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Published: June 26th 2017
Our flight home today is scheduled to depart from Amman Queen Alia airport at 11:10am. Working backwards we need to ensure the car is returned by 9:00. It is supposed to take one hour from the Dead Sea resort to the airport so call it one and a half hours to be safe! (7:30am) Breakfast – 30 minutes (7:00am) Therefore to account for, showering, dressing and getting our things together, I set the alarm for 6:15am.
Roisin was already awake when the alarm went off, sitting up in bed checking her phone. British Airways had sent an email at half past midnight explaining that as the inbound plane did not land until midnight due to an earlier disruption delaying take off from London Heathrow our flight home would be delayed. As the crew will be taking the aircraft back today, they apparently need a minimum of 10 hours rest and for this reason, our plane would be rescheduled to depart at 2:10pm. This is not good as the delay means we will miss our connection from London to Manchester. Not the end of the world but a minor inconvenience in having to rearrange the domestic shuttle. Our car was parked
at a Manchester long stay car park. At some stage we'd need to also contact them and let them know of the delay. It would have been nice to spend a few more hours in the lap of luxury bur unfortunately we still had to return the hire car to the airport by 9am. For us, we couldn't afford to delay our stay, tempting as it was!
The Queen Alia International airport is South of Amman just off the Desert Highway. From the Dead Sea resort, we remained on 'highway' standard roadways for the entire journey. It was the middle of the rush hour. The traffic was no better or worse than any major city at that time of the morning. However, the pedestrians are of a mind-set that they rule the roadways . The speed limit on the highway can be anything up to 110km/h (75mph) yet this doesn't stop motorists pulling up on the hard shoulder, the passenger alighting and then running across the highway. There is even a 3 foot concrete wall in the central reservation to vault but this doesn't stop your average determined Jordanian. I'm surprised we didn't see more road kill during our trip. Some poor sap in his nighty spread eagled face down in the tarmac because he never ran fast enough across the highway!!
We found our way to the check-in desk without difficulty. There were no more than thirty people in front of us. The couple who had arrived seconds before us in the queue looked like they had just had an argument. He was in his early thirties, had closely cropped red hair and a ruddy complexion which gave him a hostile look. Lifting his small suitcase by the handle and slamming it down on the floor he turned to his female companion and sneered: ‘You ruined my life you and your f**kin' job. I don't know why you're still here'
With that he threw his passport to the ground and stormed off. She was slightly older than him with long hair, tied back, her round face remained expressionless throughout his outburst. She now casually bent down and picked up the discarded passport. Her slightly heavier frame then grabbed both case handles and wheeling them behind her left in the same direction as Mr Angry!! ‘Well at least we're getting some entertainment while we wait!'
I whispered to Roisin.
And wait we did. Another 35minutes passed. We hadn't moved one inch. Officials were moving down the line asking for people's final destination. If your final destination was London, you were directed to an adjacent line. This line was being processed as you would expect in a busy airport. Those that were connecting to another international flight, were told to remain in line. As we were connecting but to an internal domestic flight, the official told us to follow him. He led us to a Royal Jordanian desk who must be agents for British Airways. We waited about another 20 minutes. Phones were ringing, papers were flying around, mobiles bleeping, oh wait that was me and no, I'm not interested in checking if I'm entitled to PPI!!!
After 15 minutes of further mayhem we were handed our original booking papers back and told (or so I think that's what he said) to pick our tickets up from the BA desk. I glanced at Roisin who stared back as she shrugged her shoulders. We were both bemused. It was still not clear what had happened. Had he booked us on to a later flight from London to Manchester? And if so, why hasn't he told us the details? There seems to be a distinct lack of communication.
Turning back to the assistant who had just starting to deal with the next traveller, I shouted, ‘Are we still travelling with British Airways?' ‘No, Royal Jordanian. Plane leaves in 40 minutes. Tickets from BA' ‘What!'
I exclaimed. ‘It would have been nice to have had the choice. And what if we want to continue to fly with British Airways?' ‘Then you need to speak with them. I'm Royal Jordanian'.
