Monday, April 16, 2007

Flying is such fun not

I was planning to write a long post detailing my journey back from Greece, but I ran out of steam before I got round to it. The highlights of the story are as follows: my flight left Athens late due to the late departure of the plane on its outward journey, but we managed to arrive at Heathrow more-or-less on time (and most importantly, without first going round and round in a holding pattern over London, as is sometimes the case). The food on the plane was edible and the crew not too irritating. So far so good.

On arrival at Heathrow, we spent 20 minutes taxing through the airport, because it's impossible to land anywhere near your allocated parking spot - that would be too efficient. Instead you land as far away as possible and then taxi all the way back to where you should have been. We finally arrive at said parking spot to find it occupied by another plane. Once this plane vacated the spot, we still couldn't move, as someone had to come and take away an unidentified object which was on the ground in front of our plane, apparently preventing us from moving the final 40-50 feet. Grrrr.

Patience, as we all know, is a virtue. Sadly it's a virtue I don't possess. Especially after a cramped 3+ hour flight, when I'm still fastened onto my seat while merrily rolling round Heathrow airport. To add to our frustration, the purser made an announcement informing us that he "could hear mobile phones being turned on and could we put them away immediately as the engines were still on". Tsk tsk tsk. Don't people know about the silent mode?

Once the object was removed from the ground, we rolled forward just a little, docked, the doors were turned to manual & cross-checked, and we were finally let out to find our way to the allocated arrivals area at the other side of the airport (possibly the same side we originally landed at). I walked as fast as I could and it still took me a good 20 minutes to reach the baggage reclaim area (by comparison, when I arrived in Athens it took me 15 minutes to leave the plane, go through passport control, pick up my luggage and find a cafe to sit and have a drink). This however is Heathrow, and fifteen minutes will get you nowhere. Still, as it was now almost an hour since we'd landed, I figured our luggage would already be going round the carousel, but no such luck. There wasn't even a reclaim belt allocated to our flight, so we patiently waited under the "Which Reclaim" boards, along with scores of other hapless passengers who looked equally jaded.

To cut a long and arduous story shorter, by the time I picked up my luggage another 20 minutes or so later, and once more walked through the airport to the Heathrow Express platform, I'd narrowly missed one train and realised that Heathrow Express were operating a half-hourly service that day. They apologised "for any inconvenience caused" but what good was that to me, when I had to wait 27 minutes before I could board another train? Not to mention it was almost 11 PM by that time (or 1 AM in Greek time), I'd been in transit for 7.5 hours and I was getting tired, thirsty and increasingly fed up.

So. I was going to tell you all this (in even more detail) because it pisses me off that it takes me some 3+ hours to fly back from Greece and another 3+ hours to get from the airport to my home in London, and I wanted to vent. Then I heard about a couple who returned from honeymoon that same day and were stuck on their plane for an hour after it landed, as there were no steps available (been there, got the T-shirt, and totally sympathise with their predicament). To add insult to injury, they had to wait 45 minutes for their baggage to appear, and when it did, it came through on two carousels at opposite sides of the terminal. At least I was only returning from a fortnight's holiday & only had one piece of luggage.

You've got to love Heathrow.


Shionge said...

Hiya Tinsie....thank you for visiting my blog I truly appreciate it and do come by again.

Yes I can imagine your frustration coz just when you just want to hit home straight to relax after a holiday.

I love London and been there about four times including Wales & many parts of England esp. Birmingham coz my penpal stayed there :D

Lots to share and I will be here again :D

Tinsie said...

Welcome, Shionge!
Glad to hear the troublesome tooth's taken care of ;-)

Karen said...

Tinsie--Have one miserable Heathrow experience under my belt, and I feel for you. I do love London, and would stand in a cue for another eight hours if it meant I got to visit.

BTW--only one GOD. Chocolate is the food of the gods (little god). :-)


Tinsie said...

Hi Karen,
I have miserable experiences at Heathrow practically every time I travel, which is up to 20 times a year. This latest trip was one of the worst, but I've had several others that come close.
Re God/gods: You're right, although I could be a polytheist ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Tinsie,

I am glad we saw each other in Athens just before the beginning of your dramatic experience on your flight back. On good times you have said that it took you three hours or less door-to-door from your house to visit friends in Germany. Now it was time to see the other side of . . . flights.

This was one more memorable story added to your HUGE Book of Traveling Experiences.

Keep in touch,


Tinsie said...

See, I have a theory about this: I reckon BA has a pecking order for flights - the higher a destination is in the pecking order, the smoother the flight. I reckon the pecking order goes something like this: Cologne - very high, Oslo - pretty low, Munich - a little lower, Athens - rock bottom.
I wouldn't mind so much if it wasn't practically every flight to or from Athens that is disrupted. But it's getting a bit boring now as it's always the same story on the return leg. I suspect they have a procedure for it: Land plane at wrong side of airport - taxi to stand - make announcement that stand is occupied - wait for stand to become available - wait some more while object is removed from ground or steps are found - once sufficient time has ellapsed to ensure passengers are thoroughly fed up, open doors and grin inanely thanking them for their custom as they leave.
If they don't have a procedure for it, they ought to set one up before flight crews start messing it up by letting passengers out too soon :-p

Marie said...

Atlanta airport: two hours between landing and finally getting my luggage. The huge frustration there is that after you land and pick up your luggage the first time, you have to re-check your bag and go through the whole security process again (shoes off, liquids in a bag, x-ray etc) just to get the shuttle train to the other terminal. Madness. And then there's the joy of American customes people asking whether you have ever met an arab etc.

Tinsie said...

Hi Marie & welcome!
The double security check in Atlanta sounds just like Orlando - I was pretty pissed off playing silly buggers with the X-ray machines, and to think that was before 9/11 so there was no taking shoes off, no restrictions on liquids and no interrogation at customs!
Not sure I'd want to fly to the US these days TBH. Flying within the EU is stressful enough...

Kathy said...

That's a shame that your holidays ended on a sour note but keep in mind the great time you had and think that it is worth all the aggravation:-)
I'm surprised that the Greek passengers weren't gathered in from of the door the whole time or lighting cigarettes.
By the way, you took the sun with you when you left!!!!I can't believe it has been hotter in London that in Athens.It was 16 degrees yesterday.

Tinsie said...

Hehehe it looks like I brought it with me to London, it's been lovely since I got back :-)

I don't mind a bit of disruption while travelling, but that same scenario plays *every time* I travel back from Athens on BA, and it's getting a bit tiring now.