Sunday, January 04, 2004

Barcelona - Heathrow Horror

Monday 29 December was carefully planned - 1030 flight from Terminal 1, so a District then Picadilly tube at 0730 to make Heathrow at 0830. Fine. Except that Heathrow was experiencing a fire alarm and would not let anyone in. 'Soon', which as any child knows means 'we haven't got a clue but hang in there'. Three 'soons' from an African attendant who clearly didn't know any more than we (about 100 by now) knew. So after the fire alarm clearance, the inevitable crush to get in and to the correct check-in area, and waiting in queues, of course we miss the 1030 plane to Barcelona. As must, we reckon, probably 80% of the seats sold. Didn't stop it flying though - possibly it is cheaper to fly anyway and not upset the repositioning and subsequent schedling domino effects, than to actually have paying pax. Only God and BA know.
So we go to (what else?) another queue to re-ticket, and are handed a card after about 1/4 hour waiting and shuffling, with a number to call to re-schedule by phone. But a nice little vignette occurs first.
A short, blond, American, loud female stalks up the queue, partner in tow, hapless BA employee by the buttonhole. Right opposite us, she stops and demands (the loud bit) why she has to queue, and where exactly the ticket office is. So many queues, you see. The BA bloke, polite to a fault but not without a certain smugness, points out the bleeding obvious: that he can show her the ticketing office all right, but then she and silent partner will have to return to the end of the queue anyway. And the queue will have grown. But of course she must see the ticket office. So she does. But with one little concession: she is ferried to the far end of the now much longer queue in a motorised trolley. By the same BA employee, smile more than fractionally wider.
We ring the number and, mirabile dictu, reschedule our flight for 1500 over the phone. So we check in - another queue, naturally, and then Murphy strikes again. Twice. We are (you couldn't make this stuff up) too early to have baggage checked. So we get seats confirmed and troop off to a cafe upstairs. Coffe and snack #1 goes down to applause all round. We get coffee and snack #2 and Murphy intervenes. Another fire alarm. Everyone out. We take ourselves, luggage and snack, but leaving coffee to its fate, outside where (what else) it rains. We have umbrella. And snack, to the obvious envy of some fellow travellers. Well, they didn't get on a tube at 0730 without breakfast, did they. We get back in. Coffee has been cleared away. We invest in coffee #3, and fast-check the luggage as soon as possible. The rest of the afternoon proceeds without incident, although the plane is 50 minutes late because some dimwit passenger checks luggage on but no-shows, necessitating a full unpack and re-pack of the hold. We'd cheerfully contract one of the many sub-machine-gun equipped police in the terminal to deal with the offending chap(ette) except, of course, being no-shows, they aren't there. We take off at 1600 - 5 1/2 hours late compared to schedule. And I have the final encounter with the short loud blonde thing: I use the loo on the plane, and she raps on the loo door to hurry me up! There are only three others, all empty. Where are the armed sky marshalls when you need them?

No comments: