Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

A Day for Delays

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With the worst winter weather in years trampling all over England, we flew right into its maw, and paid the price. After getting from Bologna to Gatwick without incident – not even a 10-minute delay – on Tuesday, we stayed overnight in nearby Crawley and Bev got her pub-meal fix. Out taxi arrived about 7:30 a.m., a couple of hours after the snow began falling, and got us to Gatwick without delay. We noted how pretty southern England looks draped in white.

Pretty thoughts ended at the airport. The Virgin holding pen was crammed and jammed and under-manned. We were told the world’s largest/busiest single-runway airport had been closed for hours. Then it was announced that passengers on our 11:20 a.m. Las Vegas flight would be bused to Heathrow and the plane would take off at 1:30. Having given ourselves a four+-hour window when we booked USAir to San Diego, things still looked workable.  After milling and telling and listening to strained jokes for 2 1/2 hours, we were shredded into groups of 40 and marshaled down to minibuses, after we poured our luggage into vans that were supposed to follow us.

Now, mind you, it was snowing, but lightly, and it wasn’t cold. I grew up in northern Canada and my memory still works. The only reason we could surmise for closing down Gatwick was that no one ever ordered snowplows for the complex.

AT 1:30, we were told our 747 had not yet arrived from Las Vegas. So they gave each of us 5-pound vouchers “for the inconvenience” and suggested we all go grab some coffee somewhere. We’d all be checked in but no one was certain what gate would be used. We managed to get double vouchers because Bev and I went separate ways to find the source and each came back with our share. And we sat down with a healer from Australia who was heading to Barbados as the guest of a cancer patient she’s working with.

An airport announcement notified us of what gate to report to, where chunks of the group were picked at random to go through security again. And then they herded us onto buses to head to our airplane, which, we learned when we reached it, had just been emptied and the sanitation crew and security folks still had to sweep it clean. We sat in the buses for an hour.

Fortunately, it wasn’t a full plane so we passengers scrambled aboard in rather short order and, after de-icing the wings, unglitching a minor engine glitch, and standing in line for takeoff, we slid off the snow almost six hours late. Which slammed shut our window to our Las Vegas-San Diego flight. And there were no more USAir flights later in the day. ,

The10-hour flight was actually quite pleasant but our concern about getting home lowered our level of appreciation. After clearing customs and immigration at McCarran, we trolleyed our luggage to Terminal 1 and barreled into a Southwest counter. Explaining our position, the ticket agent said we were too late for the 7:35 flight, which was leaving in 20 minutes, but there was another at 8:55. Magnifico? So we called home and arranged for our pickup. Then we were told that a Reno flight had to use our gate first and our San Diego flight was delayed until 9:50. I fell asleep as soon as I sat down on it and didn’t awaken until the wheels bumped the tarmac at Lindbergh.

We got home at 11:20, about 26 hours after we awakened to head to Gatwick.

It was a grand trip but the return journey made us feel like we’d been riding planes and hanging around airports for the past two months.

San Diego smells fresh and oceany. And I’d forgotten how quiet it is here at home.

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 14, 2010 at 3:23 am

Posted in Britain, Europe, Travel

Tagged with , , , ,

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