Business Travel

Aran Islands air service cancelled after 40 years

There are some strange shenanigans happening on the Aran Islands these days and the locals are far from happy about it.

At a cost of forty jobs, and without consulting the islanders, the Department of the Gaeltacht withdrew the air-transport contract from a company that has successfully provided the service for more than four decades, leaving those who live on the islands baffled.  They can’t understand how anyone — even the civil service — could have been stupid enough to try and solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

The current fixed-wing aircraft are  perfect for the job. The Britten-Norman Islander can carry eight passengers and all their luggage on the seven-minute flight from the little airport at Indreabhán in Conamara to Iar Áirne on Inis Mór.  It hops between the islands safely and quickly. It demands only the normal level of maintenance required for a fixed-wing aircraft, it can operate in difficult weather and people feel safe flying in it.

aer arann

What’s more, because the Conamara airport is only ten minutes from the ferry port of Ros a’Mhíl, if the weather turns so foul that the planes can’t fly, local people can have the option of taking the boat.

It works.

It has worked for more than forty years, so why would Roinn na Gaeltacha suddenly drop the whole thing and instead award the contract to a helicopter company based in Galway city?  After all, helicopters are fiendishly expensive to run, and people are afraid of them, with good reason.

The islanders aren’t the only ones baffled. Galway Council owns the airport that Executive Helicopters plan to use as a base, but the council was never consulted about the proposal and has no contract with the company. Therefore, it would appear that a vital element of the successful tender was not grounded in reality and that the Department exceeded its powers by awarding the contract.

Leaving that aside, nobody from the islands wants to fly from Galway city in a helicopter.  They’re so angry about the whole thing that a delegation of several hundred are tomorrow travelling to meet the junior minister in charge of the project, Joe McHugh, who took the trouble to learn some Irish after being appointed junior minister for the Gaeltacht. I suspect his tutors won’t have taught him too many of the words that will be thrown at him during the meeting.

The Aran Islanders are a hardy bunch. You have to be when you live on a rock at the edge of the Atlantic and they won’t be swallowing any of the blandishments offered by a parliamentary secretary like Joe McHugh, but just like the rest of us, the residents of the Rock vary in temperament from mildly sceptical to downright suspicious.

Some people put the decision down to standard Departmental incompetence of the kind that provided Ros a’Mhíl with floating pontoons for the ferries but failed to do the same at the far side, leaving passengers arriving on Aran at the mercy of the tides.

Some think there’s skullduggery involved, though they don’t quite know what that skullduggery might entail.

The majority of people believe that this is the result of an ideological position, either in government or in the Department, with the Machiavellian narrative as follows:

We’ll force Aer Arann Islands out of business by denying them a licence. They’ll have to sack all their workers and sell their aircraft. That will destroy them forever. We’ll appoint a helicopter company that hasn’t a hope in hell of succeeding, since none of the islanders will use them and they won’t be able to provide a proper service.  After a while, they’ll go bust as well, and that will be the end of government subsidising those pesky islands.

How is this achieved?  Simple. By following the age-old public service tradition of first deciding what you want and then writing the specification. That’s how you rig a tender. You make it impossible to win for the people you wish to exclude.

UPDATE 13th October 2015

The Aer Arann  service has been extended for 12 months but suspicions remain that this is simply a ploy to prepare the ground for a second, less hamfisted, attempt to close it down.



Passenger tasered on EasyJet flight for exceeding luggage limit

Michael O Leary must be kicking himself for deciding to be nice. If only he’d waited a year or so in his war against customers, he’d be looking like a saint now compared to EasyJet.

Remember the Ryanair single-bag policy? Of course you do. Who could forget the ill-mannered, ill-tempered  underpaid Ryanair functionaries savouring their tiny bit of power as they barked orders at the lines of browbeaten passengers who paid their wages? (And yes, Stansted gestapo-woman, I really am talking about you). But that was about all they did. They barked orders and they took every last cent of your money if you happened to be carrying an unauthorised piece of cabin baggage such as, for instance, an envelope, as I once saw happen to a bewildered Italian traveller.

easyjet taser ryanair

But at least they didn’t electrocute you, as EasyJet did to a passenger for wearing a man-purse.

