Monday Travel – Disaster strikes again

Who doesn’t love getting up on a Monday morning after a lovely weekend? And how about getting up extra early, so that you could catch the first flight out? Yep, the stuff dreams are made off. Especially if we are talking work trip, not heading to some remote dream island for a week by the sea.

I generally don’t mind getting up early and since I always ‘lose’ an hour heading to mainland Europe, I am used to going for the first available flight out. But getting up on a Monday morning is just that little bit harder than any other day of the week.

So this week’s Monday morning meant catching the 7.05 am British Airways flight from City Airport to Frankfurt for a short notice meeting. And flying back at 5.55 pm the same day. In theory that should give me plenty of time, what could probably go wrong? Well loads as it turned out.

The morning started fairly standard with my alarm going off at 4am and my cab arriving on time at 4.45. I am one to always allow sufficient time to get to the airport. Firstly because I know things can go wrong and I have been stuck in traffic more times than I can count, even this early in the morning. Secondly it allows me time for a coffee and breakfast at the airport, before boarding my flight. And thirdly it really stresses me out if I cut it too fine.

The journey to the airport was without incidents or delays’, getting through security was unusually quick, leaving me loads of time for said breakfast. Call me a cynic, but somehow I always fear the worst if things go just too smooth.

Eventually the gate was announced and I made my way over there (obviously the other side of the airport… it always is).

But just before boarding was meant to commence, we were informed of a ‘slight technical issue with the aircraft’ and that boarding would be delayed by a few minutes. 15 minutes later and nothing happened… eventually a new flight time of 8 am was announced. At this point the first guests started asking if they could transfer to the next available BA flight, due to leave at 8.05, but were told not to worry, our flight would be ready soon, most likely before 8.

Ok, now would be a good time to let my client know that I might be running a tad late.

As the new boarding time of 7.40 came closer, the next announcement was made. They had not yet managed to fix the fault on the aircraft and the flight was delayed until further notice, but they expected an update by 10am latest. We were free to leave the gate and go back to the terminal.

And no, transferring to the next flight at 8.05 wasn’t an option, as boarding was already ongoing. Perfect, well done BA.

OK, this is where the frequent flyer kicked in (or is that the mere survival instinct?). Be quick; get yourself to the customer service desk (is it very sad that I know by heart were that is located, so was able to head there without any delay?). I managed to get there before the big crowd, only a few people ahead of me in the queue.

As I was already told that I couldn’t transfer to the other flight, I used my wait time to call my client, cancel the meeting, re-arrange for later in the week and inform my office that I would be coming in after all. Only reason I was standing at the desk was to find out if needed to cancel the return flight in the afternoon, as I obviously wouldn’t be needing it anymore, but that I had already checked in for.

A rather lengthy queue was forming behind me and eventually airport staff arrived and informed us that our flight was no longer just delayed but cancelled, that no rebooking could take place at the service counter and would we all please leave and get back to the BA counter in the airport entrance hall, if we wanted to refund or rebook our flight. Next available BA flight would be at 2pm, unless we fancy trying our luck with another airline (or airport).

This announcement diminished the queue in seconds, as most people left and exited the airport.

Since I wanted to know what would happen with my return flight, I remained at the desk. About 4 people still ahead of me.

By now it was 7.55. All of a sudden we were told that we might be able to transfer to the other flight after all. But only allegeable gold and silver card holders. This eliminated the last few people ahead of me and I was booked onto the 8.05 flight, given a new boarding pass and asked to quickly make my way to gate 6, as the flight was already fully boarded and ready to go.

OK, off I went. Meanwhile calling my client to inform him of the change, getting the meeting back onto the agenda (I am sure everyone loved me that morning, sorry about this).

At the gate more confusion. There were already people queuing, so naturally I join the queue for group 2 (silver) and waited. Nothing happened. Eventually it turned out, these people were not actually waiting to board, but were on stand by and hadn’t been issued a boarding pass yet. So I was allowed to bypass them and headed straight to the aircraft.

