Guadalest Jealousy

The weather really did seem to have settled down in Spain. What a day for me to have to be leaving for Leighton Buzzard via Luton. The sky was a crystal clear blue with not a puff of cloud in sight. This is exactly what we’d been hoping for and I was having to leave on my mercy mission. Drat! Such is life; needs must and all that. Stiff upper lip! At least it would be a good day for Carol, Steve and Rosemary to enjoy Spain while easyJet winged me back to the UK.

As the day was so clear, Steve and Rosemary elected to make the journey down to Alicante airport with myself and Carol. After dropping me off at Alicante’s terminal 2, the remaining Spanish contingent made their war up into the mountains to visit a mountain-top village called, rather grandly, El Castel de Guadalest, but usually referred to simply as Guadalest. It may be a bit of a tourist trap but it is nonetheless very worthy of a visit with some spectacular views. Today, the conditions were absolutely perfect for such a visit. (Since I was boarding a plane and Carol was without her camera, we didn’t take any photos but you can see some on Steve and Rosemary’s blog here.) I was, of course, outrageously jealous about their visit in such perfect conditions, but very pleased for them, nonetheless. Somehow the inside of a Boeing 737-700 just didn’t hold the same appeal. Neither did the thought of landing back at Luton. I can’t think why.

Check-in had opened at 10:40 and I checked in a little later after fond farewells. I was, unusually, in no rush. Since I was travelling alone, just me and my Spanish-lesson-laden iPod nano, it really didn’t matter a hoot where I sat. Normally, I’m there waiting for check-in to open to try and get into as advantageous a boarding group as I can, though that’s a forlorn hope on easyJet these days.

For readers who may not know, easyJet does not assign seats. Passengers are assigned a boarding group based essentially on check-in sequence so the earlier one checks-in the better: the first to board get more seat choice. At least, that’s the theory. The original system has been modified a little and, in my opinion, messed up considerably. The original, simple, four boarding groups (A, B, C, D) have now been subverted by two modifications.

First, it is now possible for the pretentious and/or rich to pay a premium for so-called "Speedy Boarding". These folks constitute the SB group. Those is the SB group have paid a premium for their advantage so, I suppose quite reasonably, they get to board ahead of everyone else, including ahead of those with special needs such as the disabled and elderly. The special needs folks are in the second group to board, S-something-else. I’m afraid the devil in me, however, is mightily amused when, as is not terribly uncommon, buses are used to transfer passengers to the plane. The Speedy Boarders then get priority boarding of the bus ("move on down the bus, please"). The Plebs then swarm onto the bus. When the bus pulls up at the plane, it tends to be the Plebs who have ended up nearer the doors and who spill out of the bus first and rush onto the plane first. Excellent! I can’t help but think that this was not the intended result.

The second innovative annoyance comes with online check-in, which has been introduced by easyJet but only for those travelling with nothing but carry-on baggage. Passengers with hold baggage must still queue at the check-in desks, naturally enough, to get their bags weighed and tagged. I take issue with two things. Firstly, this encourages too many people to carry ridiculously large bags, more suited to the hold, onto the plane. There is a carry-on size limit but, even if it were checked religiously, cramming 150+ maximum size carry-on bags into the overhead bins is something less than realistic. Secondly, I don’t see why a carry-on only passenger should get preference over a hold baggage customer. Quite the reverse, in fact, since hold baggage is charged per item and these customer have paid more for their flight than those with only carry-on. Online check-in starts filling up boarding group A. Normally, I suspect, it completely fills it.

The result is that flying with any check-in baggage pretty much consigns one to the last boarding group, B.

Having said all that, I remain quite a fan of easyJet which has served us well on a number of occasions. Such was the case today. My flight was well used but not full and landed just 15 minutes later than scheduled despite a combination of aircraft queues departing Luton on the outbound leg and strong headwinds flying north on the inbound leg. However, I cleared immigration and baggage claim in about 25 minutes and was very pleased to be met by my cousin, Mark, and my mother to complete my untimely homeward journey. I’d have preferred them not to have driven straight past me on their first circuit, though. 🙂

My mother seems quite well so far but thinks that her loss has not yet sunk in. She also seems to think I might get back to Carol for Christmas. Naturally, I’d love to. Arghh! As yet, we have no information about funeral arrangements.  We’ll see.

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