And with that he turned and resumed shuffling the papers of another dissatisfied punter!!
Back in the British Airways queue and we were now further away than ever from the check-in desk. With the antics of the past ½ hour, we had lost our place in line.
What seemed like an age, was. Almost four hours had passed since the last paragraph of this blog entry!! The queue had slowly worn down and now only one customer stood between us and check-in. This had been a painfully sluggish process so far. Speaking of slugs, the movement of the queue had been so slow, I doubt our progress up the ranks had been visible to the human eye!!
Next in line. It was a long time coming. Then from what sounded like Nicam stereo surround sound came that monotone drone of the Imam calling everyone to prayer. My immediate reaction was to fix my stare on the desk so tantalisingly close, expecting the staff to down tools and head for the nearest prayer room or mosque. Our luck had begun to change as the BA staff work through the chanting, working relentlessly to process all passengers as quickly as possible (regardless of how long it was taking!)
It had taken so long to process each passenger and find an alternative route, by the time we get to the front our tourist visa was in danger of having expired!
There were people in a lot worse position than us however. During the ‘stand-off' (well, we were standing for all of the time so what would you call it??!) we got talking to a Jordanian who had been standing patiently in front of us. His name was Montaser and he owned a small tour operator business in Amman. He was travelling to Texas via London. He spent almost 40 minutes at the check-in counter whilst the helpful assistant tried to fix him on a direct flight to New York. But that's when it got complicated…!!! This is what had taken the time. Those travellers (and there were plenty of them) who were using London Heathrow as a hub for an onward long haul intercontinental flight.
For an earlier couple flying to Canada they had agreed that the only option was to spend another night in Amman and fly out tomorrow. This extra night was to be at their own expense. Finally after a re-route via Chicago and Albuquerque Montaser turned and clutching his boarding card waved it frantically as if it was the winning Lotto ticket though not before giving me his web site and email address. ‘For when you're next in Jordan, eh? Amajali Tours will take care of you.'
Our trip home was pretty uneventful. The only further (pleasant) surprise came when we passed through security at the transfer gate in Heathrow. Neither Roisin nor I had noticed that our friendly and patient check-in agent, Mohammed, at Amman airport had upgraded our domestic flight to business class. Although there is no business class seats on the short 40 minute flight from London to Manchester, the boarding card is our ticket to the business class lounge…Happy days!! (well for a few hours anyway)
In total our flight was delayed by 3 hours 40 minutes. We checked the British Airways website that put the cause of the delay down to the incoming flight never arriving until midnight and the flight crew had to adhere to a limit on their flying hours with at least 10 hours rest in between.
It had been a long day. Jordan is a wonderful country with fantastically genuine and warm friendly people. It's refreshing to enjoy a holiday in a country so diverse than the UK which remains (in our eyes) unspoilt by religious or political fanatics. We had already agreed before we even arrived back at Amman airport that, at some stage, we will return for a relaxing holiday by the Dead Sea and despite the ordeal of today, nothing has changed our minds.
One thing I have learnt from this experience? Never, ever choose the lowest category hire car again!! Knowing what I know now, the next time I see a Nissan Micra heading toward me, I'll raise my finger, point at it and in my best Nelson Muntz voice yell ‘Ha! Ha!'
Epilogue: Shortly after arriving back from Jordan Roisin and I composed a courteous yet firm letter to British Airways. We received a long reply responding to each of our points. They didn't make excuses for the delay, they held their hands up and were transparent enough to admit on this occasion they got it wrong. Due to the civil aviation law on delayed flights, the length of delay, the reason for the delay and the destination, British Airways looked in to our complaint and agreed that we were entitled to €600 each which has now been paid in to our account. However, this is standard practice throughout the industry and the airlines have to abide by this law. I don't want to sound ungrateful but it would have been nice to have received a few thousand Avios points as a show of good will from BA. This windfall has already been invested as it has more that paid for our next instalment entitled: ‘A quick bolt up the Baltic' on the MSC Sinfonia.
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