I’m starting the first blog of my 2011 trip to Greece sitting in the plane on the tarmac at Manchester Airport with the prospect of sitting here for 2 hours before we move, trying to suppress memories of the flight home from Rhodes in October last year which was delayed by 10 hours .
Today’s flight, scheduled to leave at 14.50, was called at 14.00. Just before I joined the end of a long queue at Gate 6 an announcement came over the loudspeakers that this was the final call for flight TCX2358 to Kos, all remaining passengers to proceed at once to the gate. Very perplexing as the long queue was stationary when I joined the end of it and remained so.
Then came the rumour rippling down the line that there would be a 2 hour delay. But they decided to load the aircraft anyway. Might as well make us suffer as much as possible.
In a strange way I had been looking forward to seeing how the experience of a 4 hour flight compared with the 9½ hours to and from Calgary. I wondered if 4 hours would seem more bearable after that. It was clear that I would not find out this trip, the 4 hours already being stretched to 6. I guess the experience was even worse for the parents with the howling kids and for those sitting closer to them.
The delay was apparently because of the need to find a slot to land at Kos Airport which for some reason was suffering significant delays, difficult to understand given the comparatively small number of flights into and out of Kos. We were assured by the pilot that the airline staff were trying to reduce the delay and we were therefore pleased when it was further announced after 1½ hours that we were on the move.
And move indeed we did. We moved a couple of hundred yards in fact. We then stopped. Eventually the pilot announced that there was a medical emergency on board and we would have to ‘return to stand’ as quickly as possible. So we whizzed around in a fairly tight circle and went back where we had come from.
Paramedics came on board, the patient was taken off and ambulanced to hospital, apparently suffering with some kind of heart trouble. Then they had to empty the hold in order to find the bags belonging to the patient, it being illegal to take off with unaccompanied bags. Eventually we took off at 17.50, exactly 3 hours late.
With the 4 hours of the flight that meant that we were sitting on the plane for 7 hours. Or to put it another way, it was a 7-hour flight with only 4 hours actually flying. While we were sitting at the terminal building waiting for the ground crew to search through the hold luggage I explored with the cabin crew the option of being allowed to wander down the tube to stretch my legs …. but it was not allowed. In fact nothing was allowed except sitting in our seats with seat belts fastened. Why did we need to have our seat belts fastened??? Presumably fear of ground turbulence. Or jail-breaks.
What was amazing was that people just seemed to accept it as a bit of a bother, but perfectly normal.
Anyway, we eventually arrived at Kos airport at midnight and streamed to Baggage Reclaim via a very desultory passport check. Amazingly there were bags coming onto the conveyor as soon as we got there, though nobody seemed to be claiming them and they continued to go around for the 45 minutes while I was standing waiting for my bag. I guess they may have been left-overs from another flight or loaded onto the Kos flight by accident when the hold was emptied onto the tarmac at Manchester in search of the bags for the person taken to hospital. Whatever, nobody seemed to want them.
The carousel seemed to be getting more and more crowded with bags and they started falling off, the falling-off process being helped along by people pulling and tugging at a bag in the vague and frenzied hope that it was theirs. One guy pulled a distinctive holdall off the carousel, tipping two others onto the floor at the same time, and started to pull at zips and check inside it. He then took it off only to bring it back 5 minutes later and put it back on the carousel, presumably having confirmed that there was nothing in it that he fancied. It was amazing how many people clearly couldn’t recognise their own luggage.
I finally left the Baggage Hall at 12.45. No problem getting a taxi down to the little harbour where I planned to catch the ferry to Nisyros and we arrived at the hotel I had telephoned a few days earlier at 01.00.
It was in total darkness. No sign of life anywhere. The taxi driver, who I had discovered was from the town, asked a guy walking past and he just happened to have the phone number of the owner so he rang him up, presumably dragging him out of bed. He arrived after about 10 minutes from another part of town, showed me to a room, took my money and went back to bed.
It was still early for me, 23.00 UK time and still the time of my body clock, and I was very hungry, having only had a toasted sandwich at the airport and a snack Ruth had made for me on the plane. So I went not very optimistically in search of food. My pessimism was well founded. Plenty of bars open in ‘Bar Street’ parallel with the harbour but no food on offer anywhere.
I settled for an ouzo as a night-cap in the quietest bar I could find and then went back to the hotel and crashed, but not before setting my alarm clock to get me up in time for the ferry at 09.30. I had arrived.