Not so long ago, while I was sitting at my office desk with a steaming bowl of Cup-A-Slop (the diet continues), I settled in for a lunchtime skim through the ‘sidebar of shame’ – also known as the Mail Online – for a little light relief.
As I aimlessly scrolled down the page of madness and mayhem, something caught my eye on the bottom left. It was a photo of a guy in enormous bug-eye sunglasses that almost covered his entire face. A suspicious-looking cigarette dangled from his pouting bottom lip. His body was engulfed in a humungous neon-pink puffa coat. And to top it off, he appeared to be wearing a nappy on his head.
I choked on my Cup-A-Slop. This guy was my nephew.
I hadn’t even read the headline, but when your relative turns up on the Daily Mail in the most ridiculous photo they could find, you know it’s not going to be good news. What the hell was he doing there?!? I jabbed at my mouse – I had no idea what was going to appear on my screen. I. Was. Petrified.
Here’s what had happened.
My nephew Ryan, who goes by the alias Ryan Hawaii, is an up-and-coming fashion designer. Think Basquiat meets The Sex Pistols. And he’d gone off to do some kind of collaboration in Iceland. When he arrived at Keflavik airport for his return flight back to London on British Airways (which someone else had booked on his behalf), he discovered that his ticket only included carry-on luggage – but he’d rocked up with a sackful of his creations. He didn’t have the money to pay the excess baggage fee, and there was no way he was going to leave his stuff behind. So he decided to take the clothes out of the bag, and wear them all instead.
When he attempted to board the plane, he was refused entry. Unfortunately, after standing his ground, the airport staff called the police, who promptly handcuffed and pepper-sprayed him before escorting him from the premises – to jail. All for the heinous crime of wearing eight pairs of trousers and 10 tops. Seems a little excessive, huh.
Some Googling quickly revealed this thing hadn’t just been covered by The Mail, either – it was everywhere. The Telegraph, The Week, the Evening Standard, The Washington Post, The Shade Room, and more besides. He’d even been approached by Piers Morgan himself to be interviewed on Good Morning Britain (thankfully, he declined).
Now the auntie in me flew into full-blown panic mode. I sat there mildly hyperventilating at my desk, thinking: for the love of God, child – just pay the fee!!! Why didn’t you text me? I’d have wired the money to you! Why are you out in some chilly foreign land getting maced over a bloody bag of clothes?! Are you okay? Are you still languishing in an Icelandic cell?! Wait till I get my hands on you – do your parents know about this?!? This is what happens when you don’t beat your children!!!
But the Nadia in me was chuckling inside – because it sounded exactly like the kind of stunt I’d have pulled myself back in the day.
No-one likes to be ripped off (especially me), and we all know the excess baggage fee is just another money spinner used by airlines to tap us for more cash. I’m fairly certain there’s nothing in the small print that states customers are prohibited from wearing all their garments on the plane. But if they sanctioned it, how would they make any profit? I guess they had to make an example of my nephew to stop the rest of us from following suit.
We’ve all been there. It’s the reason I refuse to fly Ryanair any more; it’s the grand high a***hole of airlines, in my humble opinion. I also refuse to preface the word ‘airline’ here with the word ‘budget’, as there’s nothing ‘budget’ about Ryanair once you’ve been stung by all the hidden extras. But my most recent brush with this particular form of daylight robbery occurred a few years ago when I took my little sister Rachel to Marrakech on EasyJet.
We had no issues with our carry-on luggage on the way out from London Gatwick. But on our way back, we were surprised to find the exact same bags had miraculously outgrown the measuring crate at the check-in desk – and were promptly invited to pay the excess baggage fee to have them placed in the hold. Well – Rachel let them have it with both barrels.
“There’s nothing wrong with the dimensions of our bags – there’s something wrong with the dimensions of your crate!” she announced. “I’m afraid you need to pay the excess baggage fee,” said the lady on the desk with the frozen smile. “I’m afraid I need to speak to the manager!” Rachel retorted. “I am the manager,” said the lady on the desk with the frozen smile. “Well then I need to speak to someone ELSE, ‘cos this is a scam and WE’RE NOT PAYING!” my sister declared (I was so proud).
In the end, they backed down; my nephew wasn’t so lucky. He took one for the team this time (he’s okay, by the way), and I commend his commitment to the cause. Maybe if we all fought a bit harder for our consumer rights, these companies would finally stop taking the p*** out of their customers.
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