Flying Out On Foggy Mornings …

5 Nov

Sorry, but I need to rant.

For various reasons, none of which are particularly important for this post, the three of us went to London the previous Sunday. (1st November-4th November). Unfortunately, we plumbed for flying with British Airways, rather than taking the train. Under normal circumstances, travelling from Edinburgh to London on the train takes around 5 hours, so we thought it was a no-brainer (even if we were limited in what baby supplies and suchlike we could bring.)

No such luck.

What we didn’t know, at the time, was that fog was rolling into London. Bad fog. Really bad fog.

(Source)

So we got to Edinburgh right on time – and that was where things started to go wrong. Boarding was delayed for nearly 20 minutes, give or take a few; thankfully, British Airways allowed us to board first, letting us get Eric onto the plane and then sit down before the rest of the passengers started to board. We waited …

… And then the aircraft captain told us about the fog. And that we would have to sit on the ground for at least three hours before take-off.

Now, the fog was bad. I’m not questioning the air traffic controllers when they decided it would be better to wait and see what happened, rather than risk flying to London and then being unable to land. But what stuck in my craw was that we’d been ordered onto the plane and then told to wait. I don’t think so many people would have minded if we’d merely been asked to wait in the terminal, where there was food, drink and entertainments. As it happened, several people demanded to be allowed to leave the plane, one man swearing loudly that he wouldn’t be flying with British Airways again.

To give the stewardesses their due, they were calm, composed and professional throughout the long and bitter wait. There was no food, save for what we’d brought ourselves. Drinks were (eventually) served. But we waited, and waited, growing more cramped at every moment (to add insult to injury, Eric remained awake until just before take-off, which meant we had to either hold him on our laps or supervise him carefully as he crawled) until the pilot finally told us we’d been cleared for departure. By remarkable coincidence, this was just before the three-hour deadline, after which we could (perhaps) claim compensation. The plane took off and the flight proceeded to London – the flight was remarkably smooth, right up until the landing. That was alarmingly bad.

The airport was drenched in fog when we arrived, literally. I could barely see more than ten metres as we made our way off the plane and were driven to the exit, where we picked up the pushchair and made our grateful escape from the airport. And the fog started to lift as we drove towards London, although it was still hanging over the city until Tuesday.

Going on an aeroplane, these days, is a fraught experience. Security is populated by idiots who honestly believe that any liquid over 100ml is a potential threat or that making people take off their shoes ensures safety. (It says a great deal about security in a British airport that the Richmond/Newark TSA, by comparison, were models of professional behaviour.) But it’s a great deal worse when the airline management is so lacking in concern for the people who pay them for the flight that they are prepared to countenance a great deal of unnecessary discomfort for their passengers. Like I said, asking us to wait in the terminal would have gone down much better. They would have known we wouldn’t be taking off on time long before we boarded the plane.

<incoherent furious muttering>

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8 Responses to “Flying Out On Foggy Mornings …”

  1. Duncan Cairncross November 5, 2015 at 10:09 pm #

    Take the train! its much much more comfortable and usually cheaper
    That is one thing I do miss here (NZ) –

    • Mike Strong November 7, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

      As an ex-Railroad Chief Train Dispatcher I agree. I never could understand why someone would take a plane to go to Washington DC from New York instead of AMTRAK. I have to admit though that psgr trains are not a good option in most of the USA (except in certain areas like NYC to Washington), but OTOH we do freight well.

  2. Bob G November 5, 2015 at 10:36 pm #

    Time to spare, go by air.

  3. Dennis the Menace November 5, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    There was an LA Law episode about this very situation. The lawyers sued for injunctive relief and won, thus forcing the airline to return to the gate and disembark the passengers. The judge was not a happy camper with the BS line the airlines gave him. The entire legal proceeding was over in like ten minutes. Swift justice for ya.

  4. David November 5, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

    It may not have been entirely the airlines fault. Buildings are only permitted to have so many people in them for fire/health and safey reasons. The terminal operators may have been asking airlines to move people on the aircraft, so that passengers arriving for later flights could be allowed into the terminal, without breaching those limits. Thus to avoiding having to make passengers wait outside the terminal exposed to the weather.

  5. patdailey November 6, 2015 at 2:36 am #

    The train is much more pleasant that any trip through Heathrough. Worst airport in the world.

    I’ve been to Edinburgh on business. One of my favorite cities. Especially during festival week.

    Par Dailey

    Pat Dailey 970-402-1221

  6. kiantremayne November 8, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    I’ve got the journey from London to Edinburgh coming up in a few days – work trip fortunately, so no children to wrangle. I opted for the train, as I did the last couple of times. Once you factor in airport security and travel time from central London to Heathrow or City airport, flying doesn’t actually save that much time and the train has Wi-Fi and a proper table so I can get some work done in transit, whereas flying is dead time.

    The real problem though is the way airlines treat passengers as inconvenient cargo rather than human beings. Not that commuter trains are any better…

  7. Jamie November 10, 2015 at 1:54 am #

    it was a foggy morning at LHR but BA did get you sorted. My I suggest Virgin Atlantic next time? I was lucky and flew out the next day sans fog.

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