I’ve been worrying a little recently about running out of rants.Â How many different things can a middle-aged man be grumpy about?Â Yesterday evening, though, I saw a possible solution – bringing numbers of previous rants together into new combinations.Â Or mash-ups, as I believe we now say.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was at Gatwick at the time.Â Gatwick,Â even more thanÂ the other UK airports owned by Ferrovial, lifetime winners of the World’s Worst Company award, is Rant Central, a loathsome place which misses no opportunity to show its hatred and contempt for its customers.Â And now that Ferrovial have been forced to sell it, they care even less than they did before, which is pretty astonishing becauseÂ we’d allÂ assumed their care level had been at rock-bottom for years.
One of the things about Gatwick is that you have plenty of time – really an enormous amount of time – to seethe.Â Last night, for example, the time from the plane landing to the train leaving was longer that the time of the flight from Toulouse:Â Â no empty gate availableÂ to receiveÂ the flight, then problems connecting the airbridge, then weirdly the airbridge led not to the terminal but down some stairs to some buses, then buses not ready, then hugely long and circuitous bus journey to the terminal, then terminal doors locked and no-one with a swipe card, then absolutely mindblowing queues for passports in that funny passport hall where there have been entirely mysterious building works going on for about a million years, and then finally half the customs hall shut for building works soÂ the horde of incoming passengersÂ all having to shuffle very slowly through one narrow corridor tripping over each others’ suitcases and cursing as we visualised the 11.05 Gatwick Express pulling away with all of us not on it.
Yes, yes, you’re saying, that’s all very well, we hate it too and you’ve said all this before, but where’s the mashing-up bit?Â How does this connect to Rant 2?Â Well, not sure if I’ve mastered the mashing yet – I guess the truth is that the two are sitting there side by side, likeÂ a couple ofÂ boiled potatoes inÂ a pan just before the masher gets to work – but the other one is the one about why won’t more organisations allow us to pay them more for a better service.
The fact is, the passengers on the late evening Easyjet flight from Toulouse are a pretty upmarket bunch.Â Out of season, it’s largely the second-home crowd going to and fro, and the fact that they’re on a budget airline shouldn’t mislead you:Â there are an awful lot of black credit cards in their wallets.Â
Black credit cards that get very little exercise when arriving at Gatwick.Â The Fast Track thing doesn’t work at all on incoming flights, and even outbound it only works if you have a business class ticket.Â But how much would the passengers on that one flight have paid to avoid all that rubbish yesterday evening, just to get on a bus from the plane that has a passport officer on board so they can go straight through to the station or the car park (becoming somehow miraculously re-united with their luggage if they have any, which most of us second-homers don’t) in 20 minutes rather than an hour and a half?Â I would guess that of the 150 people on last night’s flight, up to a third would pay an extra Â£20 for a truly express service.
These days, dozens of passengers pay about a tenner for the almost-completely-pointless priority boarding on the low cost airlines – but there’s no way to pay extra for priority services in airports themselves.Â I don’t suppose this is hugely surprising – it’s difficult to think of any good or interesting ideas that the World’s Worst Company has introduced during its period of ownership of most of Britain’s airports – but it does feel like a missed opportunity.
I usually feelÂ obliged to create a link, however tenuous, between my ranting and the world of financial services marketing, and this is no exception.Â Connoisseurs of this blog will remember that the last time I gave my why-can’t-we-pay-more-to-get-more rant an outing, it was specifically in the context of financial services like pensions, investments and insurance.Â Â It is this time too – it’s just that on this occasion, I’m making the point by analogy.