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Published: December 31st 2006
Welcome to Heathrow... Friday, December 22-23, 5:15pm
We arrive from Iceland.
The original plan had been to spend the night in London and come back to the airport in the morning for our continuing journey. That was when we were arriving at noon, had our luggage, and outdoor visibility was greater than 2 feet.
From London's Daily Mail newspaper for that day:
It is difficult to explain to anyone visiting these shores how a dose of winter frost and fog can so easily envelop one of the world's leading airports in chaos and calamity, compelling its national airline to wipe off hundreds of flights at a stroke and stranding passengers for hours, maybe days.
For the second day running, these were the horrendous scenes at Heathrow as nearly 200,000 people struggled to get away for Christmas.
The photo on the right captures, effectively, what awaited us in Heathrow. It was on the front page of the same Daily Mail edition quoted above.
In addition, the lovely & seemingly sincere Icelandic snow queen lied to us. But she did it so sweetly, and we were so very edging into travel delirium, that we were oddly stoic about it. The baggage was still in Reykjavik. And it turned out that the next Icelandair flight coming into London was delayed.
Normally, when your baggage does not arrive with you at a destination, you take a deep breath, fill out ridiculous amounts of paperwork that minutely describe your contact information, the address you will be at, and wait three days for them to call you and explain
how they have been trying to deliver your luggage for days
, but can’t find a correct address.
Alas, even that cold certainty of delayed baggage reunion was denied us. We were staying one night in London. And the following day were flying out on a different airline. And much to Scott's ongoing annoyance, there is no communication between airlines. No possibility of having the bags tagged to be passed along to Scandinavian Air (SK) when, and if, they arrived later tonight. Like Mac & PC. No sharing of the lunch table. This was an ongoing frustration for Scott who, every time we encountered an example of this, got enraged all over again. He is cute when he is fruitlessly angry and I am highly sleep deprived. And he really doesn't like it when I make faces behind his back when he is "holding forth."
I'm just sayin', is all.
Thus, There was no walking away from the baggage claim hell that we had descended down to. There was a security checkpoint that you had
to pass after you claimed your bags. Once you went through, there was no coming back in. I lined up at the “customer service” desk in an attempt to figure out what we were to do.
Hi. Our baggage is still in Iceland. And we are only here overnight. Heading out tomorrow on Scandanavian Air. How do you suggest we work this?"
"Next flight coming in is delayed. Might not arrive."
“Um. Yes. I know that. But moving beyond that: if the flight arrives, and if our bags are on it, can we get back in here to claim them?”
“Your bags might not be onboard.”
"Yes. I am aware of that. But I am trying to focus on the positive."
"Really? How's that going for you?"
"Look. Can we get back to my question? If the flight arrives, and if our bags are on it, can we get back in here to claim them?”
“Ah. Would anyone know?”
“Possibly. Lemme check.”
As I stood there, trying desperately not to chew through my tongue, I kept telling myself that Heathrow was chaos. You could barely get to the counter I was standing at without clambering over mountains of abandoned luggage and unclaimed children. Or was that abandoned children and unclaimed luggage? Whichever. Someone needed to come through with a bulldozer and remove both. But while I waited, I amused myself by mentally rearranging some of the duct tape on the luggage so it could be shared with the small cherubs.
And yes, a week later, the cherubs are still screaming, Clarice.
I bet myself I could scream louder. Just as I was about to test this theory, the "customer service" chap returned.
"Yeah. You can get back in."
Cell phones were useless to us at this point. And we had not yet gotten any sort of calling card to use with local payphones.
"Yellow one. Outside checkpoint."
"And you will answer?"
He grinned & nodded. And turned to his next
I walked away knowing that my lack of concrete information was not going to satify "he who interrogates people for a living." I knew I should have gotten more detail. Where outside the checkpoint was the phone? What if no one answered? Did this area have a closing time? A curfew? What happens if they are closed? Oh yes. These were excellent questions. And next time I was definitely going to ask them.
"So, what did you find out?"
"We can get back in if we call on the yellow phone."
We will fast forward a little bit here. Some conversations are private.
Once we left the fourth circle of airport hell, we were transported into the third circle: Terminal One. Our goals were many: connect with an actual Icelandair staff person to get an update on when & if a plane might arrive with our luggage, find what terminal Scandanavian air flies out of (there are four at Heathrow), connect with them about the status of tomorrow's flight, exchange money, get an international phone card, and find a drink.
These activities were all successfully accomplished. In reverse order of how they are listed. We actually had to get more money. We drank the first exchange away. But that
Closing the veil on Heathrow... We ended up getting our bags at midnight, relocated to the correct terminal for Scandinavian Air, found a bench, and joined the ranks of the other airport overnight refugees. The remaining photos capture, somewhat, the bodies that were sprawled everywhere. For a second straight night: no sleep.
At the top left of this page is a video clip. It captures us at the Scandanavian Air counter an hour or so before they opened. Scheduled Departure from London: 8:15am flight to Copenhagen, Denmark
Actual Departure from London: 9:30am flight to Stockholm, Sweden
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