When size really matters…

Paul_at_e_mids

Travelling back to Belfast from East Midlands airport always provides a good bit of sport.  Why?  Watching the BMI Baby Baggage Police humiliating traveller after traveller of course.  Making them cram their bags into the cage one at a time under scrutiny.  Penalty if you can’t force your bag in there – £30.

This results in the following behaviours that I’ve witnessed in the past few weeks:

Ø  grown men in suits crawling around on the dirty floor with their clothes strewn everywhere trying to repack their bag more tidily whilst everyone else in the queue climbs over them;

Ø  pensioners who probably rarely travel being terrorised into parting with their hard-earned cash (despite our loud barracking of the airline staff);

Ø  pleading and wheedling by all sorts of people, yours truly included.

Today we watched the airline delay a flight to Edinburgh whilst a man tried & tried to repack his bag in a different way – it was just the wrong shape…

BMI Baby has a less generous hand baggage measuring system than anyone else – and those extra centimetres count when the pressure’s on.  This means that if you travel a lot, like the Learning Pool team does backwards & forwards from our Northern Ireland HQ, it inevitably catches you out.  It’s that sinking feeling when you remember you’re on a BMI Baby flight (see McElvaney’s face in the pic above).

When that happens, there’s only one thing for it – head to duty free, buy something & ask the person in there for an extra big bag.  Then unload what you can from your case into it – you’re allowed to take on an additional bag if you bought it after clearing security.  Some of the Poolies have even started carrying empty duty free bags with them – different ones dependent on the airport they’re using.  As Paul always says – Learning Pool – using innovative ways to keep the cost of your subscription low.

Remember that the next time you see one of the Learning Pool team with a duty free bag – that’s all part of our commitment to customer care!

 

33 comments

  1. Ryan Air are the same and have caused me to resort to tears on more than one occaision … frustration, rage … why don’t they just charge standard charge and behave like a proper airline – both of them … have just clicked go on a bmi baby booking and will just have to see how things go …customer service 0 humph

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  2. Im sorry but if people only pay £20 for a flight how much do they expect. i think some people need to realize that they are flying on a BUDGET airline and look at how much it would cost for the same flight with BA (if their not striking) and you would soon work out which is cheaper. if it wont fit in those cages then it wont fit in the overhead lockers, if they dont fit in the overheads then they have the bags offloaded and put in the hold causing a delay. it is there for a reason and the reason is to make everyones journey the best possible. plus a few facts. 1. bmibaby is the most punctual budget airline in the uk for 2009. 2. bmibaby has the longest legroom of all budget aeroplanes 3. you paid very little for your flight and the staff on board i have always found to be very helpful. i look foward to the repliesHAPPY FLYING

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  3. It’s nice that you’re so loyal to your employer James. I think the issue is that BMI masquerades as one of the budget airlines but they aren’t really. Our tickets cost a fortune that day – I wouldn’t be complaining if they had cost £20…Problem is that travellers end up with all the downside but none of the upside. Believe me – if we could fly to certain parts of England from Northern Ireland with a different airline (i.e. not BMI Baby) we’d be using it.Also – we use Easyjet every week & have done for years & years. They are a shining example of how a budget airline should operate so maybe you guys at BMI Baby could watch & take a few tips from them!

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  4. reading earlier comments i have to agree with james i recently flew from east midlands and once i was onboard with a normal sized bag there was no space in overhead lockers as people with extra big hodalls and bags were taking up twice as much space. if everyone just paid the charge to go in the hold i would have no problem. the flights are cheap so what do you expect.if not fly with ryaniar because im sure they are that much cheaper :S!

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  5. Where do i start!! BMI Baby are up there in the customer service skills league as Ryanair…. Bloody awful!!First of all, a single passenger travelling from Belfast to Birmingham, having booked and paid for 2 bags, I’m told that the weight allowance is 15kgs in both. I take 1 bag, weighing approx 28kgs (under the weight for 2). I’m then told that this cannot be done and if i want to take said luggage, i have to pay an extra £144 for excess baggage! JOKE!! not only that but said flight is then re-routed to Manchester, and bussed to Birmingham!Secondly, how hard is it to loose a bag on a flight from Belfast to Birmingham? Not very if your BMI Baby! Now i understand that there are a lot of bags on the plane (about 60% full!!) and from time to time bags do go missing (I’ve not lost one yet so maybe i had it coming), but you would at least expect a) some sympathy, b) an apology c) to be told when I’m likely to receive said bag again! 5 days later and after numerous phone calls because BMI can’t be bothered to let me know, said bag is due to arrive by 5.30pm today (wish me luck!!)I’ve worked in customer support/service for the majority of my working life and I’ve never dealt with such a bunch of half wits in my life! The golden rule in customer service is always do what you say you will! A simple phone call to update me with what’s happening would have made all the difference, and maybe i wouldn’t be so damming!!I totally agree with Mary regarding budget airlines! Easyjet, Flybe, Aer Lingus, Jet2 are all fantastic (Jet2 have the best seats!! so comfy). They have such good customer service skills! Come on BMI, it’s really not that hard is it?

