EasyJet forces check-in of bags at gate

No more room for hand baggage.

 

“There is no more room for trolley bags, they will have to be checked-in. So please remove your lap-top computer, iPad and other valuables or fragile items to bring on board.”

The supervisor of my EasyJet flight from London Gatwick to Copenhagen on a Friday afternoon made more or less this announcement after about 4/5 of the passengers had boarded the air plane.

I had followed the long list of rules and tricks for getting as far as the gate as easily as possible.

When booking my flight

I had given EasyJet my mobile phone number and my email.

I had not asked to check-in luggage and confirmed this choice when asked.

I had registered my passport details on the EasyJet site.

I had checked-in online and printed out my boarding card.

When getting dressed before leaving, I made sure
that I wasn’t wearing a belt, so I didn’t have to take that off.
that I wasn’t wearing shoes that would beep, so I could avoid taking them off.
that I wasn’t wearing a suit jacket, so I didn’t have to remove that as well as my coat.

When packing my bag, I chose all my toiletries to be less than 100ml and to be able to fit the plastic bag that we all know so well now.

Because I was flying with EasyJet, I made sure that I hadn’t packed too much, so that my briefcase/bag could fit into my carry-on trolleycase.

When I arrived at security, I had to spill out my carefully packed bag to get through. I  took out my computer, so it could ride on its own through the x-ray machine. I also took out my toiletries to go through on their own. I took off my coat and sent that through. I confirmed that I wasn’t wearing a belt. I confirmed that I didn’t have anything in my pockets.

(I didn’t tell the security people what I’d had for breakfast that morning, because they are not required to ask and therefore don’t.)

When I was through security, I patiently walked around the shopping mall, which was once an airport, while waiting to be told which gate my flight would be departing from.

Gatwick only tell passengers 45 min before flight departure. The shopping mall (even if this is a quite American word to be using in Europe) is now the only area of modern airports where passengers are encouraged to spend time.

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Yes I cannot blame EasyJet for this, but it is a problem with all airports, perhaps because this is now the only part of the business where the airports still make money?
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While I was waiting in the enormous shopping area, I made sure that I didn’t  accidentally buy anything that would not be able to fit into my trolley bag with my briefcase inside.

Once I knew which gate the flight was leaving from, I walked out to the gate.

When I was at the gate, I rearranged my things, so that my briefcase was inside my trolley, I had my boarding card and my passport in my hand as well as my iPhone and my book.

Then I sat down and waited. I knew that seats, in order to make boarding faster, are attributed to passengers all ready, so there should not be a reason to queue to board the flight. Waiting in the gate is more comfortable, so I kept my seat, logged on to my 30 minutes free wifi provided by boingohotspot, checked my emails, looked at what was going on in the world of twitter and looked forward to get on the flight.

In Copenhagen Airport, I would get out of the plane walk as fast as possible out of the airport while checking Rejseplanen in order to make into the first train possible, so I could get HOME.

My personal best of getting away from Copenhagen Airport is 9 minutes. This is from a Schengen area (no passport control) and not flying from the F-gates (low-cost airlines), but I would still expect to get from my EasyJet flight from non-Schengen UK on to a train in about 15-20 minutes.

With the announcement at the gate of having to check my trolley-bag in, then all of these preparations and plans for getting HOME, were wasted.

I complained to the personnel at the gate, who are ground staff and not part of the cabin crew it seems. At least the supervisor, who’s name I of course took down before boarding the plane. I was told that it said on my boarding card that this was a risk on full flights.

Prior to the passengers getting to the gate, EasyJet know how many passengers are on the flight, how many pieces of luggage are checked in and therefore they have a pretty accurate estimate of how much of the baggage they need to check-in from the gate.

I discussed the problem with the cabin staff, and they said it was a reoccurring problem that had developed to be the “bane of their lives”. Together we had a look at my boarding card, which no longer says that there is a risk of having cabin luggage check-in if the flight is full, it simply states:

“CABIN BAGS ONLY” No need to queue. Check your bag first into the baggage gauge and go directly to the departure gate. You’re allowed 1 piece of cabin baggage no bigger than 56x45x25 cm including the wheels”

On the EasyJet webpage for hand baggage they do say:

“On busy flights we cannot guarantee that we can fit all baggage in the cabin; therefore arrive early at the gate to avoid your bag being placed in the hold.“

But I’d like to know how I’d be able to arrive early, when Gatwick doesn’t tell me. And I’m informed on the boarding card that I don’t need to queue

The cabin staff also informed me that normal procedure would have been to let passengers know that it is a full flight and some bags need to be checked-in before the boarding starts – and not when 4/5 are already checked in.

As EasyJet know how many passengers are on the plane, more of less precisely how much luggage will be checked in a day before and at least 40 minutes before departure.

So they could easily make sure that the passengers for whom it would be the least discomfort to check their bags in would do so. If they wanted to, they could let a number of people ahead of getting to the gate to check-in at the check-in desk to. Or they could ask people to volunteer their bags to be checked in at the gate.

Reward could be as simple as a free beverage or drink on flight or a reduction on next EasyJet booking.

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To top my journey with checked-in luggage off, when I arrived in Copenhagen, the baggage handling staff had sent us to the smallest luggage carousels furthest away, which meant our bags couldn’t get out because there were too many bags waiting to be picked up as people made their way from Gates F, through passport check and down through the shopping-mall.

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Karen Melchior

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