British Airways airport horror

This is a horror story that happened to me in Heathrow, my own British Airways airport horror, well, near horror, more of a misdemeanor really.

One would think that after traveling somewhat these last 2 years I would have collated a better swearword vocab but all I can manage now is a mumbled “Fuck…Fuck-fuck-fuck”

Things start to go downhill when we don’t. The plane circles above Bangkok, I’m on the way to Christmas with my family nearby Jakarta, it is already five minutes past our scheduled landing. The two hours I have in Bangkok are slipping through my fingers. When I booked these flights in June my darling travel agent Mel said,

“Two hours is manageable mate, you should be OK, but don’t dawdle”

“Christmas is busy though Mel”

“You can run eh!”

“Yeah but if anything goes wrong future Ben will hate me”

“You should be fine”

“I suppose this is future Ben’s problem!”

I know never to question Mel, or to doubt her expansive knowledge of all things travel. When I ignored her advice about getting a visa early for Carnavale I had to detour to Uruguay for a Brazilian visa and missed three days of Carnavale. Now it turns out that Garuda Airlines do not play well with others. This means that in my two hours in Bangkok I have to exit through immigration, collect my bag, pass customs, go to the desk, check-in, enter through immigration, clear security and find the gate. I know the Suvarnabhumi Airport well-I have passed through it seven times in the last 2 years-they are efficient and quick but still, “Fuck,fuck,fuck” stop circling, land the bloody thing!

My commute to here has been fine. In Denmark I watched an octogenarian women systematically destroy three beers on a train at 11am. I flew over London’s center at night looking down on the big blue eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. While we passed I chatted to a very British man who told me about his friend. Gary’s friend wrote the well known “da, da, na, naah” jingle know it? It is played before advertising breaks on Molly Meldrum’s Countdown, the 80’s music show. Gary’s friend is paid six pounds in royalties every time it plays, this sounds like a piddling amount. However, the jingle plays four times a show and to this day repeat episodes are being aired worldwide, meaning that this little “da, da, na, naah” earns the musician around seventy-thousand pounds annually. I make a mental note to pull out the keyboard in Tassie.

On my flight from London to Bangkok there was an Indian guy seated directly in front of me who drunk gin the whole way, the girl to my right slept for ten hours straight. I watched some Art house movie with cello music and grainy pictures, drunk some wine. Fidgeted. Bear Grylles and Top Gear are listed under factual documentaries, which is debatable.

15:20 – 2 hours 0 mins to next takeoff.

Circling above Bangkok, thinking I will miss the first Christmas with my family in two years, I am as tense as a racehorse. The chief cabin crew manager Sam continually repeats what the captain says except with a lisp,

“Ladies and gentlemen we are in a holding pattern but expect to land soon”

Twenty-second pause

“Laideeth and gentlemen, thith is Tham the chief cabin crew manager ath the captain hath said we are in a holding pattern, we hope you have enjoyed the hothpitality of this Britith Airwayth….”

“I’ll show you hothpitality British Airways”

This annoys me more than it should, the man is just trying to do his job

“Laideeth and Gentlemen, ath Ben hath just thought, I am jutht trying to do my job, I hope…”

“Oh pith off Sam”

I have not slept for about forty-one hours, ‘humour level’ warning lights are blinking red on my dash.

15:50 – 1 hour 30 mins to next takeoff.

“Ladies and gentlemen we have landed within 40mins of our expected landing”

“Ladeeth and gentlemen, thith ith…”

I turn to the man in the aisle seat,

“Finally. Hey mate, just to warn you, when the seatbelt light thinks about going out I am running”

“No worries, good luck catching the next one”

“Cheers man, have a great Christmas”

It is taking an unusually long time to couple the skyway with the plane. I am unable to contain myself anymore so before the seatbelt lights go out I jump out of seat 48E-at the very back-grab my bags and make my way down the aisle. This prompts around four hundred other passengers to follow suit. Forcing my way apologetically down the crowded aisle I annoy everyone

“Sorry, about to miss a connection…excuse me, need to get off first…connection soon, sorry”

Midway, an elderly couple don’t let me through

“We also have a connection”

“Yeah, but I reckon I can run faster than you…excuse me, sorry”

They laugh and wish me good luck, I force a smile, wish them luck as well and push onward.

16:18 -1 hour 2 mins to next takeoff.

The plane doors open releasing a cloud of green, stagnant air into Bangkok’s brown atmosphere along with four hundred passengers. Dodging wheelchairs and prams littering the corridor I bolt. Try if you will, sitting still for eleven hours then sprinting 750 meters, this guarantees crippling cramps. I imagine blood clots being loosened from my calves as I run past relaxed holiday makers. Skidding to a halt at the nearest information desk I slam my itinerary down and gasp,

“Can you get me on this plane?”

While I jitter and twitch, the woman takes my itinerary, slowly taps on her keyboard, strokes her chin and casually asks a colleague something in Thai. My eyes bore into the top of her head as I think,

“Information desks are where airlines park slow employees who they don’t know what to do with, like trolley boys and CEOs”

She looks up then tells me,

“Sorry sir, you need to collect bag, immigration and…” I grab the papers and bolt to the crowded immigration area.

16:25 I run up to a suited lady with 55 minutes to go.

“Flight. Soon. Can you help me get through immigration?”


She leads me to a priority queue with only a small family being processed. Two young children are having a lovely time having their photos taken while Dad chats with the official.

“C’mon, hurry up, what is this?”

Mum looks at me angrily, I hold her gaze. I have morphed into my alter ego ‘Psycho travel man” Do. Not. Hold. Me. Up!

Laconically the immigration man waves me over. He checks my details carefully. Yes, I am still Ben West, was still born in Devonport…this has not changed since I last entered your country. I do not hang about to make the usual kangaroo smalltalk. With a stamp in my passport I run to baggage collections for rucksack time.

16:40 – 40 mins to takeoff. Still not checked in.

While waiting I mentally practice the move to get my bags on quickly. Small black pack on right shoulder, sling Big Red off conveyor onto left shoulder. Big Red on the back, small black becomes a canvas beer belly. Big Red trundles up the belt and into sight. It takes all my willpower not to run up the conveyor, Crocodile Dundee style, to grab it.

Garuda still do not know that I am here, I need to check in. Now loaded with an extra 30 kilograms I trot towards customs. Trusting that I am sweating from running and not a rectum crammed with heroin, the man accepts my declaration form without breaking my stride. This is where I break travel rule number one, I ‘man-down’ and load a nearby trolley. Running, I weave my trolley around groups of tired looking commuters and drunken toddlers to find level 4 and the check-in counter.

Going up the escalators I figure out why luggage trolley wheels have tread. Every trolley has a comb-like tread which slot into the escalator grip pattern to stop mad buggers in a rush trying to push their way up an incline.

16:50 – 30mins to takeoff, I dump Big Red onto the scales and gasp,

“Time enough, do I have?”

I have turned into Yoda

“Why of course sir”

“Great, thought, missed *breath* flight”

“No, you have just made check-in”

“Brilliant, Garuda not allowing remote check-in. I found out in Copenhagen, had to pass immigration, customs and that, phew”

“Why you no use transit check-in sir?”

“I had to get my bag”

“No, they fix for you”

“The information lady told me…”

“She is wrong”

“Oh well I made it”

“By the way your next flight is delayed about half an hour, Christmas time is busy.”

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