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  6. I agree with you Ben and Mary – BMI Baby are a truly horriible airline. The planes are garbage… old, rusty and the last one I was on stank of pee.. the baggage thing is just a disgrace. If every other airline can handle bags on the plane then why can’t they?… all that and the staff aren’t great… although to be honest, if I worked for an organisation like that, I’d be pretty rude too.Sorry BMI.. you guys just need to try bit harder!

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  7. Well im afraid to tell you i dont work for bmibaby at all but its the same no matter what i wrote if it was different to ur opinions and praising of the company you think im staff. its a joke. another thing about the planes being rusty? i have never once seen rust and even though somtimes the planes have smelt of urine its cause of the toilets not because of the plane. if bmibaby are that bad then why do thousands of passengers fly with them everyday many of them repeat customers. and as with any business you do get some twerps working for them but u get that everywhere and everyone is entitled to a bad day. alot of flights do cost just £20 but they do need to make money and you cant tell me that it works out cheaper flying with ryanair or british airways. the baggage issue as i found out myself is nothing to do with the airline its the baggage handlers which are employed by the airport unless ur suggesting it droped from 35000 feet??have a nice day all 🙂

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  8. I’m fortunate enough not to have had any bad experiences with BMIBaby flights…until now. It seems that another revenue stream for this not so budget, budget airline is taking advantage of customers’ mistakes. I’m an idiot and I booked flights to the wrong destination; spotted it as soon as I got my e-mail confirmation landed. Rang to change the destination, but they don’t fly to where I actually need to go! £1,000 down the drain and nothing but “we don’t do refunds” from the call centre. Fingers crossed that they will still help me, in which case, you’ll be the first to know – it doesn’t look promising though.

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  9. Hi Mary, Thank you for the feedback, which we always welcome – especially as you are clearly a regular traveller on the East Midlands / Belfast route.You’ve raised two points, which I’d like to address. First of all, we do indeed have baggage policies, both for carry on and for hold luggage. We publish these on our website at http://www.bmibaby.com/bmibaby/faqs/baggage/baggage_rules.aspx We’re by no means unique in specifying the size, dimensions and weight that passengers can take on board. In fact, every airline, whether in the low cost market or other, does this. The hand luggage gauges we have at our check in desks are there to help passengers assess whether their hand luggage meets our requirements, and again this is standard across the airline industry.Our ground services team at East Midlands Airport are trained to help our customers go though this process as quickly and as efficiently as possible. If you believe that any of our team has not given you the high level of service that is expected from bmibaby, then we would like to hear about this. Thank you again for the comments. Kind regards, Sarah Johnsonsenior customer services manager

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  10. I have to agree with both James and Kate, having recently travelled with bmibaby from East Midland to Glasgow, Paris and Amsterdam, if you arrive at the airport with a normal sized bag…. as advised in the Terms and Conditions of the booking which you agreed to and read at the time of booking, you will have no problem in boarding the aircraft.I have travelled all around Europe on a variety of different airlines and have to admit bmibaby are by far the best. The staff at least seem to be trained in Customer Service, unlike Ryanair who seemed to be trained in ‘lets sell them as much as possible’.I will be travelling to Palma in a few weeks and will be booking with bmibaby again and I’m sure it’ll be another pleasant experience!

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  11. Thanks for your comments everyone – always nice to have lively discussion happening online & on topics that are clearly important to people. Let’s start with you Sarah. Thanks for clarification – however if you go back & read my original blog, my point is that BMI Baby’s hand luggage measurements are considerably smaller than the other airlines that operate between Northern Ireland & the GB mainland – considerably smaller – smaller than anyone else. That means that it’s left to us – the busy traveller – to have to remember that on top of everything else – oh – I’m on a BMI Baby flight today – I have to take a smaller bag with me. Inconvenient and to be frank – not what the customer needs or wants. You guys need to sort that out. Everyone else – I’ll say it again – it’s really nice that you’re so loyal to your employer…but c’mon BMI Baby – it’s a bit pathetic that you have to get your staff to anonymously post to blogs like this defending your position – why don’t you just fix the issues raised in the blog & comments & then we’d all be happy.

