My alarm goes off at 4.15am, three hours before my flight home leaves. The quote adverse weather conditions unquote (honestly never mind nuclear wapens create a snowstorm to get Europe on its knees) cause chaos and I have been told to leave in plenty of time – that combined with a nervous nature make for a stupid o’clock get up.
The taxi drives chuckles when I tell him I am heading to London City Airport, not a good sign, but when I enter the departure/arrival hall it is quiet. Almost too quiet – cue the before noon Western movie music and tumble weed rolling.
At 6am when the check-in opens, two flight have already been cancelled and people are being queued up by destination country rather than actual flight. The self check ins don’t work- but they have forgotten to tell us. Like they have forgotten to tell us about the already 90min delay. It is not the weather that’s irritating – let’s face it we all knew about it before coming here – it is the lack of communication and inefficiency of some staff. Beautiful examples:
- Queue gets split in two so there are clear lines in front of desk 16 and 17, only for a member of staff to stand in front of the queue for desk 16 blocking any movement there and ‘manage’ the people of queue for desk 17 to both desks.
- The security guard who tells the queue to move backward to make some walking space and the customer service attendant who urges the queue forward to get things moving.
Come on England, surely queuing is what you do – for heaven’s sake!
Meanwhile I get a text from my ex who has been stuck in Amsterdam for the last 36 hours – oh the irony- and who had even boarded a plane for three hours only to be told it was cancelled anyway. He is now on his way to London City Airport.
My plane has a 90min delay – plain sailing if you imagine a flight to Milan being shown with Indefinite Delay on screen. My phone rings once again and my ex tells me he has just arrived – we are in the same building and decide to wave at eachother through the glass when we pass. Alas, my flight is boarding and I call him back- voicemail. This is how I will leave London for 2009: so close to the one I once loved, yet so far away.
Then the plane finally takes off and as we burst through the clouds, golden rays of sunshine warm my face through the window of seat 11D and I feel a sudden surge of inexplicable but complete happiness. I know- mid air sitting next to a grumpy stranger who really should rethink his facial hair I was happy; how is that for deep philosophy.
Happily I bounce off the plane, queuing once again for passport control when they just let us pass. Ah, they have given up I think optimistically; I wave my passport to the guy behind the desk who gives me the thumbs up and Iwalk to the luggage belt… when a security guard stops me – not sure whether I speak Dutch he tries in his best Denglish: Lady, you have to leave now. We are all shovelled out; once again without explanation. Somebody says in Dutch they have found a package in the airport – no one explains anything in English. Panic starts when security starts shouting in Dutch at the masses: Move now, you have to leave now! Confusion for the tourists who cannot understand what is going on. People carrying big suitcases just won’t fit through the gap of (Oh!) one door that easily…(If ever anyone wants to do a safety evaluation- call me.)
Outside I find my parents and everyone waits in the snow for instructions. Which are brief and come every 10 min: Move further back ( No joke – for half an hour we are constantly moved back, another 2 meters. Just a little further, well maybe a little more. I hoped there was no timer on this bomb as we would be screwed. I was also worried about my Christmas presents.) Then somebody makes a decision and after a walk following the lady in the illuminating jacket and no idea where we are heading ( My dad complained that the parking meter was still running…) we are all led to an industrial space where they conveniently have placed a temporary cinema as a Christmas novelty. The eight year old boy in front of me got excited: DAD! we are just going to the cinema! It was cute. Not so much after three hours mind…Twice they made an announcement which made people run to the front just to be told to stay put, but the third announcement was the all clear. Hoorah! Survived!
After the ordeal was over, those who were to depart had to queue up again but others could stroll right back in, pick up bags and drive off.
Anti climax? Yes. Absolutely.
But to my dad’s relief at least the parking was free.