I'm looking forward to going home again now - another week in England is more than enough. Problem is American Airlines are still cancelling MD80 services left right and centre. Wouldn't you know it - my connection from Dallas on sunday is an MD80. Our travel genius is working on contingency plans for me - hopefully I won't get stuck in Texas on sunday night :(
It should have been so easy - fly to England. All was going well until we reached Ireland, when the pilot came on to tell us all the airports in London were closed because of a snow storm. (!) So we flew around in a racetrack for an hour waiting for Gatwick to clear the runway - an interesting prospect given that they don't have snow-clearing equipment. Eventually of course, the inevitable happened and we went to plan B because of the fuel situation - Manchester. Plan B was good - land at Manchester, refuel and fly back to Gatwick. It only took us 30 minutes to get there, we were refuelled pretty quick and then air traffic control screwed us by giving us a takeoff slot 2 and half hours later. Anyone who flies will know what happened next - the crew ran out of time so we were stuck at Manchester. It then became apparent that Manchester didn't have any spare baggage handlers, steps, or immigration officers so they left us out on the ramp, on the plane, for 5 hours. When they did eventually get a set of steps to us, they only had one bus, and because of health and safety, they wouldn't let anyone stand, so it was sitting room only - 32 passengers at a time. Many buses later, once we'd filled the baggage hall, the guy on duty told us it wasn't his responsibility and fucked off on his break, and there we were left for another hour waiting for the bags. At that point we were given one option - a coach trip to London which would get us there at 3am, by which time Gatwick was closed for the night.
Fortunately, as soon as we were stranded, I got on the phone to mum and dad who live in Manchester and they agreed to come and get me. I also arranged a BA flight for today.
Cut to this morning: after arriving in Gatwick, I had the usual hassle with Hertz - the normal "we don't have a car" bollocks, which resulted in a four car upgrade to a Mercedes E-class. So close, yet so far, because coming along the A24, a construction truck in front of me hit a pot hole the size of Wales, and a chunk of concrete came flying off the back. As I steered to go around it, it went under the front right hand side of the car, ripped open the tyre and stranded me on the side of the road, in the rain. Cue the call to Hertz, who called the AA, who came out and changed the tyre to the space-saver spare for me (which I could have done but was so pissed off by this point, I couldn't be bothered). So then I had to drive back to Gatwick at 50mph on the space-saver spare, and change the car. This is all oddly familiar....
Anyway, I'm finally in the office now, with a new car, with my luggage, in the right part of the country.
It only took 38 hours to finish what should have been a 23 hour trip.
And it confirms what I blogged about a couple of weeks back - England is broken. The ATC system doesn't work, Manchester airport just has a huge "FAIL" sign over it, as does Gatwick and Hertz. Again.
The only ones not really to blame this time were American Airlines - they can't control the weather, although their decision to put us on coaches left a lot to be desired. Shouldn't they have just arranged for ongoing flights on BA for everyone?
Three pics - first one - us finally being let off the plane in Manchester. Second one - the piss poor ground crew at Manchester. Third one, the blown tyre on the Mercedes.