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  12. First-up – I’ve worked for Mary for a year now (no qualms about admitting who MY employer is!). Frequent flyer to our NI office (various airlines) and in previous jobs flew to Europe very regularly.It’s the attitude of the staff that counts. In airports/on planes you’re caught in that “if you’d spoken to me like that in the street I’d be telling you……. but if I challenge your attitude here, I’m going to get arrested, so I’m just going to grin and bear it” loop; the problem with a lot of the no-frills companies is that they feel that gives them the right to dispense with ‘please’ ‘thank you’ and the faintest of smiles. On my last few flights I’ve been told “get your shoes off” (flip-flops), “hurry up” (drinking a coffee – midflight), “you’ll have to wait for your change – I’m too busy” and – my personal favourite – “I don’t know where the toilets are, find them yourself”.The variation in hand luggage rules are ridiculous – they vary from airline to airline (BMI Baby/Ryanair are the smallest) and airport to airport. Hand luggage – why does that have to include a laptop bag/handbag? The liquids rule – well, ‘official’ bags from one airport have been refused at another and an official at 1 airport admitted to me that basically they use the liquids rule to sell more of ‘their’ bags (at £1 each for what is, essentially, a freezer bag).I’ll happily follow all the rules – I don’t like to give you the satisfaction of my bag being overweight and I’m not throwing any luggage away – but am starting to tire of the “we’re cheap, so put up with us” mentality. You’re offering a service – try treating us like human beings instead of cattle – you might just find that we’re a bit happier.

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  13. As much as some of these posts make me laugh they also make me cry from the pure frustration that said airlines (BMI and Ryanair) have caused me over my countless travels. For me it boils down to two things:Money spinning – because the flights are “cheap” some airlines feel the need to create opportunities to funnel money out of you at every possible chance. The prime example that has been discussed is hand luggage. Ryanair and BMI have the same overhead lockers as Easyjet. Why on earth do they have to have a different baggae requirements? £30 pleaseAttitude – I think Elaine hit the nail on the head with this one. There are marked differences of customer service between some of the budget airlines mentioned. To me Easyjet and Flybe know how to do this right and others are missing the mark by a long shot.With all that said, today I sadly had to book a BMI Baby flight to E Midlands – sigh!

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  14. hi sam if you dont want to book a trip with bmibaby to east mids then why do it?? plus none of the companies force you to buy things. people say some of the crew have bad attitude? i have never seen it plus if they do are they not aloud bad days?? plus i would love to hear any actual incedents of this happening

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  15. Just because people have positive comments about a company doesn’t mean they work for that company. If that was the case, they I’d be working for Tesco (supplied me with a nice bottle of Wine), oh and Curry’s for the nice attitude of the sales assistant. I DO NOT work for bmibaby, I have just had pleasant flights with them.As previously stated when you book a flight you AGREE to the Terms and Conditions of the airline, which includes hand baggage size requirements and as James has pointed out, these requirements are uniformed throughout the industry.

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  16. I’m sorry to contradict you Boris but if you go back & look at the measurements that James has very kindly collated for us, you will see that BMI Baby have a smaller allowance than e.g. Easyjet – even though they use exactly the same planes. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m not complaining about the fact that they have restrictions – I’m complaining about the inconsistency between the airlines on this. I’d be pleased to see BMI customer service agents explain to us all why that is…

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  17. You’re starting to annoy me now James – why don’t you read your own previous post & compare BMI Baby with everything else – the bags have width & depth as well as length – doh!

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  18. i love how ur now deleting comments u dont like because u know im right enjoy ur blog, this post is a bit crap ps i do like some of ur other posts pps i also love how u think im being annoying can u not see what ur putting could be potentially annoying and slightly mean

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  19. C’mon now James – that last comment’s rumbled you – which of my daft friends are you? You have to be someone I know that is just winding me up with these posts – as anyone that doesn’t know me just wouldn’t bother putting this stuff up here…Who are you – c’mon – admit it & let’s have an end to this!

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  20. Just back from the East Midlands and had the opportunity finish off a great day of meetings in East Midlands aiport which is dominated by some of our favourite airlins. With some extra time on my hands I perched up and witnessed their staff at work. Watching the endless people get hassled to put their bags into BMI’s cage to only hope they could get it out again. One guy looked tempted to take the cage with him. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t take in pictures (was very tempted). While this was going on other flights were boarding with the staff using reasonable judgement and not hassling every other passenger to cram their luggage into the cage. What a marked difference in the demeanour between the cues. The passengers getting on the BMI flight looked like they wanted to jump out of their skin waiting endlessly as people tried to get their bags in and out of the cage. Might I say that of all the people that had their bags checked not one of them was oversized. BMI is all this really worth it to catch a couple people out for an extra £30?

