Perhaps in the hope that it’d be buried beneath the kind of trite tosh that surfaces when most folks are taking a break, BA recently announced a revised sequential boarding procedure. Nothing new in that, save that this process is allegedly based on what you pay rather than where you sit. I said then that BA had upped its game in a struggle to provide an even more miserable flying experience than Ryanair. Apologists for BA have said the process will speed boarding – this is nonsense. Others have suggested we have only ourselves to blame in that we’re suckers for cheap flights – time will tell. If BA had a USP that allowed us to forgive a too often sour and testy customer experience, it was its ‘full service’ flights. This latest ‘enhancement’ joins the abandonment of complimentary cabin service and checked baggage, the roll out of cabin seating ‘densification’ on some routes, the eroding of seat cushioning and the removal of seat recline (though on short-haul this is excusable.) Overall it’s a race to the bottom. Other low-cost carriers have been successfully plumbing these depths much longer than BA and though cheap and cheerful doesn’t cover it, at least they’ve never presumed BA’s false sense of entitlement.
Elsewhere, I use the East Coast rail line fairly frequently. I’d use it more if I could afford the ticket prices. And before we go there, I’m tired of being told there are cheaper advance purchase deals. If I had a bleedin’ crystal ball that let me look three months into the future I’d not be writing this in the here and now. Train travel in Britain is becoming prohibitively expensive, and certainly poorer value than much of Europe. Despite increased fares, aspects of Standard Class service appear in decline. Trolley service is often not available – no staff to do the job we’re told. And then, when staff are available, trolleys are suspended because aisles are obstructed by passengers who mistakenly presumed that buying a ticket would also buy them a seat. Let’s not explore too deeply the realm of delayed journeys – but I recently experienced an eight-hour trip from Newcastle to King’s Cross – the scheduled journey time is nearer three. I did claim back the £136 Super Off Peak (?) ticket but, even changing into my DJ in the pungent train lav, I pretty much missed the event I travelled to attend.
Then we have the roads… Driving south from Newcastle to London or the Channel Ports is to be avoided if at all possible. Britain’s arterial network is clogged. Constant maintenance appears piecemeal and only adds to the woes of drivers, who in turn become unnecessarily unpleasant to each other. To the individual who attempted to prevent me merging en route to central Newcastle the other morning, lent on their horn, gave me the fingers and then tried to undertake me, I suggest you expand your life experiences. On an earlier occasion, when returning from Oxford, I had to abandon the M40, which had to all intents morphed into a Long Stay car park. The ensuing ‘Hidden Villages of Oxfordshire tour’ proved only a minor consolation. These days if I’m planning a long drive across the continent I try to book the overnight ferry from North Shields (Newcastle) to Ijmuiden (Amsterdam.) It costs much more than a Channel crossing but saves on fuel, hotels, peage tolls, frustration and fatigue.
Well, I feel better after that. I’m going out for a run this afternoon. It’ll be cold, wet and muddy but the endorphin rush will more than make up for it. Happy travels to all for 2018.