The following article was written over three days in the departures hall, past security in departures and back at my parents.
The British love the weather, especially when we get a chance to complain about it. And in fairness to us Brits we do actually get ‘weather’.
By this I mean a variation – snow, rain, wind, sun – and that’s just one Thursday in October.
But the fun, friendly ribbing we give the weather falls completely by the wayside when it turns nasty.
When, after a week away on the DAY you’re due to fly home you wake up in the morning to the worst snowfall in 30 years.
When you wake up, get dressed, get the cases ready to go, and leave the house to 10cm of snow – I sank in the stuff.
We complain about the rain – flooding, damage etc. We complain about the heat – burning, sunstroke etc.
But the one thing that makes the British wake up and complain the most is the white stuff that causes a whole national transportation system to roll over and scream ‘leave me alone, I’m going back to bed’.
Snow is a curse to the British – anyone planning to go anyway on a day that heavy snowfall is predicted would stand a better chance of recontruction a scale model of the Eiffel Tower out of mechano – unless James May beat you to it.
And that brings us on to the night in the Departures Hall – boarding passes in hand but unable to go through security or check baggage.
We got to Gatwick Airport on 6 January for our flight to England at 10am – it was touch and go whether we would make it or not in the first place.
We couldn’t get a large cab out that would take us all the way to the airport so we needed to a smaller one, and my dad to take us to the train station;
This wouldn’t normally be an issue but when you’re treking out in 10cm of snow it becomes a little bit more difficult.
When we finally get to the airports South Terminal we need to make our way to the North Terminal with five bags, a pushchair and three kids by shuttle bus.
Then we find out our flights been cancelled – the queuing begins.
I got my wife, the kids and the bags all sorted on one of the VERY few seats left and went up stairs to wait inline at the British Airways ticket desk to change our flight for hte next available one.
That, unfortunately wasn’t until the next morning at 8.30am but I didn’t find that out until I’d been standing in a line for 7 and a half hours.
That wasn’t a mistype – I said to my wife “I’ll go and queue up and should be back in a couple of hours” thinking I was exaggerating - I wasn’t.
I waited in that line for just over seven and a half hours – and that was just to re-book my cancelled flight for one the next morning.
A night, a horrible night in the airport later and we finally get through to departures at 7.00 only to find further delays.
I have a feeling this was caused in part by backlogs from a day without any planes leaving, in part because there is still heavy snow on the ground and in a very big part because Jersey Airport was closed until 9am.
And those damn safety announcements – it is 10pm, there are hardly any people travelling tonight and hundreds sleeping in the airport.
Yet they still feel the need to put out LOUD safety announcements about the excalators every ten minutes.
They give you just enough time to start drifting off and then a mans voice booms over the tannoy about not taking suitcases up the bloody escalator.
With every flight we booked on to being cancelled and only able to get on the waiting list for the final flight likely to leave for Jersey – we decided go back to my parents.
Not wanting to face yet another night at Gatwick airport we braved the snow and got a train back to St Albans.
Then there was the hunt for a big enough Taxi prepared to take us all and to take on the heavy snow.
Still, you don’t realise how wonderful a comfortable bed is until you get to lie down in it and fall asleep.
The one thing I will say – despite all the queueing, announcements and delays – all credit to BA staff for being considerate, smiling and unbelievably helpful.
And just one final rant – couldn’t Gatwick at least get ONE of the five wifi providers to make it free for the day where hundreds were trapped overnight?
And, isn’t it about time airports started increasing the number of plug sockets? I’m sat on a freezing cold floor writing this plugged into a slightly dodgy looking socket in a pillar with another person.
EVERY available socket is now full in the North Terminal – how about offering a row of them under seats or something?
In fact here’s an idea – how about a geek zone – I’ll pay you £5 an hour to give me a comfortable seating area, a couple of plug sockets (who only has one device to charge up) and high speed wifi.
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