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  21. Just flew from Birmingham to Derry with the stunningly charmless Ryanair. My highlight of the trip was the (new? not sure) regulation that I can’t carry a carrier bag of purchases onto the plane – I had to take them out of the carrier bag and carry them all in my hands because “the cabin crew won’t accept more than 1 bag”. On board, people were sitting with their feet on top of their bags because there wasn’t enough room in the overhead compartments for their bags. Oh – and I measured my new bag before I packed it – well within the specified limits – much smaller – yet it only just squeezed into Ryanair’s cage. Hmmm, has anyone ever checked their cages to be sure they’re the right size…….? Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice….

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  22. Loving the way we’ve moved from BMI Baby to the other airlines – thinking about devoting an entire blog to UK airline complaints – a place where we disgruntled travellers can vent – although I have to believe that such a place already exists on the interwebs – prob many times over!

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  23. Thanks to everyone that commented on this blog post. I’d like to point you all to an article in today’s Daily Mail (I know – but bear with me) – the link is here – http://bit.ly/bFLagm – which proves my point and the points that many of you have been making here. BMI Baby has been fined for using inaccurately sized baggage “cages” & East Midlands airport has been singled out as being one of the places this has happened in.Interesting also to read about how their staff are incentivised thru bonus payments to collect additional charges from passengers in this way. This one will no doubt run and run.

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  24. i would just like to point out that companies do make mistakes and these cages are apparently mistakes (if they were doing it on perpose then why was it only 60 cages not all of them? why when companies are struggling so much do some twats like the daily mail have to make a big deal out of it instead of just informing the company so it can be fixed???

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  25. although to be fair mary you were right bmibaby baggage sizes were the smallest lol so to go back to my original post all those months ago i apologise because i was wrong

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  26. Just thought i would bring this to attention Dear bmibaby customer, Following last nights broadcast of BBC Watchdog I wanted to take the opportunity to respond. In the program it was alleged that bmibaby has undersized baggage gauges, and that passengers carrying correct sized luggage (of dimensions 55cm x 40cm x 20cm) would not be able to fit them into our gauges, and are therefore being charged unnecessarily for putting them in the hold. The implication of the program is that this is a deliberate ploy of bmibaby to get extra money out of customers. I must firstly categorically state that these allegations are simply not true. So let me start by giving you the facts, and then I’ll try and outline our perspective on the whole matter and what we are going to do next. There are no baggage gauges being used by bmibaby that are smaller than the published dimensions of 55x40x20cm. None anywhere. So any customer bringing a bag of maximum dimensions of 55x40x20cm would be able to fit the bag in our gauges. The gauges are designed in a way which removes sharp edges by having a slight curve at the ‘top’ (and the ‘top’ will vary depending on whether the gauge is of horizontal design or vertical design). The one nuance that has emerged from this investigation is that a hard box of exactly these dimensions may not fit some gauges because the curve prevents the corner from fitting within the gauge. And that is a fair point. However this has never been an issue until now, as the vast majority of passengers do not carry hard edged square boxes of these exact dimensions, but instead carry normal cabin baggage. The reason the ‘box’ fitted into one gauge on Watchdog and not another, was because the gauge where it fitted was of a design that is attached to a sign, and hence does not need curved edges. I can state though quite accurately that both gauges had the same dimensions – the only variance was the curved ‘top’ on the gauge at the gate which prevented this hard edged box fitting in. Why do we need to restrict cabin baggage in the first place? There is only a limited amount of space onboard, and we (as do all airlines) need to ensure that the allocation of this luggage space is fairly divided among passengers. The length restriction of 55cm is in place specifically to ensure that bags can be placed length-ways into the overhead locker, thus allowing 3 bags of such size into each locker. If the length is any longer than this then it would need to be placed in side-ways which reduces the locker space available significantly. I should also put this into perspective – the amount of passengers who get advised that their bag is too large at the gate is absolutely minimal. The reason we make a charge for those bags that are too big is purely a means of ensuring there is a disincentive to bringing too large a bag. Our staff are not financially incentivised to collect money for gate baggage, they are simply asked to enforce a policy which means that the limited baggage space onboard is fairly distributed amongst all passengers. So what are we doing now? Since I took over as MD on the 1st April, I have been very much driving the service focus of our business. Myself and my management team all now go ‘back to the floor’ on a routine basis and work alongside our staff at the airports and onboard. I am absolutely of the belief (as are my team) that we need to be first in class when it comes to low cost carrier customer service. At the 2010 Conde Nast Readers Traveller Awards, bmibaby scored highest for convenience of booking and service/staff in the category ‘Favourite Low Cost Airline’. This makes me very proud as I firmly believe in offering a good service, and this is recognition to our team of the great job they do. And this is something we need to continue to build on. Having worked at the airport first hand I have seen how we manage our baggage processes, and we were already looking at redesigning our gauges. The Watchdog broadcast has made sure these new gauges will not feature a curved design! We have new gauges on order and will be sending them out around our airport network soon. While I don’t intend to change our size policy, the gauges will redesigned to ensure that if any passenger has been over zealous in packing their case then it should still fit. Hopefully! I know some comments have been made about not receiving replies to letters sent to us. Please be assured that all letters are responded to, however due to the Ash Cloud crisis earlier this year our volume of correspondence and customer service administration quadrupled overnight. We recruited extra staff to help facilitate replying to these, but like every airline had a long turnaround time due to the massive volume of correspondence. This is finally settling down, and letters are being replied to quicker. So we’re not perfect I admit, but we are working hard to improve our business all the time. There are numerous other initiatives ongoing to enhance our offering, but I won’t bore you with all the details at this stage! So the BBC Watchdog program has been a disappointment as I know that our new management team has been working very hard over the last few months to ensure we deliver a high standard of service. We get a lot of positive feedback, and many happy customers. So to see some unhappy ones, and hear such feedback saddens us as a management team, and only spurs us on to ensure we address any issues positively and continue to take this airline forward as one customers can trust and enjoy flying with. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope to see you onboard or at the airport in the future. Many thanks, Julian

