I hate airports. I hated them before having a baby anyway. They just stress me out between the not knowing where your bag is going and whether it will make it to your destination (a control freak’s worst nightmare), the endless security checks (where you always have some snotty woman on a power trip) and the stupid people.
We arrived at the airport for a day trip to visit my brother – our first flight with a baby – and it was tough from the word go.
We were ridiculously prepared, organised and planned with military precision. We even had a schedule for the early morning get up (all those years planning large scale PR events stood me in good stead) and we were out of the door on time to the minute. The bags were methodically packed and checked and we literally had everything we could have possibly needed come rain or shine. The only thing we didn’t have was the kitchen sink.
- We had booked premium short stay parking knowing that getting the baby and the lorry-load of luggage we had brought into the airport would be tough. Not only did the sign that pointed to the short stay car parks not include the premium short stay (extremely poor signage Leeds-Bradford airport – sort it out!), but once you pull into the road where the short stay car parks are, you can’t get back out without going in and paying £3 for the privilege. To add to this, when we did eventually find our car park, the only ways in and out on foot were via steps or a hill so steep that I was suddenly relieved we’d brought a buggy with straps in or the baby would have literally toppled out. Not quite the family friendly option we’d hoped for. This set the tone for the rest of our airport experience.
- The baby changing facilities at Leeds Bradford airport are, quite frankly, disgusting. We travelled first thing in the morning and they smelled as though they hadn’t been cleaned from the previous day. They were shared with the disabled loo and were clearly designed by someone without kids (and definitely not someone who is disabled either come to that). After pulling down the change table there actually wasn’t enough room for the buggy and me (it’s a smallish pushchair that we got specifically for airport use so goodness knows what you would do if you had a proper pram) so I had to practically kneel in the chair while changing my baby. How people with wheelchairs manage in there is beyond me. Seriously unimpressed and I was getting grumpier by the minute.
- A massive sarcastic thank you to the 60 year old woman who, when she saw us waiting for the check in desk to open, basically ran to get in front of us (she had been stood nearby too and was essentially just pissing over her territory to show she was there first) and then started going on about how stressed she was about getting through security on time because check in only opened 90 minutes before the flight. You’re stressed love? Try having a 3 month old baby that is grumpy, teething and needs feeding, luggage that consists of two backpacks, a change bag, a suitcase, a hold-all and pushchair for a day trip, getting up at 5am to make a 10am flight (we live 25 mins away) and making it only to get screwed by the shitty parking and toilet facilities and now we have the misfortune of standing next to the world’s most juvenile pensioner who is worried that she needs to walk through from one room to another with an hour to spare. When she overheard us talking about getting breakfast after going through security the nosy bitch interrupted to inform us we wouldn’t have time. I’m sad to say (sorry, that should have said proud, not sad, proud to say), I snapped back at her that I wouldn’t be going anywhere until my baby had been fed. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
- I know being an airport check in desk operator doesn’t exactly require a degree in rocket science, but you would think that they would actually know their own airline’s rules and procedures for travel. Having to call someone to check if a baby can travel on a birth certificate on an internal flight when it quite clearly states it on the firm’s own website (and really, why would I turn up at the frigging airport without having checked that already?!) was pretty irritating, but when she then had to check with a colleague if she needed to give the baby a seat number I nearly slapped her just for being such an idiot. He can’t even hold his own head up properly – do you really think he’s going to want his own seat? Why not throw in an in-flight meal for him with a free beer while you’re at it! I’m rather amazed our luggage made it to the right location so at least it wasn’t a complete waste of time (although some might say 15 minutes to check in three people and a baby is a little excessive – those some being the other passengers from our flight as there was only the one check in desk and only the granny child woman had checked in ahead of us).
On the flip side of this, there is a lot to be said for the airport making travel an easier experience.
- The part I’d be dreading most was security but actually the staff were really helpful and accommodating. In fact, it was probably one of the better experiences I’ve had with getting through security at both airports and in Southampton they even gave us a fast pass so we didn’t have to queue with the baby. One lady even offered to hold the baby for me to help (I didn’t really want to risk a thunderbolt nappy situation with airport security, so naturally I declined).
- The baby changing facilities at Southampton airport were fantastic. A whole room brightly painted with colourful pictures with several changing mats, changing mat covers, wipes, a mum’s toilet and plenty of bins. A big thumbs up – take note Leeds!
- The crew members on board the flight were excellent. Not only did they help fit the baby seatbelt, but they took the time to talk me through the safety guide separately and checked on us throughout the flight. Their help really made the baby’s somewhat ‘screamy’ moments (he was not a fan of the plane) all the more easy to bear.
So now we’ve had our airport trial run, do any other Mums have any top tips for making this process any easier before we do the real deal in the summer?