Upon boarding (let’s not forget, we are apparently talking a fully boarded flight ready for take off) I was shocked… the aircraft was barely half full. British Airways had got to be kidding. They were turning customers away, yet the other aircraft would leave like this? What a joke.

Eventually more people were allowed onto the aircraft… needless to say, this flight wouldn’t be taking off on time either. I felt a little sorry for the regular people on this flight, as their plans were now all jumbled up as well, thanks to us late arrivers.

At 8.45 boarding was finally completed, doors were shut and we made our way to the runway.

The guy behind me called his client to inform them about the problems with the flight and to give his new ETA. Oh and to break the news to them that he was the only one actually on the new flight (courtesy of him being a gold member), all his colleagues (none of them frequent flyers) weren’t allowed to transfer. Good fun all around.

As we eventually took off, the captain informed us that due to the now increased passenger numbers, the flight didn’t carry enough catering for us all, but not to worry, we would be issued with a voucher upon arrival, if we didn’t get any breakfast. Oh well this day just kept on giving.

At least the flight time should be quick, no more than one hour with some light tail wind, which would hopefully help a little. Upon take off the estimated arrival time was 10.48, just 15 minutes delay. Hooray.

Half way through the flight, the pilot informed us that we would be landing on the westerly runway in Frankfurt, meaning a longer taxi to our (very remote) stand and landing time was now estimated to be 11.05.

So yes, touch down was 11.05, followed by a 20 minutes taxi to our stand (I am not exaggerating, I did check my watch), 10 minutes to disembark and get onto the bus, 5 minutes drive around the airport. By the time I eventually made it through passport control and out of the secured area, it was 11.50. Well behind our original schedule for sure.

Drive to our meeting was 35 minutes. But let’s look on the bright side. At least we didn’t have to worry about getting stuck in the morning rush hour any more.

Meeting went well (and luckily was a quick one) and we made it back to the airport without any delay or incident.

The flight back was scheduled for 5.55pm. So I made it through security well in time (as the City Airport flights usually start boarding a little earlier, to allow for that lengthy bus ride to the very remote stand).

When going through the gate, I was informed my seat number had changed. No longer row 10, but further in the back of the aircraft. Great. I didn’t quite fancy sitting in the back. But then again, by now all I really wanted was to get home… and ideally on time.

Once on board, it very quickly showed that the flight was far from full, so sitting in the back wasn’t a massive issue and I had the whole row to myself.

With boarding complete (and more or less on time), we were almost ready to go. Just one ‘slight technical issue’ to sort. Ground staff was having difficulties detaching the steps from the aircraft door and until that was sorted, we were unable to get on the way. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.

Eventually they managed and we headed for the runway.

The flight itself was fairly standard, albeit a little rough thanks to some storms. As a safety precaution staff was only serving cold drinks, they decided it was best not to attempt hot drinks, for risk of burns if we hit an air pocket.

A G&T and a quick snooze later we touched down in City Airport. On time.

I shouldn’t moan. It really could have been a lot worse. I did make it over to Frankfurt and back, the overall day wasn’t any longer than originally planned and I did make it to my meeting. Obviously things can go wrong occasionally and I should be glad BA puts safety first and takes a plane out of service if they can’t fix a technical issue on the spot, rather than keeping fingers and toes crossed and hoping for the best (I sincerely hope this is true for all airlines). It was not really the cancellation of the flight that annoyed me that morning. It was (yet again) the lack of communication or organization.

As I fly regularly, I know such things happen and am able to adapt to such changes. But I do always feel sorry for those occasional flyers that have no clue what is going on or what they need to do.

This wasn’t the first time I had a flight from City to Frankfurt cancelled. It had happened before and at that time I was also lucky enough to be rebooked straight onto the next available flight. But then London – Frankfurt is a popular route and there are several flights a day. What if you fly a different route where you only have one or two flights a day? Whole different ball game.

So let’s hope for the best, as on Thursday I will do it all over again. Fingers crossed.

Any travel disasters you’d like to share? Tell me.

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