Tales of a traveller: when flying fails
by Alexandra Groom
That plane journey. There’s always one. As I prepare once more for the end of term and flights home, I remind myself that it could be worse: May 2010. Discovering I was heavily glandular fever-ed near the end of my gap year my parents decided it was necessary for me to return early. After grudgingly agreeing to come home, I proceeded to sob all the way to the airport.
I sniffled through New Zealand customs and security, and obviously looking like I had something to hide, the nice lady pulled me aside and proceeded to do a comprehensive search of my person and belongings at the end of the x-ray machine. Right before duty free, in full view of everyone. As I stood there getting progressively more upset that she wouldn’t leave me alone in my misery, definitely thinking I was dangerous, I could see people looking at me with pity and telling their kids not to stare. Probably not my finest moment.
On a plane, you never end up next to the person you want. Some nice looking, small and fragrant smelling people dotted this fine aircraft, but, sadly, I was not destined to be their neighbour. For the 13 hours from Auckland to LA I was stuck in 62K. Literally stuck, the man on the aisle was too large to move about. The TV was the usual dross, except my console had a funny problem with the sound. That is, it didn’t work. Although apparently it worked just enough to not justify upgrading me. At least I had a window. Unfortunately I could see nothing out of because I was on the night flight. The turbulence was the worst I’d ever experienced, I did not need the “please put your seatbelts on” announcement, I was already on it. Our nice sturdy Boeing 747 was like a flimsy piece of paper above the Pacific storm, and with the next possible landing place being Hawaii 9 hours away, I wasn’t especially hopeful for my chance of peaceful sleep.
I apparently managed to doze though because I was rudely awakened by my apple juice making a bid for freedom out of its nice can shaped hole in my table and launching itself all over me. Little did I know sartorial elegance was not going to be the last of my problems.
Finally landing in LAX, they told us we had an hour to stretch our legs before we took off again after re-fuelling. I accidentally left my big warm scarf on board, and this being America, it was disposed off as “suspicious”. Natch. In their defense they did warn me that I had to take EVERY SINGLE ONE of my belongings with me, even though I was getting back on the same plane to Heathrow. Luckily my fat friend had got off, so the next flight was already looking up. We taxied onto the tarmac, and waited, and waited, and waited, and then went back to the stand. The Eyjafjallajokull volcano had started erupting again and Heathrow was shut. At least they offered to put us up in a hotel for the night: fantastic, a free night in a hotel in L.A! Uh no. This downtown airport hotel was less than the dream. Realising what a mess I was in, I attempted to kick the jet lag and sort myself out. I had no American Dollars on me and I’d packed my phone charger in my hold luggage, which they didn’t give us back seeing as we’d “only” be there 24hours. To cut a very long story short, a very kind (and good-looking) Puerto Rican man, Antonio, lent me $20 and then went round almost the entire hotel with me to find a charger, so that I could let home know what was happening.
Finally back on the plane the next evening, as we were preparing to taxi on to the tarmac for thankfully the last time, Air New Zealand announced that British Airways had started striking. Of course they had. Meaning my connecting flight I’d frantically had to re-book with my barely-charged phone was now grounded. Frankly, swimming home would have been easier.
Photo credit: Flickr id: Saturnism