Tuesday 04:40 Belfast International Airport.
Friday evening I was massively delayed from Gatwick airport. At one point there were discussions about a 2 hour wait for the de-icying truck. That was scrapped when it was decided that with movement, the fuel in the wings would heat the surface. This was all in order to get the “most optimum performance” from the wings on take -off. Which, on reflection is a worthy endeavour.
I made last orders in Carrigfergus on Friday but I had this strange feeling that things were not going to be smooth sailing.
We navigated the return to Belfast from Strabane without encountering the same issues that closed the road in the other direction, in fact two sets of accidents brought the realisation that the journey was far from straightforward. Coming through the mountains the landscape changed to dense fog and then heavy snow. The entire area was, in any other circumstances a beautiful vista but we had a mission and that was not to miss our flight.
In fact, we managed to get through security with ease on arrival at the airport. They have a new machine here where you don’t need to take electronics and/or liquids from bags!! All of which led to us arriving swiftly to the bar whilst we waited for our gate to be declared.
Here’s the thing, I’m used to travelling, I get that the weather is not playing ball at the moment so I expected delays. Not a problem. Our flight was set for 16:55, we were in situ by 14:30.
16:00 we were delayed for an hour. This continued for hour after hour until 10pm when we were cancelled. Nothing from the airline, just a message “sorry you are cancelled”. There are no EasyJet personnel in Belfast International Airport. We were to assemble in the now defunct gate 18 and were marched back to the check-in gates. That was it. No guidance, no help, nothing. Adios.
Luckily the hotel across from the airport was not fully booked and I managed to get a room for the evening. Was I pissed off? Yes. But I started to get a plan in place. I managed to re-book the flight but struggled to get a flight that was sooner than 19:40 the following day. So, work from the airport looked on the cards for the Monday.
Monday brought temperatures of -4 at the airport and by 11am we were kicked out of the hotel and sitting in the arrivals section cafe. I had been online sorting work challenges from 08:30 so by the time we had to decamp, my head was pretty much well in the game. The airport was freezing however, there is not much in Belfast International Airport by way of shops etc. and I guess they must be rationing their heating fuel. We stuck it as much as we could and then decided to go through security so as to be at least a bit warmer.
No chance. We were more than 6 hours early for our rebooked flight and so were told to “return closer to the flight”.
I won’t tell you how the following hour went as I was cold, pissed off, hungry and did I mention cold? Plus, I was still working, I really just wanted somewhere to sit and get on with it. Seriously!!
At 1 minute into the 6 hour rule we went through security and was shortly, in front of laptop. For 4 hours things were fine. We were “scheduled”. However, I was keeping an eye on the flights that were ahed of ours and these were starting to get very delayed. By 19:00 we were again cancelled.
Once again. No help. The Swissport person pointed out that she was not employed by EasyJet and that she had “no information”. She was merely tasked with “telling us about our “next steps””. Which she as it turned out didn’t have. I tried to reschedule my flight but the options were not the same as those that were available for purchase. No, in fact, I was given options for flights on Friday (it was, at this point Monday). So, I had to book a new flight. £89 later and I have a flight for 06:00 on Tuesday. The hotel was booked out completely and now our party needed to break up as they could’t get onto the same flight. They also had to go to a different hotel as their booking was separate to mine. MAN!
The closest airport hotel was full. I hit websites in search of an alternative and found a B&B 2.7 miles from the airport. We set off in our wee group in search of a taxi. I can’t describe how low our spirits were at this point. Our taxi driver wasn’t having a good day and it looked like I was going to be left behind. He must have realised that we were not in a great place and begrudgingly dropped me to my B&B ahead of bringing the others to their hotel in Belfast.
I was blown over by the reception in this place. Also, I had so much space!! The owner could not have been more helpful, his own daughter had experienced the same recently and so he really got where I was coming from. Even, suggesting that we could re-unite our party. Sadly, that wouldn’t have worked because of the booking situation.
I’ve a meeting that I need to get to at 10am this morning, I am really hoping that I don’t take this meeting in the airport.