There was a time when going on holiday started the moment you entered an airport. Back then, no surly member of ground staff insisted on tagging your weighed and measured hand luggage, and you could even joke with the people in security. That left me with ample time to work my way through the perfume samples and stock up on sweets – no need to elbow my way past the scramble for overpriced mineral water and tired-looking sandwiches, as all that was available on board. For free.
I was in Mahón’s airport a couple of days ago, where flying still retains a few of those memories. To start with, the Iberia check in desk was empty. Marvellous, I thought, as I turned up with a wheelie bag and a handbag (which were neither weighed nor counted), before speeding past yawning security guards and heading for a coffee (admittedly, this wasn’t the cheapest one I’ve had in a while, but it still beats the 600% mark-up on certain ‘low-cost’ airlines’ offerings). It was then that I realised I could count the people around me on one hand. A quick glance up to the flight departure board confirmed my suspicions: by mid-afternoon, there were only four more flights planned for the day: three to Palma and one to Barcelona. If we’re still got an entire seven days until the tourist season comes to an end, an empty airport is a bit of a worrying sight.
So where is everyone? Where are all the tourists? Not in Menorca, evidently. But they should be as they don’t know what they are missing. Travelling between the Balearics is one of the best flight experiences available in Europe. The flight might not even last 30 minutes, but it’s still sufficient for the helpful attendants to wobble through the cabin with a stocked drinks trolley and a choice of snack (peanuts? breadsticks? biscuits?) all free of charge. I even spotted them distributing sticker books to children. And that’s what makes these island-hopping journeys so much more bearable, as they remind you of what short-haul air travel used to be like.