That’s an extra bag.

No it’s not. It’s a purse.

It’s luggage. That’ll be an extra three thousand quid please.

Fuck off. It’s just a pouch for my fags.


Zap. Man unconscious. Plane emptied. Man charged with breach of peace.

That’ll teach him to disagree with an angry minimum-wage flight attendant.

There’s no going back for Ryanair now, but O Leary must be chewing barbed wire with rage.  While it’s true he’d never allow tasers or cattle prods because they’d cost money recharging, he must surely be wondering if maybe he could issue his cabin staff with bullwhips or the cat o’ nine tails.  Move along there, dogs!

Flogging cheap seats, is it?

But what next for EasyJet, now that they’ve started stealing all those great ideas Ryanair didn’t have the nerve to implement?  Standing room only? Pay toilets? Steerage class? Will they start charging for life-vests? Two pilots on premium flights only?

Michael O Leary will be watching this closely and if he thinks EasyJet are onto something, that’ll be the end of Mr Nice Guy. Telling you now.

Invest in rubber-soled shoes.



Hotel Charges Customer for Bad Review on TripAdvisor

It sounds like something out of a cheesy British seaside sitcom but this actually happened.  A Blackpool hotel charged a guest £100 for leaving a bad review on TripAdvisor.

Broadway Hotel, Brighton

The proprietor of the Broadway Hotel apparently took exception to a review on TripAdvisor by Tony and Jan Jenkinson and decided to add an additional £100 charge to their credit card.  Tony Jenkinson described the hotel, not unreasonably as it turns out, as a filthy, dirty, rotten, stinking hovel.  and when he challenged the £100 charge, he was told that they were entitled to take the money under the no bad review policy  in the hotel’s terms and conditions.

The no bad review policy.   I kid you not, and what a shame Leonard Rossiter is no longer with us to play the proprietor of said filthy dirty rotten stinking hovel in the film.

A quick glance at the TripAdvisor website reveals the grim truth:

hotel review 1

24 poor reviews and 148 people saying it’s terrible.  Does that mean the hotel fined 172 guests £100 each, raking in a total of £17,200?

Nice little earner and a nice business model.  Charge thirty quid for the night, but hide a clause in your “terms and conditions” entitling you to hit them for a ton if they complain.

The Jenkinsons think they’ll be getting their money back after the intervention of the local authority who asked the hotel to remove the no bad review policy, although of course, there’s no reason to assume the unshaven individual in the sweaty  vest at the front desk was in fact the proprietor.  They might be waiting a while before they get their hard-earned dosh back, as might the other guests who left comments like these:



This place should be shut down, I don’t know if they are ever inspected, but if so, I don’t know how this place has passed!!
If you are offered this place to stay for a fortnight for 10p, you are being robbed!!


Don’t even consider it

This place should be shut down immediately; so bad we lasted 10 minutes, checked back out and headed for the local travel lodge. Believe all of the bad reviews, there are so many for a reason!!! Damp, dirty carpets, filthy bathrooms, windows that don’t shut correctly, dangerous furniture falling apart, seriously avoid… Price is one thing, you can’t expect the Savoy, however basic health and safety and cleanliness you should expect at any cost. Local council need to get in this place quick to condem it before someone is hurt or struck down by illness from the filthy conditions!


how this is still trading i will never know!

It is run by children that obviously have no experience in running a hotel and would rather sit around drink tea and smoke weed than clean and care for their guests. We are not stuck up, we are actually quite laid back but this place is horrendous, filthy and disgusting, and the fact that children were staying here still makes me feel quite sick! The rooms are like something out of Oliver Twists orphanage you couldn’t swing a cat in there. The bed was ridiculous, the windows didn’t shut properly, the door didn’t lock, the heating didn’t work, the shower was mouldy the place is an absolute sideshow.


broadway hotel blackpool


Hmm.  The Broadway Hotel, you say?  In Blackpool?

