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.
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>