Wednesday, 14 May 2008

fly, baby, fly

Spain on business and a mini phone movie of my return trip. It was a way to deflect the rather excessive problems within the airport. I arrived and yippee, the line for BA was empty. I was eticketed and fed my executive club card into one of the machines. Nada. "Please go to the checkin", it said.

So I did. "BA blah", I explained. "Euw", they replied (in Spanish), "you can't do that here, its codeshare with them over there". They pointed to a very long and irregular line of people.

"OK", I groaned. But I was in my zen-like "airport mode" where nothing that anyone does can affect me.

I join the new big line and stem the undercutting Swedes who are trying to invent a way to bypass those of us who are good mannered. The Americans at the front of the line have two huge items of luggage and the longest story possible to explain why they think they should take it onto the plane intead of having it tagged. After ten minutes, they get processed and the line moves forward.

Strangely, none of the other lines seem to be moving and then ours also stops.

I cast my eye along and guess that there has been a computer failure, based upon the level of inactivity from all of the checkin staff between rows 8 and 52. I can't see around into the next zone and start wondering if my card would work in that Spanish machine with all the cartoon pictures. We wait 20 more minutes without moving and the line starts to evaporate away as people try their own plan Bs. I take a phone conference call which I'd originally planned to take from airside.

After my meeting there's an announcement "The computer systems are broken", it explains in crackly Spanish. It sounds as if the PA system is also in need of attention.

I spot that the counter staff have started typing again and, sure enough, we are ready to move forward. Finally, front of line I get ticketed and my bag checked and then the lady tears my luggage tag in half. "You havn't paid", she says, "Yes I have", I protest rather feebly knowing I'm about to be sent to another line.

I use eye contact to say that I want to come back to the front of the line after I've been processed elsewhere and she agrees. Now for the cashier part. I've had this happen before when flights get changed and the excess gets paid but one airline doesn't pay another airline in time. I know I have to pay and then let the accountants sort it out afterwards. Now with etickets its much harder to to prove everything.

Another counter. Kerching.

Amex extraction and I'm ready to get my bag checked.

Back to the line. Straight to the front. Smile to the lady. She stops the other checking-in and immediately tags my bag. Now I can go to departures.

I won't explain the fun they had with gate changes, or the delayed aircrew.

Suffice to say we took off 40 minutes late and arrived 30 minutes late but my bag was first off the plane.

Instead, heres me taking off from cloudy Barcelona and ...

Here's me landing at green and pleasant Heathrow accompanied by the Portishead inspired Jazz fusion playing from the plane's speaker system...

I quite like that landing video. If you look carefully (in fullscreen mode) you can see a police roadblock (clockwise) as we flew over the M25. That explains the absence of traffic. The jolt was real when we hit the tarmac and the cameraphone jumped forward.

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