Passengers seethe at home as airport staff put feet up
Published 21/01/2010 | 05:00
FACED with vast swathes of open space where usually there are throngs of people, the Dublin Airport police officer couldn't resist.
He hit the power hard on his two-wheeled Segway and zoomed through the nearly-empty departure lounge, raising wry smiles from a few passengers as he slalomed around pillars at speed.
Not unlike human obstacles, anger was relatively thin on the ground yesterday afternoon despite the cancellation of scores of flights. Thousands of people had their travel plans disrupted, but thousands of people also evidently got the message and didn't turn up at the airport between 2pm and 6pm.
The seething, it seems, was largely done at home.
"I could go for a power nap," mused one airport worker, while the 20-plus planes lined up side-by-side outside the terminal told their own story.
The one worker staffing the Servis Air desk, however, had his work cut out for him.
"We're hoping to rebook our flights with him, but the queue is pretty slow," Linda Doyle said.
"Our flight is delayed for about five hours but our problem is that we were to get a connection in Madrid. We're going to a two-day business conference so we're going to be late." So far, so nonplussed.
But then her Trinity College colleague Tim Forde brought up money.
"We got paid today, and as public sector workers we took a hit in our pay packets, the first of the year," he said.
"And these guys [air traffic controllers] are looking for a raise? "Even though they have 35 days off and 10 public holidays? A joke. Ronald Reagan fired them all when he was in charge in the States, but I suppose there's no fear Noel Dempsey would do the same. That's Ireland."
If anything, however, those few in the airport were enjoying the experience.
"It's so quiet, it makes it so easy with the children," Martina O'Flaherty from Galway said as she and partner Marvin wheeled their five-month-old baby and two-year-olds around.
"We're going to Amsterdam but were due to fly up this morning from Galway too. We got the bus instead and with the lack of scanners, taking off shoes, etc, it was a great way to travel with the kids. Our flight here is only delayed by a short time so we're lucky."
Not everyone was as fortunate. But most of those who had travel plans badly disrupted knew about it beforehand and did not turn up at the airport. A few had little option, however.
"I was on a flight from the Isle of Man and was due to get a connection to Cork," Ken Jennings said. "But the connection is cancelled, and now I'm going to get a bus. It's turned into a 10-hour trip, and I'll lose money.
"But do I think they [air controllers] care? Nope."
Petr Pstrokonska, a forklift driver from Poland, had been due to fly home at 1pm and thought his flight wouldn't be affected. It was. He had to wait for five hours and fly to a different airport, and face an extra 300km journey when he landed.
"I understand the reasons behind the strike and I have some sympathy, but I'd have more if the strike wasn't today," he laughed.
At around 4pm, the crowds began arriving for later flights. The airway police officer slowed his motorised Segway down, and the organised chaos -- as opposed to the travel chaos -- began again.