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.