, like at a decent airport. (Hey, in Berlin-Tegel I can look up my gate on the web before I leave home, so I can tell the taxi driver to let me off directly in front of it!) They probably don’t know yet, either. So you are shooed into a “lounge” area with lots of very expensive shops, restaurants and bars, but not always enough seats, much less seats with a view to one of the screens on which the gate info is displayed at some point, without an announcement.

My boarding pass tells me that the gate closes at 19:25 – if I’m not at the gate at that time, I can be denied transportation. The info screen tells me the gate for my flight opens at 19:15, but it doesn’t tell me which one. It also helpfully informs me that it takes approximately twenty minutes to reach the gates farthest away from the lounge. Hmm. This isn’t going to turn out well.

Well, I have been through this procedure at Heathrow often enough to know that there is no real reason to worry. In Heathrow, sometimes the announced “Gate opens” time passes without any further information. Yesterday, in Gatwick, the screen switched to “Go to Gate 22” at about 19:10. Guess what – Gate 22 is one of the gates farthest from the lounge. But any reasonably able-bodied person like myself can reach Gate 22 in less than ten minutes. And the gate doesn’t close at 19:25, it’s probably more like 19:45. But you are still reduced to stare at the info screen around the announced time waiting for it to change silently. Standing.

Somehow I, as a passenger, don’t feel taken seriously. I am just a “pax”, countable like sheep in a herd, a piece of cargo that is even expected to move itself on board and off. No attempt is made to make me feel comfortable and cared for, I am expected to do my very best to make things go smoothly.

It’s not that I don’t like London. But I don’t like its airports very much, I’m afraid.

3 replies to “Flying out of London”

  1. By flipemall on 2010-10-30:

    thanks, i enjoyed the read

  2. By Anne on 2010-11-01:

    Did you ever fly from the airport in Berlin-Schönefeld? The procedure there is the same you describe here. But there is no real lounge to wait in for your gate announcement. Since there are not many seats in the hall in front of the monitors, a lot of passengers simply sit on the floor in front of them to catch them showing the gate and then hurrying towards it.

  3. By martin on 2010-11-01:

    Good point. I agree that Schönefeld is a complete mess too (I hate flying from or into Schönefeld and try to avoid it) — but at least it’s scheduled to be replaced soon!

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