The place that charges you money if you criticise them?

Thanks.  I might just give it a miss.


TripAdvisor reviews





Fear of Flying

I’m not a good flyer.  Let me be honest with you now.  I am not a good person to have in an aeroplane beside you if you happen to be scared shitless.  I’m just not.

It isn’t that I’m curled up in a ball saying Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus.

I’m not doing that.  Indeed, I might even be completing the crossword as the pilot hits that button marked FULL POWER.  but my every nerve-ending will be fully attuned to what’s taking place behind that door at the top of the aisle where those ultra-cool guys sit, in full control of all our lives while smoking their Rothmans and practising their eyebrow-twitches.

flight deck

How’s my jaw-line, Dirk?  

Pretty damn good, Brad.

I don’t fucking like it.

I don’t like the way the plane roars down the runway at maximum thrust and I don’t like the way we suddenly leap into the sky, all of us together, a bunch of complete strangers, thrust together for the next hour or two or three, although to be honest with you, there’s only about ten minutes when we feel fully united, unless, of course, the flight is between Poland and Ireland, in which case the plane will be full of screaming babies in both directions.  I like Polish people, but babies of any nationality, not so much.

Why am I afraid?  Simple.  I’m afraid because that’s the natural state of all living things unless they happen to be utterly stupid.  It’s how nature works.  Being afraid equals being alive.

When I fly, I realise two things.

First, this aircraft is at the pinnacle of design and its pilots conform to the best possible practice.

Second, these fucking things crash.

There’s no comfort in somebody telling me that flying  is statistically the safest possible way to travel.  All I want to know is this: how safe is flying when we slam into the planet?I’m glad that the cabin crew have stopped that ludicrous charade of trying to tell us about the yellow jackets and the oxygen masks when everyone is ignoring them and reading their books instead or playing with their smart phones like I’m doing.  We all know that the yellow jackets have only one function — to find the  bodies when we crash in the sea.  Don’t be giving me that shit, Ryanair.

I don’t like flying because I have a good understanding of the underlying physics and you’d have thought that this would be a positive thing but it is not.  I look out the small window – so shaped to avoid metal fatigue and thus to avoid the fatal crash of the De Havilland Comet  – and I see the wing flexing.

Am I thinking, This is a natural response to loads imposed on this flexural member?

No.   I’m thinking Jesus Christ we’re all going to die!

It’s not rational.  This I understand.  It is entirely outside the realms of rationality, just like homeopathy and chemtrails, but when I find myself at the edge of fear, that’s how I roll, though unfortunately, that’s just taking off.

You see, when I take off, all I can think of is when we’re going to land.

Last week, I  had to take off and land a couple of times and you know, being me, I pride myself on knowing the details of the technology.  That’s just me.  It’s boring but there you go.  I like to know how the aircraft is designed and built.  I like to know about the engines.  I understand all about relative velocity.  I know that planes crab as they come in to land.  I realise that the entire process is overseen by an incredibly clever computer-controlled system.

Does any of that make the slightest difference when I’m strapped in as a powerless passenger?

Of course not.




Young Pioneer Tours – Taking You to Places Your Mother Would Rather You Stayed Away From

How do you feel about spending Paddy’s Day in North Korea with Dan Murphy from Hermitage Green?

Sounds different anyway, you might be thinking.

I bumped into Dan this morning and he told me about this idea.

It’s great, Bock,he said.  We’ll be taking people to places like North Korea, Burma and Antarctica.  What do you think? And he performed a little twiddle on the guitar he carries everywhere in case there’s a sudden urgent need to look cool and enigmatic, but somehow entertaining at the same time.


You’re fucking mad, I told him.

When Dan isn’t playing a guitar across his lap while simultaneously kicking a punchbag, he’ll be happy to escort you to the tensest place on earth – the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.  The Dee-Emm-Zee.  There, you can even have a photo taken of yourself with a member of the Korean People’s Army, but on no account should you mention Team America.  If you do, Dan won’t be able to help, no matter how hard he flexes his designer stubble.  This is North Korea, after all.  Remember that, no matter how hammered you get in drinking competitions with the comrades and you should be all right, more or less.

