Untravelling Unravelling With Uncle Stan Sted.

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December 18th 2010
Published: January 9th 2011
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1st Train.1st Train.1st Train.

Not Late, Not Too Full. Good Times!!
Some years ago there was an entertaining movie about a couple of chaps attempting the impossible in which their dual goals were to travel a comparatively short distance during a period of relatively extreme weather conditions in order to achieve self fulfilment at a very special time of the year. Steve Martin & John Candy made the world chuckle as Mother Nature and an unfortunate sequence of circumstances battled to defeat them. Their story is re-told today. Although the cast location & timescale are changed, the modes of transport & eventual happy ending remain the same.

The first stage of our most recent jaunt to the Far East had gone well. A ride from the Cold Place up north in a taxi to a station led us to the next leg involving just one change of train to Stan Sted who looks after the Planes at Peter Borough.The first train had left on time despite the occurrence of a usual light dusting of snow in wintertime taking Great Britain by surprise once again causing the regular media-hyped chaos which is really no more newsworthy than a Sale ending at DFS. The next phase meant alighting at Peter Borough, the Guardian
Snow WhiteSnow WhiteSnow White

Nothing But Trouble, That Girl.
Of The Connecting Train to facilitate the last leg to the airport. This was smoothly achieved with half an hour to spare which would have technically left us with a comfortable three hour buffer zone at the plane place allowing plenty of time to check in. From this point on things started to go rather tits up.

The scheduled local service had been cancelled meaning a further 60 minute wait for Peter to get the next one to us. After a brief debate we headed across the road to a pub for some refreshment as sitting on a station platform wearing our summer clobber in minus 3 degrees of centigrade's was becoming somewhat chilly. On our return, Peters display boards told us that the next train was subject to a further 55 minute delay. This turned out to be 75. Time was now becoming an issue leaving our intrepid travellers with less than an hour to play with on arrival at Stans' place. Meanwhile Heathrow and Gatwick had closed in the morning, Luton around lunchtime and it was now past 6 o'clock. We had 75 miles still to go & the snowy stuff was now

Helped Us Out At Stan Steds Place. Cheers Buddy, Hope You Made It Back Safe!!
closing in on Stan. The 3:15 train turned up at 6:30, t consisted of two carriages instead of four with three train loads of passengers crammed inside. Using our oversized luggage as battering rams we squeezed ourselves aboard and kept fingers crossed in the hope that nothing more could go wrong.

27 miles short of our destination the guard announced that "Due to the late running of this service, this train will now be terminating at Cambridge - We apologise for any inconvenience. . . . ." Didn't really hear the rest over the roars of anger of our fellow passengers, mostly with suitcases & tickets to travel to Stan. The railway people couldn't give a tinkers cuss, chucked us off a fair distance from our destination and ran away. Its not right that the Stansted Express drops you 27 miles from where it should. Does the Gatwick Express take you as far as Croydon & tell you to walk the rest? I think not . . . Outside the station at Cambridge the snow was falling fast, laying around 6 inches deep. Our gang hooked up with a fellow lost soul also was
I Predict A Riot!I Predict A Riot!I Predict A Riot!

All Dressed Down With Someplace To Go.
booked on the same flight & decided our best chance would be to hijack a taxi. It was now 7:30pm. Stan had told us to check in by 8 but as the flight wasn't 'till 10 we figured that as long as we got there by nine o'clock when the check in closed, we still had a fighting chance of getting away. We jostled along the snaking line of folk at the taxi rank along with others with the same idea. we checked Stans' website hoping that the departure time would be delayed. Although most flights were advised to CONTACT AIRLINE, ours was still scheduled for 22:00. Bummer.

Fifteen minutes later a cab was scored. John The Taxi didn't hold out much hope for us even getting there that night but was compassionate enough to give it his best shot. The roads out of town were shite, local gritters had seemingly had the day off or not been able to get out because of the weather. By 8.45 we were 21 miles short of the airport, stationary on the M11 motorway with a sea of immobile red tail lights ahead as far as the eye
Hit & Run.Hit & Run.Hit & Run.

I Think The Idea Is To Chuck Some Bullshit At Them Then Bugger Off To A Nice Warm Bed For The Night. This Lot Were Pretty Poor.
could see. Every now & then a vehicle or two came towards us the wrong way down the hard shoulder. This was proper blocked.

Next plan was to phone the airline figuring that the website may not be quite right. Explained our plight, asked that as the airport was inaccessible by either road or rail whether the weather might work in our favour, if there was any possibility our bums could get those seats. As we started slowly moving again the voice at the other end spoke with some authority but more than likely just reading a script from a screen told us that the check in would close one hour before departure. The time now being 8:56. It took an hour to bravely cover the remaining 15 miles, bundling out of John the Taxis' car at spot on ten. The departure board for our Kuala Lumpur flight read CLOSED. Its kinda hard to overcome the stress felt in a situation such as this. My lot had worked right through the year in order to save up a years worth of their holiday time for the One Big One, forty nine weeks flat out to
The Longest DayThe Longest DayThe Longest Day

NOT, As Is Commonly Believed June 21st. In Our Case December 18th 2010 lasted For 52 hours.
earn a months adventure away over Christmas. Months of planning, excitement, suffering and financial outlay rapidly gushing down the U-Bend.

This is the point in the blog where it ceases to have very little to do with travel but read on if you have the stamina. Often travel can involve spending a whole chunk of time not actually getting any further than bringing you a bit closer to bus pass age. Here follows a fine example.