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  27. I commented on this blog a while ago with a separate issue I had with BMI baby. The problem was never resolved to my satisfaction despite having personal contact with the Senior Customer Services Manager and the Head of Sales and Reservations.Julian’s letter above sounds great, not untypical of an ambitious new MD, but obviously out of kilter with what’s currently happening in his organisation.For a Company like BMIbaby to improve their customer service they will need to change from strict policies with no exceptions, to treating customers as individuals. I would say that I received neither empathy or understanding from either of the senior staff that I corresponded with, the only hint of consideration came from the statement “I can appreciate that this is not the response you were hoping for but we have to remain fair to all passengers and cannot make exceptions”.Here, surely is the heart of the problem. Customer Service is all about making exceptions: treating people as individuals and being able to respond to different circumstances as appropriate.So, is Julian’s management team really on the same page. What other leading customer service focused company takes 45 working days to respond to complaints? Even when Toyota was at the height of its recall problems in April, involving tens of thousands of customers in the UK, correspondence was being relied to with 48hrs.

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  28. Thanks James & James for your new comments on here & for including BMI Baby’s formal response to all the accusations they’ve been fielding in the last couple of days. If the purpose of a blog is to create lively online debate between people, then we’ve certainly achieved that & I for one have enjoyed being part of that. I’m not surprised that BMI Baby have been caught out with this. The Learning Pool team makes extensive use of the low cost airlines and over the past 12 months we have witnessed BMI Baby staff terrorising travellers about this hand baggage issue. BMI Baby do this in an unpleasant way that none of the other airlines seem to feel the need to.Keep your comments coming folks if you have more to say!

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  29. Can I suggest that we now formally drop the euphemism ‘low cost airline’ and replace it with ‘market rate airline’, or perhaps ‘low service airline’? Or else apply the term ‘low cost’ to ANY product that now costs less than it used to, for example all computers, so that we can now say something like ‘your computer doesn’t work? What do you expect for £250, or would you rather go back to the days when they cost £2500?. Honestly some people are never satisfied’Does anyone remember a few years back when Aer Lingus went on strike, and Ryanair flights from Dublin to London jumped to €300?The airline useage of the term ‘low cost’ is simply marketing propaganda – let’s not buy into it

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  30. “Low service airline” – I love it Colin – what a great phrase – although I fear it will set the BMI Baby employees commenting like mad on this blog again 😦

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  31. Bit of an update here folks – I flew back from Scotland at the weekend with Ryanair. The ground staff member checking tickets could see my bag would fit in the cage but he made me cram it in there nevertheless. I then had to get assistance from him & the two people behind me in the queue to get the bloody thing back out of there. My glasses case got broken in the squash and some capsule tablets I had in my bag were crushed and unusable – is this really necessary guys? – the flight was only half full…

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