We had a great trip home to Ireland to visit my family. Normally the trip is long and tiring but doable. This time we went through London and it was a nightmare.
Our Outward Journey
We only had 90 minutes connection time between landing in London and getting our flight to Dublin. I knew it would be tight but everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong.
I still have a UK passport with a green card but the kids have American passports. The flight attendant assured me that we didn’t need landing cards if we were transferring through to Dublin and not stopping in London. WRONG !! We got to the head of the queue , were told my kids needed them, and had to go back , find forms and fill them out for both Nathan and Lauren and rejoin the back of the queue.
Then we had to find a bus and transfer to terminal 5 (another 15 minutes gone).
Next was security. We got stuck behind a guy with about 40 little bottles of stuff. The security guard was helping to transfer each bottle to individual plastic bags. We tried to move ahead but they made us wait behind him. We told them our flight was due to leave in half an hour – they didn’t care.
We finally made it through but discovered yet another huge line – each person had to get their photos taken. There must have been 500 people and one person taking the photos. Finally 2 other personnel showed up – but one of them switched out with the current photographer and the other stayed to chat with her ! Some of the other passengers let us go to the head of the queue but yet again there was another check point. They took our photos again and compared them to the one they had taken 5 minutes previously.
Then we ran and ran and ran… only to discover (of course) our gate was the farthest one away – the sign said to leave at least 30 minutes to get there from the lounge – we had 5 minutes till flight time. There were no carts, no fast track no moving walkway, ,just our feet. We finally made it to the gate to discover it had just closed .
By now I was dripping in sweat and out of breath and was pleading with the attendant to get on. No chance. He said we’d have to go back out and get another flight. We couldn’t find an exit and after wandering around like chickens without a head for 15 minutes and asking 3 different staff members we finally found a way back.
The transfer desk refused to help because technically we no longer had a flight to transfer to. Our tickets were with British Airways but the plane was being operated by Aer Lingus. Of course both said it was up to the other to sort out.
We ended up going all the way back to check in and tried to talk calmly to the Customer Service. I’m pretty laid back but by now I was ready to punch someone. There was actually a sign up saying that people who got aggressive with staff would be arrested – I guess it must happen frequently !! She basically told me that it was my fault for not allowing at least 2 hours to get through security. There were actually tons of people who missed their flight due to security procedures so that helped us out. In the end , she got us another flight out, 5 hours later and gave us ten pounds each for dinner – by then I felt so sick I couldn’t eat a thing anyway.
Now, our return journey had a 105 minute transfer so I decided to switch to an earlier flight so we wouldn’t have to go through that all again. I was prepared to pay any difference in cost. However, I was told that I couldn’t change just one leg of the flight – I had to cancel and rebook all three legs of the flight, Dublin to London, London to Seattle, and Seattle to Anchorage – AND pay costs of all three of us. He advised me to keep my existing flights and hope that we made it – or that we ended up with less than 90 minutes to transfer – then British Airways would be responsible for getting us home and paying for it. So all during my vacation it was hanging over my head that there would inevitably be a hassle getting home again.
Our Homeward Journey
Four days before returning we heard that Aer Lingus was having a one day strike – yes – on the day of our departure. When I called the airline to determine what we needed to do they just told me to show up at the airport and sort it out then. Fortunately, the unions and airline negotiated and the strike was postponed.
We arrived at the airport really early and again I tried to get on an early flight. This assistant was actually helpful and tried to get us on early but all the prior flights were totally booked out.
Our plane took off 20 minutes late then we got to London and were put in a holding pattern for half an hour due to excessive air traffic. Then the stairway to the front door broke down and they had to get another to attach to the rear of the plane. Once we deplaned all the transfer passengers were put on a bus to save us the 20 minute walk to the transfer station. however, we had to wait till the whole plane unboarded before we left. When we got to the transfer bus we found at least 7 other parties who also had to catch the same plane – we had 20 minutes till the gate closed. Once more we found ourselves racing through the terminal. Running up 30 foot high elevators is a great work out but I wouldn’t recommend it!!
We were put on the fast track for passports but spent an agonizing 10 minutes while he manually typed my passport info and green card info into the system since he couldn’t get it to work automatically. Again we reached security and told we had to wait in line with everyone else. We then had to catch another train to get to the correct gate. By this time I’d given up on making the plane.
We finally made it to the gate 10 minutes before the plane was due to leave, but well after the gate had closed. This time, the plane was waiting on late passengers – I guess there was a lot of delays. Thank you God.
So next time, we’ll be avoiding London at all costs