Helen Martin: Edinburgh went the extra air mile for me

Flying is not pleasant, but at least Edinburgh Airport's customer service was admirable. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Flying is not pleasant, but at least Edinburgh Airport's customer service was admirable. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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WHAT makes an airport good or bad? And how many of us fly frequently to and from several different airports enabling us to make a real comparison?

Hence AirHelp, the company assisting the public in claiming compensation for delayed flights, produced its own league table using everything from its data to social media. And placed Edinburgh fifth from the bottom.

Not being a regular globetrotter and certainly not having experienced all 76 world airports, I’d still take a flyer and place them all in equal bottom place.

Flying to anywhere, from anywhere once used to be a matter of luxury. Now (unless one is a member of a royal family or a Hollywood movie star) in terms of limited food and drink on board and passengers crammed in so tightly that personal space is a joke as strangers fall asleep on your shoulder, it’s the human equivalent of a cattle truck.

All airports offer the same pre-departure nightmare of perpetual queueing, fear about whether cabin baggage is small enough or a suitcase is half a kilo overweight, doubt over being able to sit together with your companions, unpleasant and grumpy security checkers, over-charging in shops, bars and restaurants, long treks to the departure gate, all leading to exhaustion even before take-off.

Edinburgh does milk passengers for drop-off fees and parking charges, but it’s not alone.

However, I had one experience which left me with admiration for the customer service at Edinburgh helping overcome my own disastrous mistake.

Having checked in, gone through security and done a spot of shopping in duty free, I suddenly realised I’d left the keys to the Spanish holiday villa in my kitchen cupboard! There was just over an hour until boarding of our budget airline Malaga flight began.

The first person we pleaded with for help was the duty free manager. We explained there was a chance our son who had dropped us off could possibly go back to our house. If we could contact our neighbours who had a spare key, they could hand the villa keys to him and he might be able to return to the airport in time.

She contacted other airport personnel while we made the panicked phone calls. Himself was issued with a pass to go back to the “outer world” and the airport entrance.

With a few minutes to go, hero son drove slowly past, threw the keys deftly caught by Himself, who then ran back through the airport to the boarding gate. Chariots of Fire was playing in my head as I saw him approach the finishing line seconds before I reached the top of the queue. Other passengers and a member of boarding staff welcomed him with applause.

Now that is what I call service. I seriously believe if that had happened at another airport, we might have been left with a smirking shrug or a complete lack of interest. It was my fault. Why should an international airport feel any responsibility to help us and save our holiday?

Air travel is not a pleasant experience nowadays. With security, rules and regulations and sheer numbers, it can’t be.

But the test of customer service is when something goes wrong, even if the passenger is to blame.

Edinburgh Airport, I salute you.

Calls for action after fire must not be ignored

PUBLIC demand for urgent answers and prosecution of those who may be found responsible for the Grenfell Tower disaster cannot be swept aside.

That includes two former housing minister suspects, Brandon Lewis (now immigration minister), and Gavin Barwell, now Mrs May’s chief aide. Four years ago following an inquiry into a London tower block fire, the coroner said ministers must strengthen building regulations and introduce sprinkler systems.

Lewis and Barwell didn’t bother. The cause of the fire is not necessarily down to them but what about the lives lost as a result?

We all know what will happen. The inquiry will drag on. If they are likely to be deemed negligent, they will resign. But how possible is it that government ministers would ever be declared responsible and held to account?

Skype’s a sticking plaster for care

THE chief officer of Edinburgh’s Health and Social Care Partnership welcomed the introduction of motion sensors and Skype to monitor old people living alone.

He said it would free up carers to look after people with “more acute needs” and that: “Quite a few people don’t want carers coming and want to look after themselves.”

If people are capable of looking after themselves, why would they have been allocated daily care visits in the first place? Mishaps, falls and accidents in between care visits are common. So the council response team monitoring the technology may face more emergencies than they expect. And will the elderly manage better without human contact?

The core problem is a shortage of care workers because wages are too low, council priorities are wrong and the simple economics of supply and demand, let alone valuing the crucial importance and value of care workers, are being ignored. Edinburgh makes £20 million from parking charges alone. Use some of that.

Orange is the new Tory blue

FOLLOWING terror attacks in London and Manchester, the PM announced: “We must not live segregated lives.” Despite the advice of John Major and others, she then popped into bed with the DUP and the Orange Order! Theresa May-do-whatever-she-likes.