Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Travel: Would You Like Sighs With That?

Bag Drop. But, Not Really.

I checked in for my flight on West Jet the evening before. When I got to the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA), I approached one of the designated kiosks, thinking it would allow me to print baggage tags. It didn't. It spat out a duplicate of the boarding pass I already had. No worries. I moved on to the Bag Drop line. (Side note: About a year and a half or so ago, the Bag Drop line didn't work. As in, sis and I had enquired - having checked in prior - and were told that "everybody is in the same line." That did not make sense to me. What, pray tell, was the point of a designated Bag Drop line - with sign indicating that, btw - if those who'd checked in before were made to stand with those who had not? I had asked then and was told that it was on that airline's say so.)

Fast forward to this most recent episode. I joined the Bag Drop line for Kiosk/Web check-in at approximately 11:45 a.m. and stood behind three parties. There were between 2 and 4 people in each party. One agent stood at the counter made for two. The queue to my right was for those who had not checked in prior. I watched as their snaking line moved steadily with new people joining, checking in, getting baggage tagged, and leaving the counter, while I waited for half an hour before being called up. When I approached the counter at 12:15, I knew I had to ask. Hi and hello over, I tilted my head forward to get a closer look at his name tag, "I have a question, Wayne," I said. (That's not his real name, btw. It's close enough.)
 "Yes?" "You're an employee of West Jet, correct?"
"Okay. Could you help me understand why I just waited half an hour in the Bag Drop line, when people were coming and going in the check-in line?"
"Well, as you can see, I'm the only one at this counter. Sorry about the wait."
"Yes, I can see that. I don't think this is what West Jet had in mind, though." I told him I'm gonna have to talk with them. I mean, if they need to hire more people to uphold the quality of service many have come to expect, so be it. Many Jamaicans are in need of jobs. There must be a waiting list. In the meantime, it makes no sense to me to have passengers stand in the Bag Drop line for longer than passengers checking in at the counter. What's the point of encouraging passengers to check-in early? At Toronto Pearson, the kisok had spat out baggage tags, and we had quickly gone over to Bag Drop, joined a short queue, and were done in under five minutes. Please do something about this service at NMIA, West Jet.


Still at NMIA. I went through without a beep. While waiting for my stuff on the belt, I stepped to the side and softly said to the security officer who had just waved me through, "May I ask you sopm?"
"The last time I came through here, I didn't beep, but I was pat down anyway. Why? I thought it was a standard thing, if you don't beep, you don't get pat down."
She smiled. "Well, it depends. If, say, 50 people go through and the machine doesn't go off, we check the next person. It depends on the instructions we get for the day - every tenth person or after 50 and so on."
"Oh, so it's company policy, not what makes my head?"
This time, she chuckled, "Yeah."
I told her thanks and moved on.

No Backtracking 

This term took on another meaning as we waited in line at the gate. Passengers had cleared the distance between the agents who check for boarding passes as you exit the food court, and the gate. I overheard a man ask no one in particular, whether he could go back to get some food. Apparently, it had just dawned on him that he might need more than the pretzels and/or cookies to tide him over to Toronto. In the next breath, he asked someone whose uniform looked like a security guard’s. The security guard told him no, he could not go back to the food court – even though we were all the way toward the back of a very long line.

(And the hits just keep on comin’!)

I had to ask. 

I waited a few minutes.

As the security guard paced his way back down the line, I stepped to the side and got his attention. I made out a part of the crest adorning his dark blue uniform. Special Constable. Oops. My bad.
“Excuse me, I have a question.”
“Could I go back and get something from the food court?”
“Hmm, no. You can’t go back up there.”
“Ummm, why not?”
“It’s the airport’s policy, a security thing.”
“Okay. Thanks.”

I waited a few more minutes.

I saw another man who was attired as an airport worker – I figured. I stopped him as he walked toward my section of the line and asked him. Because, you  know, I  wasn’t going anywhere for a while; I was out of Snickers, and, sometimes, information isn’t consistent. I asked the same thing. He told me he didn’t see why not.

I waited.

This time, I asked the West Jet employee who was checking boarding passes. Yes, we were just about to board now.
“No, not at this point.”
“I understand that. I meant earlier when we were all the way back in the line.”
“Mmm. Technically, you could, but it’s airport policy and a matter of security. So, no. I mean, if you had to, someone would have to escort you back.”
“Oh, so in exigent circumstances, then.”
“I see. Thanks.”

I proceeded to board.

A matter of security. Right. Now I know. And now you know.

I…I just don’t know. Smh.


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