You’ll go out on the town in Pyongyang, enjoying such delicacies as dog soup, visit the Monument to the Three Charters of National Reunification, marvel at the mausoleum for the Great Leader President Kim Il Sung and the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il or walk through Mansudae fountain park and see the mosaic pictures of President Kim Il Sung and the leader Kim Jong Il.

You can also go on an unmerciful piss-up with pints at 50c each but if all comes to all and you do run foul of the authorities, or you happen to giggle at a picture of a little man in built-up heels, fret not.  Even as they arrest you and lead you away, that chugga-chugga-chugga thundering sound you hear in the distance is the entire Hermitage Green team arriving on an aerial surf-board armed with high-velocity rugby balls, a military-grade bodhrán and a lap-steel missile launcher firing out-takes from early Mumford and Sons recording sessions.

If the authorities still resist, the HG surfcraft has the ability to broadcast entire Len Dinneen rugby commentaries until the enemy  lose the will to live.

So chill.  It be cool.

But, do you know what?  Fair play to him.  He’s a decent lad, and I hope it works out well, though to be honest with you, the chances are he’ll be eaten by some sort of a tigerhoundsnake in Burma or denounced as an enemy of the people by a little prancing puppet in built-up heels.


Here’s the stuff he sent me, so go on.   Sign up for a trip to the places your mother wouldn’t like.

YPT – taking you to places your mother would rather you stayed away from”

Young Pioneer Tours are a travel company that offer budget travel packages to less-ventured-to destinations- namely North Korea, Tibet, Antarctica, Rason, Iran, China, Eurasia and Burma.

Our latest offer is a limited 20 places on a 5 day tour to North Korea for Paddys Day 2014. The tour costs 845e for a jam packed itinerary taking in everything from BBQ’s in the vast green Korean countryside, to a pub crawl of the many micro breweries and tea houses of Pyongyang.

So if you’ve had enough parades and bad weather on Paddy’s Day, and would rather take an adventure to one of the last remaining Communist nations in the world for Paddys Day – then enquire within.


Hey — don’t blame me.  I didn’t write it.


Krakow and Auschwitz Pictures

As I might have mentioned, I was in Krakow recently, and also took the time to revisit Auschwitz after five years trying to process what I saw there.

Last time I visited Auschwitz, I took pictures that were fairly derivative, that might have been shot a million times by visitors over the years and that said nothing about the people who had passed through that awful place.

Last time I visited Krakow, it was the depths of winter.  Here’s a few pics with a slightly different perspective and maybe a slightly better understanding of what a picture should be.  Or not.

You decide.









































Photography Still images Travel

Krakow Notes – No 2

Well actually, it’s a few pictures, not notes.  We’ll have plenty of them when the time comes.









































Notes from Krakow — Number 1

What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in Krakow?


That’s right.  You end up in an Irish pub, surrounded by a hundred  over-excited Paddies of both stripes and you watch the replay of the All-Ireland hurling final while swilling back delicious local beer at €2 a pint.  Strong, delicious local beer.  You end up seeing perhaps the best game of hurling ever played.  You laugh a little at Davy Fitz, but part of you is delighted for him while another part weeps for Jimmy Barry Murphy.  It’s a slightly surreal experience to find yourself in a bubble of Irishness here in one of the most quintessentially central-European cities imaginable, but it’s also a nice inversion of the Polish stereotype in Ireland.  Nice.



Finely-attuned to the surreal though my senses are, I did not expect to walk into a bar in Krakow and meet a first cousin I hadn’t seen in years.  What the fuck is that?

The morning did not start auspiciously, and for that I have to take some of the blame.   Why did I decide we had to leave Limerick at four in the morning to be in Dublin Airport  for a 9:10 flight?  I’m an idiot sometimes.  As Wrinkly Joe remarked when we presented ourselves in the restaurant for breakfast at 6:45 am, You really are a fucking idiot.