Our companion from teh taxi queue Stephanie, legged it to try & get more info from a proper person while we guarded the bags & took in the scene of a sea of bodies strewn across the terminal. No flights had left all afternoon as it turned out - ours included. We found a helpful lady who worked for Stan. She said it may be possible to get us on as our inbound flight had been diverted to Birmingham & was still up there so consequently as it hadn't actually arrived, we should be able to board eventually. At this point the major inconvenience seemed to be that the luggage people were no longer
2nd Night.2nd Night.2nd Night.

We're Not Celebrities - Get Us Out Of Here!!
there so it would mean travelling with hand baggage only. The option being to leave our surplus kit at Stans Left Luggage and survive on what we could carry. We could deal with that. They told us that we could check in but to expect a further delay because our plane was due to be de-iced in Birmingham in the following couple of hours & we would be on our way by 3am that night. We were the happiest people in the terminal at that point, at least we could unpack some extra clothes & bed down on the granite floor for a while, most others had checked their bags in & were left with nothing more than T-shirts & sandals. Life tends to throw these curved balls from time to time. With enough practice, its possible to catch them. Result!!

More folk were turning up as the night went on with horror stories of their journeys thus far, it started to look something like a refugee camp. We were told around 2am that Birmingham had been having problems moving aircraft & due to some kind of working hour constraints, the crew now had to
& About Time Too!& About Time Too!& About Time Too!

Always Remember To Read The Safety Card, Put Your Fone In Flight Mode & Keep Your Seatbelt On At All Times While Seated.
take a thirteen hour break. Despite the fact they'd spent the day sitting on their arses they were now out of working hours. The airline however were confident that a replacement crew could be sourced BUT worse case scenario, we would be boarded at 4pm the following afternoon. Silver lining there being if that was the case, our bags could come with us as the baggage handlers would be able to process our luggage later in the morning. Nests were prepared & we slept as best we could on plastic seats or whatever cold flat surfaces were available.

The night rolled into Sunday, which was a long and dreary day. Light at the end of the tunnel at lunchtime came when check in was re-opened to get the remaining waifs & strays into the system & at 3pm - true to their word - we were called through the security checks to departures. Then onto a little train across the airport to the actual gate. Something of a party atmosphere carried on for quite some time with the Happy 300 overjoyed at the prospect of finally getting away. The jubilation's crashed around 5 o'clock when one of the more militant members of the Clan discovered that our plane wasn't - as we'd been told - round the corner being de-iced - It was in fact still in Birmingham waiting to be refuelled. There was much shouting and arm waving. The airline staff ran away again, leaving a a crowd of tired and befuddled potential passengers to steep in anger.

They went for good this time. Around eleven pm on the Sunday, after being delayed, lied to & imprisoned for 25 hours in a glass walled annexe, with no facilities, nowhere to eat or drink and no way of escape, one of the rebellious element picked up a payphone dialled 999 & reported a Hostage Situation to the Police. We cut off from Society along with 300 people abandoned with no food or water, no means to access the real world or any plausible information for over 24 hours. For a while nothing happened. Half an hour later with desperate times calling for desperate measures, a member of our more immediate group took drastic steps to achieve a reaction. He lit a cigarette in a clearly marked No Smoking area. A number of others did the same. We were obviously being observed as this had the desired effect, within two minutes a couple of minions appeared accompanied by a pair of cops with guns demanding that the fags be extinguished. We were happy to do that as soon as we were told what was going on, again - nothing was communicated. This Mexican standoff went on for a few minutes as the undermanagers had no real idea themselves as to what they were supposed to say. We were offered refreshment vouchers to the tune of £25 per person but then had to wait to be bussed back to the departure lounge as our brightly lit glass walled cell in which we'd been incarcerated since the afternoon had no shops.

Another comical cock-up ensued. Being gone midnight by the time we got to the shops, the date had changed. Our vouchers were dated Dec 19th as it was now the 20th hence the meal tickets were invalid. It was another hour before we were returned to the remainder of our party at the gate on another bus. Apologies were issued along with another promise that our aircraft - in Birmingham - had a crew, had been de-iced, was waiting to be refuelled and would be at the gate in less than two hours. They shuffled off again to get some fresh vouchers. (Almost) true to their word, 3 hours later a big shiny red and white A340 Airbus proudly rolled up outside our big window. Ten minutes later the staff returned with smiling faces & fistfuls of refreshment tokens which, we were assured, we could spend on the plane. Stressed out, unbelievably tired but with a feeling of relief we filed on, found our seats and settled for the forthcoming 14 hour non stop trip to Kuala Lumpur. At 4:30 am, 31 hours late, we were heading down the runway. Once up to cruising altitude the trolley dollys did the rounds asking if we required any refreshments. We ordered some beers, sandwiches, crisps and chocolate, handing over some vouchers in payment. Sorry sir these are only valid at the terminal, but you can use them at the other end We landed 02:30 local time on the 21st. After being spat on. shat upon and the piss being taken from each and every one of us, the vouchers were out of date! We decided to keep hold of the £75 worth of pieces of paper to use as emergency bog roll.

The £220 a night suite at Kuala Lumpur had already been paid for for three nights. We arrived at 4am on the third night and had to check out at 10am so had paid £660 for six hours and a breakfast. Traders is nice but not worth that much. Exceptional weather conditions were initially to blame & thousands of others were affected that day but the bullshit we received was from Air Asia was alarmingly amateur. A word from the wise. Low cost airlines often turn out to be high stress trips. Spend a little extra, live a little longer, smile a little more.


10th January 2011
& About Time Too!

It's good to know that Mister Munkey reads the safety information!
10th January 2011

Someone once said they never understood the words "terminal illness" until they'd been to Heathrow airport. Sounds to me like Stansted is the new Heathrow. The horror, the horror. Nice entry.

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