Following a series of incidents at airports around the world, a family from Stevenage has been officially grounded. A crisis meeting involving representatives from airport authorities, airlines and travel agencies concluded that the Herbert family take so long to check-in that they are no longer welcome as passengers on any flight. Even the advent of on-line check-in has failed to speed the progress through the airport of Michael and Tina Herbert, together with their children Charlie (15) and Molly (13). Indeed, it is understood that the Herbert family is the reason why EasyJet’s ‘Fast Bag Drop’ counters are now known simply as ‘Bag Drop’.
A spokesman for Heathrow Ltd, owner of five UK airports, described the Herberts as ‘a nightmare’, adding that they frequently exceed the average check-in time by a factor of five. “Everyone else says that they packed their bags themselves and have no prohibited items in their hand luggage; they are on their way, boarding pass in hand, generally within four minutes,” he said. “Not the Herberts. They always seem to be carrying something for someone, or have special dietary requirements to discuss, or sometimes they’re just in the middle of a blazing row and refuse to sit together.”
In one incident, Mrs Herbert forgot her passport for a domestic flight to Glasgow. Having unsuccessfully tried to convince the check-in agent of her ID using the combination of her Tesco clubcard and a picture of her drawn by her son when he was four, Mr Herbert had an idea. His suggestion that the agent could call their home number to establish that it was his wife’s voice on the answering machine has entered into airport folklore.
The Heathrow Ltd spokesman explained that the UK record time for check-in was almost an hour and unsurprisingly involved the Herberts. “The weight of their luggage exceeded the baggage limit by several pounds and Mr Herbert eventually addressed it by unpacking and making everyone in their party don more layers of clothing,” he explained.
However, it is understood that the most serious delay was caused when Mr Herbert, a high-end executive recruitment consultant, was arrested in Nairobi airport in 2008 following a family holiday in Kenya. The Herberts had bought two six-foot spears as souvenirs and calmly carried them up to the check-in desk. After a lengthy discussion regarding the possibility of getting them packed properly and shipped back to the UK separately, Mr Herbert produced a business card, hoping that it would persuade the airline to accept the spears. It is perhaps unfortunate that Mr Herbert’s occupation is described on the card as ‘Head Hunter’.
Mr Herbert, although disappointed at the ban, has vowed to continue travelling and has bought a caravan. “No longer will people in a queue behind us get held up,” he said. “And I’ve also heard that the French Eurotunnel staff are incredibly patient.”