Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Qantas, surly the world's worst airline!

Thursday 20th to Saturday 22nd September.
Solomon Islands, Brisbane Australia, Singapore, London, Edinburgh.

The sweaty wait in the clammy enervating heat of the little time-warped Honiara airport terminal was a dream compared to the one and a half hour nightmare at the Qantas check in desk in the bright, ultra modern, air conditioned cool of Brisbane's international airport.

At least after the four hour flight from Solomon we had been able to take the time to eat a proper meal and even better, get a full night's sleep.

Had it not been for those blessings I may not have dealt so well with the ensuing nonsense.

First of all there was the debate about excess baggage and how much, if anything, should be charged because some might have been prepaid.

The small balding elderly check in chap, his glasses perched on his nose spent a lot of time fastidiously tapping away at his computer keyboard and talking to someone on the phone.

Then of course there was the ubiquitous scrap of paper on which he added up the weights of my six boxes.

After this total had been recorded, checked, re-checked, totaled up again and another batch of phone calls were made I was charged for five pieces, not weight, at $120 each.

That little scenario had probably taken about fifteen minutes.

On our way to the Solomon Islands on Solomon Airlines all of us with cameras and bags had to be given a note from the check in lady to say that they were OK to take on to the flight, because airport security weigh and check all hand luggage. If it is more than 7 kg they will not let you through.

Judging from their lack of ability to see common sense and act any initiative I found it a surprise that they could actually read the weights displayed on the scales that they were given command of.

One cameraman was allowed to go through with his camera but his small bag was a problem. At the same time dealing with the same security guy Luke, from ITN had exactly the same type of camera but in a bag. He was told he could not go through.

It was not until we all had written permission for our hand luggage on our boarding cards that we were allowed to pass.

Given that experience and knowing that the Qantas rule for spare camera batteries is that they should be hand carried I asked for a note on my boarding card or label to let me get past the sentinels of the scales.

I explained the Qantas ruling about the spare battery that I had.

The little professor like check-in man asked me to put my hand baggage on the scales.

"I can't authorize you to take that it is too heavy."

I explained again that the added weight was due mainly to the spare battery.

"Can you not put it in your hold baggage?"

I said that I would be more than happy to put it in the hold as I do on all the other airlines I fly with, adding, as patiently as I could, trying hard not to sound patronising that I was doing what I knew the Qantas rule was regarding the batteries.

Then he asked to see the battery.

I pointed to the one already attached to the camera and pulled the other out of my bag.

A very unprofessorial look of bafflement came over his face when he looked at and felt the weight of the black brick that is an Anton Bauer camera battery.

His slow fingers dabbed the keypad on the phone again.

Getting no reply he wandered up to another check in desk saying as he left that he needed to speak to a supervisor.

I could see their serious faces as the talked for a little while. From their grim expressions I could tell that the solution to their problem was not with them.

My man then lifted a phone at that desk and started to speak to someone.

He came back to me to ask if the battery was a Lithium Ion one. I told him it wasn't pointing to the label on the battery.

He wandered back up to the phone again.

Shortly afterwards he came back and noted down some of the things written on the battery.

He made the trip between me and my battery, and the phone on the distant desk perhaps four, maybe five times, noting more things down and staring at the battery turning it over in his hands.

After the best part of an hour he came back and said that I was indeed correct that the battery did have to go as hand luggage.

He then wrote a label for my bag to be allowed through security.

I then had to go through the process of paying for the excess baggage.

When I was doing it "the prof" came over and asked one of the girls to add notes to my booking.

She then, trying to conceal the raised eyes and slight shake of the head as I glanced round, began typing in the code numbers he gave her along with names and details of my hand luggage.

All these codes appeared to be peppered with the initials DG and the words "dangerous goods".

If this process gets rolled out with every TV crew traveling it is a wonder the Australian cameramen get anywhere at all, let alone quickly to a breaking news story.

At the security area the deep browed, wide necked security man insisted on weighing the bag even when I had shown him the label of authority from Qantas.

My patience had worn thin and it was with the utmost difficulty that through gritted teeth and the visible ripples of anger breaking the surface that I once again explained the battery situation.

When he said, "why should I believe you?"

I was on the verge of accepting that I was going to end up being dragged away in handcuffs for saying or doing something worthy of being featured on one of those airport reality shows.

However, I managed to restrain myself and told him that I could go and bring the Qantas man down to see him.

He then gave me a dismissive wave with one of the JCB shovels he was using as a hand.

As soon as I was in the departure lounge the rest of the journey became a breeze.

Up the back on the busy Qantas flight we had the eight hour jauntt to Singapore.

My loathing for Qantas had not abated any on this trip. They had stranded me in Perth for two days last year when without warning the numbskull of a Chief Executive Alan Joyce had grounded their entire fleet. 

Then by way of a buy off had issued me with a voucher for an internal flight which, when I tried to redeem it was told that the voucher number did not exist.

I love Australia and its people but, if I ever have to fly Qantas again it will be too soon.

The flight to Singapore was followed by a four hour wait for the very slightly less busy BA jumbo for the thirteen hour flight to Heathrow, where I said goodbye to Cordelia and hung around waiting for my short hour to Edinburgh.

At Edinburgh I got the carnet stamped by two very helpful officers from the Border Agency.

My final job was, after the taxi home to get the hired kit back to the facilities company.

I had hoped to do that on Monday once I'd sorted it out, but the kit was needed for the late afternoon.

So once Murray from Hammerhead had taken their black Pelicases back I could relax after a total journey time of 56 hours.

No comments:

Post a Comment