The Romance of International Business Travel
By seanharris on Feb 06, 2009
For anyone who still lives under the illusion that international business travel is somehow cool, fun or romantic then read on. For those that have already realised this then you may want to skip to the last paragraph for some amusement. Wind back to Sunday evening. I was due to travel to Bangkok and duly arrived at Heathrow airport T4 just after 7pm for a 9.30pm flight. The terminal itself is going through major reconstruction work and on top of that seemed to be packed to capacity, certainly everywhere I went to try and get something to eat there were long queues and no free tables. As I was later to find out the flight was also packed to capacity. Shortly before we started to board at 9pm the forecast snow arrived in force. Staring out of the terminal building at the blizzard outside my heart fell knowing that the chance of the plane leaving on time had just fallen to zero, the same as the outside temperature. Heathrow is not exactly geared up for snow. It is something that happens every few years (rather than multiple times per year) and so the costs of not dealing with the snow properly are far less than the investments needed to properly equip for the snow and with relentless pressure from passengers for cheap flights what are they supposed to do. Anyway we duly boarded at around 9pm and once fully loaded the pilot announced that there would be a short delay of approximately 30 minutes while we waited for the de-icing rig to arrive. Some 2 or 3 hours later the de-icing rig arrived and started work only to run our of fluid part way through the job and had to return to base. One or two hours later it returned to start again once more to disappear part way through the job. A short while after this the pilot announced that the snow ploughs were unable to keep the runways open and that Heathrow was now officially shut and so we would off loaded from the plane. The only problem was that T4, that we were currently connected to, was now shut and unmanned so we would need to be taken by bus to T5. Around 3pm we were taken to T5 but not the arrivals area but one of the outlying terminal buildings requiring us then to get the shuttle train to arrivals. At immigration was total chaos with everyone clamouring to find out what was going on with wave after wave of people being off loaded into the hall and only 3 BA staff behind a small desk. Finally one BA staff member took the initiative and stood on a chair and called for quite. She said that all flights would be postponed by 24 hours and that no bags would be unloaded. We were to return to the airport 3 hours before our scheduled time but on Monday night rather than Sunday night. By now the queue at passport control was already 4 times longer than when I had arrived in immigration and the hall was full of people fighting to get to the BA desk. I decided to cut my losses and run before this lot moved o the Taxi rank. Outside after a short wait I managed to get a Taxi home and arrived back around 5am. Knowing that I had already missed a nights sleep and that I would be unlikely to get any sleep for a second night (sat for 11+ hours in economy) I devised a cunning plan. If I stayed awake for another few hours and then slept most of the day I would minimise my jet lag when I arrived in Bangkok. So I sent a few emails to re-arrange meetings and to get my revised travel plans confirmed, had a couple of G+Ts and checked ot see if the kids school was shut or not (it was) before diving into my bed. Around 2pm I was woken by a call from my travel admin to tell me that while BA had confirmed earlier in the day the message that I had received at the airport they were now saying that the flight would not be leaving Monday evening and they were offering me a place on a flight for Friday evening. Considering that my meetings were booked for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this was a little pointless so I decided to cut my losses and cancel the trip. As an regular traveller will tell you the worst parts of any trip are the airport (check in, security and hanging about), the flight (sitting for hours in economy discomfort with nothing to do) and the jet lag and the upside only happens once you get there. I had managed to experience the airport, 6+ hours sat in economy and given my self jet lag and travelled precisely nowhere!
So what about my luggage you ask? Well this is where the fun really starts. On tuesday I thought I had better contact the airport to try and retrieve my suitcase. A very helpful gentleman told me that y suitcase was defintely in the airport (somewhere) and that they BA would deliver it back to me but to be patient because their systems were a little overloaded. He duely gave me tracking number and a website to check for progress on the return of my bag. Several times on the tuesday I checked the website to be told they they were still attempting to locate exactly where my bag was. On wednesday I checked and it told me that my bag was awaiting return to Heathrow due to arrive on the Thirsday morning on the BA 10. For those not in the know the BA 10 is the flight from Sidney to London Heathrow via \*\*\*\*\*\*\*\* Bangkok \*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*. Clearly while I had been unable to make it to Bangkok my bag had sucessfully completed the journey on tuesday evening without me! On thursday afternoon a courier arrived at my house with my bag covered in baggage routing tags from Bangkok airport but otherwise unharmed. Clearly my bag has now decided that it has enough international travel experience to undertake these trips on it's own so I have applied for it's own passport and air miles account and will be teaching it about Sun technology and products so that it can take over completely from me and I will be able to relax at home without having to suffer the trauma of international travel.