Airports are off their trolleys

By | Category: Travel rumblings

As a seasoned traveller, it goes without saying that I love – nay live for – travel. Indeed I’ve taken jobs not because I was angling for the role per se but because they offered me the chance to jump on a plane and immerse myself in a different culture.

From the Middle East to South America via Asia and the Caribbean, I’ve repeatedly relocated in my quest to become intimately acquainted with different destinations.

Yet as much as I love travel there is one thing that I loathe. It’s not the constant packing and unpacking, airport security or even hours in the air. Unlike my colleagues, I am quite partial to a plane meal or two and have yet, touch wood, to be seated next to the flight companion from hell.

No, my biggest bug bear is reserved for airport trolleys. If you ask me, every self respecting airport should offer an array of trolleys but alas trying to find one can prove as elusive as a taxi on New Year’s Eve.

Should you succeed in tracking down a working trolley – one with fully-functioning wheels and whose brakes aren’t broken – you’ll find that in London at least, passengers are charged £1 to hire the trolley, a fee that has to be paid for with a clunky one pound coin. 

Cash is old-fashioned, sometimes awkward (case in point, it can’t be used on a public bus waiting to whisk you away outside the airport terminal’s door) and in today’s cashless society, no one – be it a Brit newly-back from a foreign holiday or a stranger who has just touched down on UK soil – can be expected to have local coins in their pocket to pay for said trolley. Really, how hard can it be to make a trolley that can be released with the tap of a credit card?

Not that, in my mind, airports should be charging passengers for trolleys anyway. Make no mistake: they make more than enough money from extortionate airport parking drop-off charges (here’s looking at Luton and Stansted) to fees for plastic security bags to shop rents, airport taxes and the inflated cost of food and drink in the airports’ outlets. Do they really need to fleece every passenger on arrival, too?

After all we’re not talking about a fancy porter service here – simply a trolley you can lay your case on and make getting from the luggage carousel to the car/ taxi rank/ tube station that bit more bearable.

Yes rolling luggage (suitcases that can easily turn 360 degrees, enabling their owners to glide through immigration smoothly) makes travel easier. However I maintain that if you’re elderly, travelling en-famille, or laden-down with golf and ski equipment, you’re still going to need a little help with your luggage.

It’s a situation that my friend James Drummond, a returning expat, recently found himself in. After 16 roller-coaster years based in chaotic, colorful Argentina, James made the decision to swap Buenos Aires for his native Britain.

The 50-year-old packed his South American life into five suitcases and checked them in at Ezeiza International Airport without any issues – at least that is until he landed in London to learn that while he had plenty of Argentine pesos in his pocket and a wallet full of credit cards, after 16 years of living overseas he had zero pound coins.

James’ description of the endurance test he faced in shepherding five suitcases from bag collection to arrivals made for an amusing dinner party story, but has it really come to this: charging £1 – only coins accepted! – for the privilege of using an airport trolley?

Welcome to Britain? Please. We can do better than this.

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