He’s right.  I am, but at least we had plenty of time to wander around the place admiring the snappy new designer stuff they’ve done to it.  Snappy.   Cool.  Sharp.  Challenging.   Edgy.  And all that shit.

The theme of the morning becomes, We could have left at five.  Half past would have done us. Jesus we could have left it till seven.

And then Michael’s Ryanair proves us right, as we sit on his plane for a sweltering two hours, on the tarmac, with tech-guys in yellow hi-viz jackets coming and going and little Polish babies screaming their lungs off — and who could blame them?  I wanted to scream my lungs off but I was too tired after crawling out of bed at 3:30 and driving 120 miles, so instead, I just leaned against the seat in front and sweated quietly until eventually the highly apologetic captain explained that a temperature gauge had malfunctioned and they’d have to move us all to another aircraft.  He was very sorry.  Very, very sorry for the inconvenience, but we still sat for another thirty minutes in the boiling heat until they allowed us to re-embark.

I’d say they’ll offer us a complimentary drink, I suggested to Wrinkly Joe.

They will in their arse, he replied through gritted teeth, and so it proved.  Michael might have decided to be less abusive to his customers, but common courtesy is still a little way off for Ryanair.  That’s ok.  I don’t mind.  They’re cheap.

What do I mind?  Well, the ankle is torn off of me by a new pair of boots that cut a horrible suppurating groove into my achilles, and that’s not good.   If I’m not careful, I’ll end up with septic foot syndrome and then I’ll have something other than First-World problems to complain about, but anyway, here we are in Krakow, shattered from the early start, which is my fault.

More tomorrow when we manage to get ourselves properly settled in.  I suspect much of it will involve Polish hostelries, though there is a darker side coming up as you probably know already, if you happen to be a regular here.

Goodnight.  We’ll talk again tomorrow.

Favourites Travel

Inis Mór

Come on, Hound, I say.  Let’s go to Aran.  They must surely have forgotten you by now, and they probably got new cats.  And cows.  And other dogs.  And postmen.

The Hound of Satan looks at me sceptically.  Forgot? Moi?

I know.  I know, but unfortunately, these days nobody is willing to host the Canine from Hell, so I have no choice.  My next challenge is getting the bastard on a plane, but that’s for another day.  Right now, I’ll be happy if they take it on the ferry without first performing an exorcism.

We’re going to Inis Mór, a place of calm, of peace, of inner tranquillity, right?

Wrong.  We’re going to Inis Mór, a place of lunatics, a place from which I never return in one piece.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  The natural unspoilt beauty, na Fíor-Ghaeil never ceasing from chess-playing and reciting melodious Irish, leading a simple but honest life, right?

Well, eh, no Ted.  Not really.

I usually go from Ros a’Mhíl, for no good reason apart from my chronic tendency towards sea sickness, but I’m re-thinking that plan because it’s a bastard of a drive from Limerick — over eighty miles each way  — when I could much more easily go from Doolin, even if it involves a little island hopping.  In the flat calm of the last few weeks that would be no hardship.  Sit back and enjoy an over-priced can of beer, say hello to Inis Oirr and Inis Meain, arrive eventually at Inis Mór and Robert is your parent’s brother.

Ros a’Mhíl is looking a lot swisher than it was the last time I was here, two or three years ago.  Now they have these floating pontoons for boarding the ferries.  They rise up and down with the tide so that you can always board the ferry by the same door without having to bother dragging your bags up and down the stairs.  Good idea, right?

Ros a Mhil

Well, it would be a great idea if they had the same pontoons at the far side but of course, they don’t.  This is Ireland, after all.  We don’t do planning in Ireland, and that’s why, over at Cill Ronáin, they have no floating pontoons even though the redevelopment of the harbour there cost €35 million or so.  Therefore,  depending on the tides, you still have to drag your luggage and perhaps your Hound of Satan up and down the stairs.

