Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coming home the fast way

I admit it. I really hate air travel. This was no exception. Our trip from Paris to Ireland West Knock could have been disastrous. It turned out okay, but a story nonetheless.

The time had changed overnight from GMT+1 to GMT. 'Spring ahead - Fall back' is the mnemonic I always use to know which way the clocks change.  Well, Alex's mother had different ideas. Many of which just did not correlate with being on time in the morning. Suffice it to say, we got up at 6, were at breakfast by 7 and on the road by 7:30.

Our nice Vietnamese taxi driver proved to be trial #1. Nice car plenty of room. Drove just fine on the small streets. The highway proved a totally different matter.  One of those that steps on the gas to the floor only to have it come back to almost nil, all in first gear. Lurching, surging, lurching, surging. I don't get seasick but this was something totally different. Then he floored it to pass a car in the far left lane only to cross four lanes and get off at the exit. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!  Well at least he knew a short cut around the traffic and got us to the airport in plenty of time. BUT it was the wrong terminal.

So we got on the airport shuttle train and in no time at all were at the correct terminal. Checked in without a problem. Got through security okay, me with a body check. Rushed through duty free because boarding was soon. Then we sat. First no plane. Then when the plane came, no bus to get us to it - someone had released two buses to go elsewhere. Now this is Paris and no one is terribly interested that there's a plane load of stranded passengers. Almost two hours later - and that's how much time we had between flights to switch planes in Birmingham - we took off. It was a code share with Air France and it was not feeling convivial.

Alex mentioned to the stewardess that we had a connecting flight and it was going to be close. The pilot radioed ahead to let them know we were on our way - three of us. We landed with 10 minutes to spare, BUT even though the plane was on the ground right next to us and our luggage was going straight through, we had to go through customs and immigration as well as security and check-in all over again.

So they sent a runner to expedite us through the airport at Birmingham. It was amazing. We ran out to the exit area, were ushered through immigration - I with a US passport. Then we ran all the way out and back in again, through security and immigration  the other way to the check in gate and boarded our own personal bus which took us to the waiting plane on the tarmac. Meike, at 80 years old, did not like this at all. I was shocked that they held the plane for us. But as the stew explained, there's only one flight a week from Birmingham to Knock so it would have been a long wait. Alex made the reservations. I'll have to check on him next time.

So whereas I was upset with Flybe for being late, I was in the end grateful for their treatment of us. It was the French ground crew that screwed up - the stew there had said laughing, "Oh, you're going to miss that flight." The Flybe crew said, "Don't worry we'll get you home."  Viva la difference. Glad to be home.

PS As we were flying, a huge storm was brewing over England and Northern Europe. It was to be the biggest in decades. We didn't say anything but it was likely that if we did not get out on Sunday, we would not have gotten out for several days. We had quite a rocky flight into Birmingham with cross winds buffeting us roughly, but the landing at Knock was fine into head winds. As we drove home the skies opened up with torrential downpours. We were just in the nick of time.

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