British Airways and the pig toilets

That Danish trip again (see also)..this is a long, long one.  These flight stories are going to sound made up, I’m sure but it’s all true (well apart from officials’ swearing).

Travelled from seaside town to Copenhagen airport with the lovely Cornish Debbie I’d met at the conference. We laughed our socks off remembering pig toilets in India in the 1980’s.  She left me at the BA check in as she wasn’t flying back for several hours.  

The queue was enormous, but eventually it was my turn. “Would you like to catch a later flight and receive £125 for the inconvenience?”, the BA geezer asked me.  “Nah, sorry mate, I’ve got childcare commitments kicking in around 6pm, gotta get back.” “Well that’s a shame because there aren’t any seats left”, he replied. I won’t bore you with the full details of my disbelief, but after a little bit of a scene, he suggested I go and wait at the gate, on the off chance.  He gave me a non-boarding pass.

At the gate, BA Robertson matey looked at my pass and told me to wait outside the room where all the boarding passengers were happily waiting.  There were two other people outside the room; a Swedish woman (Britt) in tears, and a British guy with an enormous tuba, or something like that, in a black case. Britt was sobbing; she’d been bumped. The tuba guy had voluntarily swapped flights.

More passengers turned up with their boarding passes, and walked past us like we were criminals.  “Hey, we’re passengers too, just like you”, I wanted to shout. Rage swelled. Britt decided to try the beauty combined with tears card with BA Rob. “Fuck off”, he said.  We decided to try an offensive with all three of us (and the tuba).  “Fuck off the lot of you”, he replied. “There ain’t no room for you on this flight”.

As departure time drew nearer and passengers had boarded the plane, I rang Richy Rich to explain that I wouldn’t be back in time to look after the kidlets from 6pm. Richy Rich ranted, then offered some useful advice; “Tell em you want to be upgraded to first class, you want evidence to prove you have a seat on the next flight, and you want to wait in the first class lounge.”

After more raging (me), tears (Britt) and calm reasoning (tuba), BA Rob became a bit more human, almost apologised and agreed to our requests for the first class stuff.  He promised we’d be on the 7pm flight and walked us back through the terminal to the first class lounge.

Once in there, surrounded by platters of cold foods – cheese, ham, bread, pickles – and a free bar, we settled down and spent the afternoon sharing stories. The most memorable was that Britt had worked in a dog sanctuary in India (???) and had paid thousands to fly a dog back to Sweden to live with her in her apartment.

After a couple of hours, a BA official came and gave each of us an envelope with a BA plastic card in it. “Sign here”, she ordered before handing them over. We all signed obediently, not reading the small print that said that we had no right to any further compensation for being bumped. Poor old Tuba got £125 for voluntary bumping, while Britt and I got £250 –  all on a plastic card.

Around 7pm, another BA Rob came to escort us across the terminal to the gate again. On the way, we saw this guy leg it past us, back towards the terminal.  At the gate, we giggled about groundhog day and were waved through to our first class seats, past a very bemused Cornish Debbie who was queuing to board. Settling down in the lovely, spacious, comfy armchair seats, me and my new chums reflected on how it hadn’t been quite as awful as we’d thought.

Ha ha ha!!!

As we sat there, I noticed the captain standing in the entrance bit with the cabin crew, all looking agitated.  The plane filled up but still, there was  a lot of remonstrating. Cripes, I thought, sitting in first class does have some disadvantages. I don’t really want to see the captain and crew bickering before take off.

“Well he got halfway down the plane to his seat”, the hostessy woman was saying. “Did he actually sit down?”, asked a clearly irritated captain. “I didn’t see, but we’ve checked that area and can’t see anything”.  Boy oh boy.  More conflab then an announcement was made over the tannoy. The man we’d seen legging it back to the terminal had boarded the plane, then muttered about losing his laptop and legged it off.  Erhem. I ain’t making this up.  All those layers of security to get on the effing plane, and they let someone just leg it off. We all had to get off the plane while it was searched, and (I hope) his luggage removed.  “I.DON’T.FUCKING.BELIEVE.THIS.” said Tuba.

Back at the now very familiar gate, we stood around for nearly two hours catching up with Cornish Debbie.  The flight back was a bit tense with lots of crying children, all a bit spooked. At this stage, I hadn’t started my finger tip searches (see also), so just sat quietly worrying all the way back to Heathrow.

At the luggage collection, I met up with Cornish Debbie for one final goodbye, and waited with Britt and Tuba for our cases.  We waited until all the other passengers had gone, and the cleaners started sweeping round the carousel. Nothing.  Not sure whether to weep or scream we went over to customer services to report our missing luggage. “Are the three of you related?” asked the woman. “It’s beginning to feel like it”, said Tuba.

At the bus stop, I realised my return ticket was in my missing case and I only had £5 and a plastic BA card. By now it was about 12.30am.  When the bus came, I explained to the driver what had happened. He replied “Well you ain’t getting on my bus without buying a ticket”.  ” That was when I started to cry.

Postscript: Richy Rich came to meet me at the bus stop to pay the driver the remaining fare at about 1.15am. Cornish Debbie later said that she saw me at the bus stop when she was on her bus to Cornwall. Couldn’t get shot of me.  Life is a pig toilet sometimes.

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