And This Christmas Will Be…: part four

20th December 2010

I called my parents from the back of the taxi, as we weaved our way through the deserted London streets.  As the taxi neared the airport, I saw the highway was closed.  Or at least, I assume that’s why the ramps were blocked.  That was when the seeds of doubt began to grow in my mind.

Then the crowds appeared.  We drove past hotels packed with people standing outside, squished around their suitcases for warmth whilst waiting for buses to bring them to Heathrow.  The drop off area at Terminal one was mobbed with cars, we could barely get near the entrance.  I got my massive amount of luggage ready to go and find my check in area.  If I could even enter the building.

I couldn’t move when I entered the departures floor.  The room was crowded with people; nearly every available inch of space was taken.  It was nearly impossible to figure out where I was supposed to go.  I pushed my way to the board the detailed which check in area was for which airline.  Aer Lingus was number five, as far away as could be.

I squished through people and probably ran over a few feet in the process. People were sleeping on the floor, using foil to keep themselves warm.  It was sheer madness and I realized that I would probably fail epically traveling in third world countries.  Heathrow Terminal one, where the short-haul Europe flights take off, was daunting enough.

I glanced at the departures board.  Most flights read cancelled, but mine didn’t.  Although my hope had dwindled since arriving at the airport, the absence of any qualifier next to my flight allowed me to hold on to the belief that I could be home that afternoon.

So, I stood in the queue for Aer Lingus Flight A32 to Dublin, leaving at 6:45 am.  There were already some people on line, exchange students heading to JFK ultimately.  More and more people began to arrive.  We all were Americans with cancelled flights trying to get to New York.  It was quite the coincidence, actually.  I don’t think any of us were actually supposed to be on that flight.

We waited.  I should probably mention that my phone had run out of money and I wasn’t able to call my parents, or anyone else for that matter.  The minutes ticked by, the airport opened up (that’s right, it was closed when I arrived) and I continued to stand in the same place for nearly two hours.

It was six am and there were no representatives for Aer Lingus at the check-in desk.  Something started to feel quite fishy.  We began to ask the airport represenatives what was going on.  They didn’t know anything.  They were busy dealing with the Lufthansa flights.  They couldn’t get in touch with the company.  Nothing had been said about our flight being cancelled; other passengers were calling the airlines to check.  There was nothing for us to do but wait.  Soon, an announcement about our gate opening up came over the loudspeaker.

But how would we get there?

It was 6:30 and we were all growing visibly nervous.  Finally, at seven, Aer Lingus officials arrived and began checking in anyone who had a ticket for their two allotted flights to take off that morning.  They were only checking in people on A32 and A35, both bound for Dublin.  Pushing my way to the check in desk, I frantically shoved my suitcase and previous carry-on to get checked in.  Since we were going to have to run to make the flight, I knew there was no way my huge black shoulder bag could come on the plane.

Did I mention that my laptop was in there?  Yep, brilliant move.  Did I mention that my suitcase weighed 30 kilos and my carry on 10?  Yep, I was over the weight limit, saved only by my business class ticket and the rush to get everyone checked in.

After getting my boarding pass I did the only thing left to do, bolt to my gate.

to be continued

Have you ever been late for a flight?  Did you make it?

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