The journey from New Zealand
to Newcastle is tedious at the best of times, so, when she made
the reservations, Pauline made sure that they were as streamlined
and as hassle free as possible. That's
what she thought at the time, at any rate!
The journey began at 18.50 one evening
at Invercargill, Pauline's local airport, when she attempted to
catch a prebooked domestic flight to Christchurch, only to be
told that it had been cancelled. She was also too late for the
last flight of the day from Dunedin, the nearest alternative airport..
Was an airconditioned, all mod cons coach laid on to take the
passengers to Christchurch, some 400 miles away? Not on your life!
Bemused would-be passengers saw an Airport Shuttle Bus pull up.
A few bone shaking hours later, the bus stopped briefly at Dunedin.
Passengers, who at that stage still looked relatively fresh, attempted
to use the lavatories in the MacDonald's there only to be given
short shrift by the staff who clearly didn't like the look of
them. (Watching them try to run cross legged to the KFC over the
way must have been an interesting sight.) Nine and a quarter hours
after the journey began, Pauline arrived, somewhat dishevelled,
at Christchurch Airport. Had she and her fellow passengers been
mistaken for a bunch of vandals at Christchurch, Pauline said
she could well have understood it.
In the meantime, her connection to Singapore
had left, on time, nearly 4 hours previously. (Why are planes
never delayed when it would actually be useful to at least some
of the passengers?)
After a night in an hotel, Pauline eventually
caught a plane to Singapore, business class no less, as a small
compensation for the problems she had experienced. From Singapore
she flew onto Heathrow, the plane arriving 15 minutes ahead of
schedule, albeit 24 hours later than originally planned. It looked
like everything was finally back on track.
To avoid any further delays, Pauline bought
a ticket on the first available plane from Heathrow to Newcastle.
She sat waiting for the call to board, happily anticipating that
she would be meeting her Mum just over an hour later. It was therefore
with some dismay and not a little astonishment, that she listened
to an announcement explaining that a cat had boarded her plane
and had to be retrieved from the cabin. (As she said afterwards,
"What sort of cat in its right mind strolls around a busy
international terminal - one with a death wish or at least 8 of
its 9 lives left?" ) The cat having been caught and removed,
Pauline boarded the plane. Did she then take off? Don't be silly!
The next announcement was to inform passengers that, due to a
"scare" in another Arrivals Hall, 24 passengers from
Peking who were due to catch the flight had been held up. Their
luggage was on board, but they weren't. 30 minutes later there
was still no sign of the errant passengers. Staff decided to remove
all the luggage from the hold, retrieve the Peking passengers
bags and then reload the rest. It was just about then that, to
her horror, Pauline heard a dog barking somewhere in the plane!
To her relief, the dog belonged to a passenger and was in the
An hour later than planned, the plane took
off. Pauline is a seasoned traveller and normally enjoys the experience,
but even she was taken aback when she looked at the Italian man
sitting next to her and crossing himself constantly until they
were airborne. Once the take off was complete, he seemed to settle.
That is until they hit turbulence just outside Newcastle. Not
only did the crossing begin again, with added gusto, but he began
praying out loud too! When they had landed, he turned to Pauline
and told her he was tired. Pauline was exhausted watching him!
Finally at her destination, all Pauline
had to do was collect her luggage and meet her Mum. It wasn't
to be. She met her Mum all right, but her luggage, along with
that of a couple of dozen other passengers was still at Heathrow.
It hadn't been reloaded when the airline staff retrieved the luggage
of the delayed passengers from Peking. A further 24 hours down
the line, her luggage finally caught up with her.
Pauline could be forgiven for saying "Never
again" after such a traumatic journey, but, fortunately for
those of us in the north east who thoroughly enjoyed seeing her,
PS Pauline said the return journey was
"plane" sailing all the way.
I've flown a
couple of times. Absolutely hated it. Not only that, I was charged
as excess luggage! The cheek of it.