Why is this?  Well you see, originally the money was there for the pontoons at Aran, but then the Department of No Admittance realised they had to put up four million signs forbidding everything and that was the end of the money for real things.  I met a local on the ferry who was in uncharacteristically cheerful form, having received news that a mutually-detested old relative had passed away.  Do not drive off the pier, he said.  We’ve been driving on piers all our fucking lives, but now we have a sign to remind us.

Amish Only
Amish Only

Jesus, I’m not standing on Aran soil yet, and already the aggravation is growing.   What will it be like when we hit Joe Mac’s?

I needn’t worry.  Within seconds of the Rockhoppper strangling the engine and ordering two delicious pints and an ashtray of water for the Hound, I’m confronted by a drunken Frenchman I never met in my life.  You are Bock the Robber, he accuses.

J’Accuse, he almost says, but he’s too drunk.

Mais, je ne suis pas M. Bocque, I protest in a futile attempt to maintain secrecy, but it’s too late.  My cover is blown, so I nod at Satan, who rips the Frenchman’s trachea from his throat like an old bicycle tube and spits it at the horrified German opposite us.

I am horrified, the German laughs, to the disgust of the Slovakian arriving with two small whiskies: one for himself and the other for the extremely drunken old local who happens to be screaming at me to go back where I came from.  Luckily I know him and don’t take it personally.

Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú, a Mháirtín? I inquire.

Fuck off, he responds, in the traditional Aran manner.

It’s good to be back.  Jesus I love this place.

I suppose we should have no more than six pints before heading home, suggests the Rockhopper.  After allI have to drive.

Applauding his sense of restraint and civic responsibility, I concur.  You should certainly have no more than six pints but  I’m not getting in that ratbag of a car sober.

This is murder.  This is simply murder, sitting here with a cold beer, even if the Hound of Satan is gnawing at a decapitated Frenchman.  Welcome back to Aran.

Inis Mor Harbour 001


Cats.  Now, see there’s the thing.Cats don’t like Satan and Satan doesn’t like cats but normally they arrive at some sort of an accommodation.

Not on Aran.  The second we arrive at the house, Satan goes straight for the nearest of the many felines, who split in a hundred directions at once in a living illustration of the term herding cats.  The felines are laughing at my dog, and his Satanic master isn’t much help.  It can’t be great for a dog trying to chase supremely athletic ruthless killers through a bush.  What he doesn’t know: catch ’em and live the rest of your life with one eye if you’re lucky.

I love this place.  I’ve always loved this place and in truth, there is a sort of tranquillity here, even if it happens to be mediated through a bunch of lunatics.  They’re smart lunatics, all running their houses on solar and geothermal power.  They pull two or three tables together in the garden for huge barbecue dinners where everyone eats their fill and gets hammered on fíon dearg.   They take time off when they don’t feel like working, and then they work all night to make up the difference.  They’ve travelled the world and yet manage to stay local, though not parochial.

The house is full of visitors already but nobody minds.  Here, they say, kicking a child out of a bed.  Sleep on that.

I realise I’m a little bit like that myself, but it’s a great comfort to know there are others in the world with a similar outlook.  Fuck it, come on in.  Did you bring wine?

I did.  And beer.  And a nice assortment of frozen Indian grub I made the night before, because you can’t be turning up with one arm longer than the other, can you?   Two hands hanging.  Not a good look.

Would you like to see a few pictures from Aran?  All right then.  I know we’ve had some over the years, but hey, what the hell?

Inis Mor Aran Islands


Inis Mor Aran Islands



Inis Mor Aran Islands


Inis Mór Aran Islands


Inis Mór Aran Islands


Inis Mor Aran Islands

Inis Mor Aran Islands




Inis Mor Aran Islands Cliffs


We had a plan to head over to Inis Meain on a boat but somehow, in time-honoured Aran fashion, it just didn’t work out.  Who knew that anything could go wrong on Aran?

