I wasn’t looking forward to Gatwick Airport. My last experience was of long lines, slowly snaking through security. Today I was pleasantly surprised. I passed through the checks in 10 minutes. You can spot the seasoned travellers. They’ve mastered the art of removing an iPad from its case with their left hand whilst they simultaneously whipping off a belt with their right.
As always, I got directed into the queue filled with the only people in Britain who have never heard of the 100ml liquid limit in hand luggage. No you can’t take half a litre of lemonade in your handbag, even if you have only just bought it in Boots.
You can leave your shoes on at Gatwick. Little things make me happy. Not all airports are the same. So my first traveller tip is to wear your best socks, in case you need to wander around shoeless for a while. It’s the aviation equivalent of my gran’s advice to “always go out in clean underwear, in case you get run over”.
There were some grumbles from passengers, though. Well, this is Britain. The new bag screening arrangements mean that you step up to a numbered space next to the conveyor belt . Then you place your devices and coat or overwear in a tray which moves along for screening. But you loose sight of your possessions during the process. They disappear down the line whie you’re walking through the scanning detectors. That does jar a bit when you’re always told never to lose sight of your luggage.
And it wasn’t only me who was slightly uncomfortable with this. A woman was having quite an animated discussion with a security agent over the process. The staff member advised her that it wasn’t a problem. “There are cameras everywhere at Gatwick,” she was assured. I assume she meant CCTV rather than a new Channel 5 reality show?
On ‘the other side’ past security my eyes surveyed a welcome sight. There were very few people there. We only tend to see airports, particularly Gatwick, on the news when there’s been days of flight delays. Today there were dozens of free seats and no Kay Burley or Sky news camera crew in sight.
Here’s another tip. If you read the Mirror or Independent don’t buy today’s copy. As soon as you follow the signs for ‘All Departure Gates’ there’s a big stand offering free editions as well as magazines like Wallpaper and Shortlist. It is ok to grab one and head back to a café to wait for the screens to announce the gate.
Last year whilst flying through Minneapolis in the States I was really impressed that nearly all the seating area had dozens of device charging points. A much better idea than having travellers trail cables from a socket to their seat. And Gatwick has taken that on board. There are plenty of workbenches and stools circling ceiling support pillars, which are clustered with power sockets. And they were all empty. I soon discovered why. None of them worked. After walking between four different work spaces and sticking in my plug, I found the one that worked. It should have been obvious. Just look for the place where are the stools are occupied by people crouching over their keyboards.
I’m flying with low cost carrier Norwegian to Puerto Rico. It really is a budget flight and although there’s a meal provided, I’ve read varying reports. So I’m prepared, with a back-up Ploughman’s sandwich from Boots. So far Gatwick gets 6/10. I’ll fill you in on the flight, later. They’ve just announced that it’s Gate 13. What can possibly go wrong? We’ll see!