Aug 10 2010

The Blarney Stone

While travelling through the airport, please be courteous when dealing with our staff.

Our staff are trying to help you with your journey.

Any threats, verbal abuse or violence towards our staff will be taken seriously and you may be prosecuted.

I found this troubling note posted at the service counter of Aer Lingus in Dublin. My first thought was .. lord, some civilization out here. Then somewhat understood or sympathetic with passengers who might lose their cool in the heat of an argument or long travel because we just experienced one at that moment.
~
One night in the spring we were driving home, kids asked me where we were going this summer.
“Europe.”
They laughed and joked about the Blarney Stone, among few things.
I smiled to myself, the memory of watching it with them still vivid.
At that time, I was looking for air fares and when I saw Aer Lingus, I grabbed it.
Just to amuse the kids.
Good lesson learnt for not doing any research on an airline that I’ve never dealt with.

Fast forward to this past July. We had an early morning connecting flight in Heathrow: arriving from Frankfurt at 8:10 on BA and departing at 9:50 by Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus doesn’t have a check in machine at FFM airport so we had to do in at LHR (I thought it would .. lesson #1: never assume ..). Luckily BA arrived well before 8am and we sat at row 4 so we got off quickly with our carry ons feeling relaxed. Then from Terminal 5 to T1 by bus took nearly 30 minutes. No speedy rails. I travel light, only had carry on so we were ok. Aer Lingus doesn’t provide auto check in machines inside – we didn’t have to go through immigration. The counter had only one agent and the queue as longer than I felt comfortable with. After 3 minutes of waiting, I started walk toward the counter then I heard the agent announced that his machine wasn’t working, broken.
“Please go straight to Gate 77-84, the agent there will check you in.”

Another long walk to the gate, in about 15 minutes we found this agent at the counter. The info board about the flight departures was hanging high to the right. It was few minutes before 9am and the Status of our flight indicated:
Go to Gate
10 minutes passed. The agent was leisurely doing what she was suppose to do and the line did not move an inch.
I turned around asking the girl behind us where they were going.
“Shannon.”
Good, we were on the same boat.
As it turned out, her family, Dad and Mom just arrived from Boston.
Our flight status changed to
Boarding
I tried to talk to the agent to check us in first but all the passengers before us were trying to get on this flight as well, although they might have different issues.
I was wondering: where was the first agent whose machine wasn’t working, shouldn’t he be here to help out? This agent was in no hurry, took her sweet time talking on the phone, etc.
The Boston Mom had left for the gate
“I’ll tell them to wait for us ..”
Actually it was another brisk 20 minutes on foot distance and she doubled back.
We both talked to the agent asking please just let us go ..
She wouldn’t hear us, continued her phone conversation and said,
“I’ll hand them to you ..”
Our flight status changed to
Gate closed
She looked at the Boston Mom and I said,
“You have to re-book. Go out to the service counter .. ” and mentioned that we might have to pay.
Then went back to her phone conversation and said,
“I’m going to take a break ..”
The queue hadn’t moved and there were at least 15 passengers waiting for some sort of assistance.
Our blood was curdling was an understatement.
I wasn’t sure if we both pressed hard at this slow agent she would react the same way as JetBlue attendant Steven Slater.

We reluctantly went outside (from the connecting flight area, a.k.a. gone through the immigration). The BM tried to talk to a supervisor to avoid this unnecessary step but to no avail. As soon as we arrived at the out side service counter, I saw the sign (top right). There were few empty self check in machines.
Two young girls were manning the counter and they immediately said all the flight were booked full and called some one. A middle aged lady came, business-like who didn’t mention additional payment at all. Few moments past as she was busily typing into the computer. The Boston family would take 2pm flight out to Shannon and the Engs would take 11am to Dublin and 5pm flight back to JFK.

It was the female agent’s attitude that was truly irritating, terrible to say the least. How could she even entertain the idea of taking a break while the passengers were waiting [at least kept that to herself]. Where were others to help out at the moment of break down?
Unbelievable.
Lesson learnt.
End of my Blarney Stone story.
[I’m sure this was the highlight of our trip for kids .. JK!!]