Not to worry.  We can always sit around and watch the Hound of Satan terrorising small animals and postmen, though I wasn’t too happy when he charged into the middle of these guys, causing mayhem.  Full marks to Gabriel, the proprietor, for not shooting the horrible animal stone dead.  I know I would have, but that’s the testament to the placid and peaceful nature of the islanders.  Pity all the same that they don’t just pull out a shotgun and whack things like the Hound of Satan.

Inis Mór Aran Islands


He had less success with these guys.

Inis Mór Aran Islands


Inis Mór Aran Islands


Inis Mór Aran Islands


Not everything is afraid of a Satanic hound, as the Hound discovered, painfully.

I love going to Aran.  I end up talking a ridiculous mixture of Irish and English, just like the natives do themselves, and it’s a bit two-fingers to the language purists who brought us to our current sorry pass of fringe Gaeltachts and mid-Atlantic-accented Dublin-based naoionraí that should have been strangled at birth but instead are populated and run by Irish-language Nazis, including the one who harangued my native-speaking buddy a few years back for his bad pronunciation.


Where’s the Hound of Satan when you need him?

Cé chaoi a bhfuil tú, a mhaicín?  An bhfuil tú all right? inquires my solicitous rockhopping friend the morning after a savage night on the piss, with me groaning and banging my face against a doorpost.

Oh Jesus, tá mo head stractha as a chéile, I reply, and he laughs at me.

Cool bath required.

Inis Mór Aran Islands




Samoa Air — Charging Passengers by Weight

How appropriate that a Samoan airline should introduce the idea of charging passengers by the kilo.  Not only are the Samoans naturally huge people, but they’re also the second fattest in the world.  91% of Samoans are overweight, outdone only by their neighbours, Nauru, at 94.5%, helping the Pacific islanders to secure the top seven slots in world obesity rankings.  Of course, as usual, the explanation for this isn’t simple.  They have a terrible diet, heavily influenced by rubbish like tinned spam and tinned corned beef, and these days they lead a sedentary life.  Not too long ago, they fished and cultivated fruit and vegetables, but thanks to the encroachment of US mining companies they now eat junk with huge amounts of sugar and fat in it, and they get much less exercise.

Samoa Air

Heavy passengers are a problem for a small airline, and Samoa Air have introduced what seems to me to be an admirably fair system to deal with it.   They treat the passenger and the baggage as a single unit of weight.  Unlike the Ryanair excess charges  ambush, you only  pay for what you weigh, including your luggage.  How many times have you seen some tiny little seven-stone girl being charged a fortune for an extra few pounds in a suitcase, while some heaving, sweating pile of humanity with 400 pounds of scrambled-egg arse the size of two airline seats wobbles onto the plane unchallenged?  It’s just not right.

I think Ryanair would make a great job of this idea, and in the process, they’d be encouraging us all to lose a few pounds.  All they’d need to do is rearrange their charging structure into bands:

Emaciated– Stick insect — Normal — Tubby — Fat Bastard — Lardass.

As long as you and your luggage stay below whatever level is appropriate, that’s the range of money you pay.  So if you happen to be the little seven-stone girl with the huge suitcase full of clothes (who ever heard of anything like that?) you could opt to join the Fat Bastard band and still pay less than the hyperventilating pile of jelly taking up two of the seats beside you.

The other advantage would be the elimination of some Ryanair Nazi ground staff who take sadistic pleasure out of intimidating harmless passengers.  A few years ago, I passed through Stansted on the way to a short holiday and found myself in a group of people being screamed at by an utter bitch in a Ryanair uniform.  I felt sorry for the civilised Italian woman ahead of us who didn’t understand why an undereducated thug in a cheap uniform was screaming and gesticulating at the slim portfolio of drawings she carried under her arm.

It’s a win-win as they say, apart from the people who happen to be six-foot-five and 250 pounds, lean, fit and not in the least bit fat.  To them, I say,  It’s not about blame.  It’s about weight.  I feel your pain, but you can’t have everything.

For everyone else, lose a few, pounds, save a few pounds, and no more ground-staff with guard dogs.

As far as the airline is concerned, it’s all about the bottom line.