Living within a fifteen minute taxi ride to terminal five at Heathrow airport has both spoilt me and lulled me into a false impression that all airports can be traversed in an efficient and timely manner.So when I started to make my arrangements to take an early morning flight to Ancona in Italy from London Stansted airport I think I miscalculated!
Punching in the postcode to the Meet and Greet parking at 3:15 am, I arrived at the postcode dead on 5am only to find no Meet and Greet but rather a security check point for authorised vehicles.
Bugger! Quickly checked my email and followed the instructions back up the road and within five minutes I was sitting in a queue for Meet and Greet. 5:10am. Heart rate increasing, I was counting down to the gate closing at 5:55 am.
Car parked, now where do I drop off the key? Another queue but this time it was moving quite quickly. ‘What row did you park your car?’ Excuse me? I had no idea but as luck would have it, the couple behind me had parked ahead of me in the same row. ‘Row 40 mate’ I said thanks and headed off to the terminal.
Entering the terminal what hit me was just a sea of people moving in all directions and not one of them, a business traveler, i.e. in no rush as heading off on their summer holidays. Heart rate up a few more beats, I searched the board for RyanAir bag drop off. Another queue, this time one that snaked back and forth to give the impression that it wasn’t actually that long!
A young girl who was part of a group of young people heading off on holiday called the boys to hurry up and told me not to push in! I dutifully eased in behind the boys who appeared to have never been to an airport before and were blindly following the girls! Stansted operates an electronic bag weighing and luggage tag system. It worked faultlessly and I then queued up to put my bag on the conveyor belt. As I waved my bag a fond farewell I wondered if we would ever be reconnected with it! Right, let’s get through security. Another long snaking queue with people who don’t know the system. Come on! I’ve got about 12 minutes before my gate closes. Through security and now to the gate. Great, gate 58 at the far end of the terminal and I’ve got to navigate all the shops and these relaxed holidaymakers who presumably have hours to kill before their flights. Heart rate increasing and palms getting clammy!!
I start to run, rucksack on my back, hustling my way through throngs of people, too many with small suitcases, pushchairs and little children!
Down a couple of flights of stairs, no time to help a middle aged lady who’s suitcase handle wouldn’t collapse. Running now at my full speed, muttering to myself that I had been so stupid. Gate numbers increasing, dash past a couple who were arm in arm and I made it: gate 58. The plane was boarding but I was cool! I had managed to get from my car to the gate in under fifty minutes. I laughed to myself, there would be no way in hell that I could have done this with my family in tow!! You know it guys!!
Sitting on the plane I had time to give an abridged version of my story to my wife by text before we pushed back. We agreed that we need to rethink our forthcoming family holiday to Spain which entails another 6:30am flight, this time from London Gatwick.
Four of us with luggage, I have a feeling we’ll be checking into a hotel close by!!