Monday, May 14, 2007

Only an 8 hour delay ?

Police were involved in a "calm down, calm down" operation at Newcastle airport yesterday as a flight to Sharm el-Sheikh was delayed for eight hours.

Eight hours ?

Pah ! Thats nothing.

An uncle and aunt of mine (my aunt in a wheelchair at the time) were delayed for 25 hours at Leeds/Bradford airport once, and the plane tried to take off three times and aborted each one - thats what I call being messed about by an airline.

I was once delayed for six hours but in contrast to the het-up Geordie customers at Newcastle the collection of Brits flying back from Barbados with me were calm and collected throughout - it may have helped that we were all reluctantly returning home from a holiday (well they were, I'd been working) on the most laid-back of all carribean islands, but I believe that it was due to the airport announcer keeping us all up to date with the problem - a little too much up to date sometimes.

It started as we were ready to board, a nice disembodied bajun voice appeared on the airport tannoy to advise us that the BA flight would be delayed "for a while" as when the 747 had landed "a small piece of one of the engines had fallen off".

Its just what you need to hear when you're preparing yourself for an eight hour overnight flight home.

For the next six hours we were regaled with his laid-back patois and informed that it was part of a cowl that had fallen off, twenty minutes later he informed us that a truck had been dispatched on to the runway to find the disgarded part followed some time later by the joyous news that they'd found the cowl and were returning it to the aircraft.

A half an hour later we were given the bad news that the cowl was distorted now and was interfering with the reverse thrust mechanism, but they were working on the problem and would we all like a free sandwich and coffeee ?

The hours flew by as 300 of us sat on hard plastic seats waiting agog for the next announcement, munching on our free sandwich which looked like someones mum had gone home with twenty loaves of bread and some potted meat to make them for us.

Eventually the nice announcer made a call for a British Airways technician who they'd noticed was booked on the flight and would now have to work his passage home, and then finally at midnight we were advised that we could now board as the cowling had been "reformed" and "should work" now, whoever the invisible announcer was was worth his weight in gold that night as we laughed our relaxed way onto the plane with one engine held together with bits of string and a prayer.

I was lucky, I'd been upgraded for the first and only time in my life to Club Class and as I reclined my seat fully and paid special attention to the stewards invitation to "raid the fridge" as and when I desired through the night for beer, ice cream and chocolate (I stayed awake all night just to try and empty the glass fronted fridge, and almost managed it), I found that my seated partner across the aisle was none other than the BA engineer who had helped to fix the engine - he was covered in oil and sweat and his intervation had earned him an upgrade too.

I rather stupidly asked him if the engine was really fixed or whether we'd be flying home on just three, I know he wanted to tell me to fook right off at that moment but instead he smiled ironically and told me that he wouldn't be sitting there if that was the case.

He changed his tune in the morning though, as I sat there in my window seat surrounded by a huge mound of chocolate wrappers and crushed beer cans I glance out of the window at the repaired engine as we descended into Gatwick, then glanced over at him to see him making the sign of the cross and grinning nervously, "tell me if the reverse thrust works ok will you" he asked before running to the toilet and soiling himself.

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