One by one the girl tried to stuff her family’s hand luggage into the regulation size checker at the departure gate of the Ryanair flight to Porto, and one by one she failed. The bags may have fitted the regulation size but if they were filled to capacity and had a tell tale bulge, the options were – check it into the hold, cough up €40 or leave it behind.
As a steady stream of our fellow passengers came forward to check their one piece of hand luggage, our confidence waned from high to edgy and finally to non-existent. My case fitted – but only just. It took one foot on the bottom of the frame and a hefty tug to get it back out again. Absolutely no room for additions on the return journey, I noted, which was a bit of a bummer as I had intended buying a pair of boots while I was in Portugal.
“They won’t have time to actually check everyone’s hand luggage anyway”, I remarked to Jack. But they did. We were called through the gate before the aircraft we were to board had even landed, just so the crew would have adequate time to carry out their Gestapo hand luggage checks. Any bag that looked as if it just might be too fat or too tall was put to the hand luggage checker test. Thanks to our rehearsal, I got through with my purse and luggage in tact.
As the world enters 2012 still locked in the grip of global recession, isn’t it about time someone noticed that a sizeable section of consumers who travel on budget airlines are handcuffed when it comes to retail spending in their destination? I might have bought any number of things in Portugal – shoes, clothes, wine – but as it was, I couldn’t afford the space to buy anything. Consequently, Portugal’s hotels, bars and restaurants may have profited from my visit, but their shops did not. Yes, I could have chosen to check a bag into the hold, pay the additional €30 fee and have to arrive at the airport an hour earlier than I needed to in order to queue for the check-in desk. But let’s be honest, on the off chance that I might want to buy something while I’m away, how likely is that? Exactly.
On the return journey insult was added to injury when a much loved jar of body cream was confiscated because the container was 110ml instead of the maximum allowance of 100ml. Naturally I have no-one to blame but myself for not checking that vital piece of information and for being lulled into a false sense of security as said item has accompanied me on numerous flights without being picked up hitherto.
But I did succumb to a major airport rant, questioning why on earth the departure lounge was filled with shop after shop displaying expensive perfumes, creams, lotions and potions all in containers of over 100ml. Once they’ve had their inaugural trip, assuming you can squeeze them into your one piece of hand luggage in the first place, they will never be able to travel in hand luggage again.
My conclusion? Budget airlines and over zealous anti terrorist customs measures are perpetuating the global recession by placing double whammy handcuffs on holiday consumerism. A leap of logic? I don’t think so. Rant over.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+