In this age of anxiety, travel light, prepare for unexpected

Woman traveller with travel bag [Courtesy]

I have been travelling in recent days, paying attention to crowd behaviour in airports at boarding time. A certain anxiety mixed with relief sweeps through when the announcer declares that a flight is ready for boarding.

And since everyone has a ticket with an assigned seat, it makes little sense for one to be anxious. Only that there are certain considerations, like having adequate room to stash away one’s luggage.

This flight is fully booked, the announcer said on this particular day, then specified that carry-on luggage must meet certain parameters, and that two dozen bags would be checked free of charge to release storage room in the craft.

She invited volunteers to check in their luggage and dangled a carrot: those volunteers would be given priority to board. A string of passengers crawled through and surrendered their bags.

But those were not enough, the announcer went on; more bags would be intercepted at boarding.

Having instilled the fear of God in the passengers, I witnessed many trying to shrink the size of their luggage by shifting from the right to the left hand and back to right.

Then the passengers started boarding, in the hierarchy of first class, then business, then the veterans and those who needed help, those travelling with small children. As for the rest of passengers, check the group indicated in your ticket…

Like athletes on starting line, ears pricked for the whistle, before a stampede.

I finally crawled in.

I travel light, so my bag survived a snatch from the announcer and her crew.

Seated and belted, cabin crew was ordered to sit, ready for take-off. The lights dimmed. The pilot taxied.

Then came the voice: there is a minor maintenance issue that requires verification, please give us a few minutes…The pilot came on air again. We shall be given another craft, so I’m returning to gate number …”