How I saved someone’s weekend at Luton airport

Belfast International view

Friday would not be my day of choice to fly out of Luton, particularly in the morning, but needs must and I had a face to face meeting with my boss in our Belfast offices. Apparently I read somewhere that 40% of flights out of Luton leave before 08:00. Luckily I was up before the alarm and out of the house earlier than planned at 05:40, because when I got to the airport the signs were not good, the check in hall was packed and the escalators to security were stopped for safety reasons to stop a car crash of people at the top as the travellers were dumped in the area where people were queuing.

I had splashed out the £3 to use the priority lane for which there is not normally a queue, but today there was. A few people tried to push in and in true irritated travel fashion they were told in no uncertain terms that there was a queue which they needed to get to the back of. Not a beep was heard as I passed through the metal detectors. In the lounge I had the time to check the over night system emails to check all the processes had run successfully.

Worryingly the Belfast flight had no indication of when the gate would open, which was unusual. My fears were soon allayed when we were ordered to board at gate 9, about as far from the departure lounge as you can get. I grabbed a coffee from Pret and headed on down, my delay getting coffee was about to save someone’s day. I was stood in the queue behind two young lads with Irish accents, one of them was using the Easyjet app. I commented that it is a brave person that uses the app, for two reasons: one apps can be unreliable (as I have learnt to my expense) and two what if you run out of batteries? One of them explained that he had run out of batteries!

Waiting on the tarmac

I had the app but had also printed my boarding card, so I offered to let him see if he could use my phone to get his boarding card. It did not work as the app and the phone and the Easyjet account seem to be somehow tied together. Things were looking unfortunate for the poor guy who was probably on his way home for the weekend.

Then I remembered I had a USB battery pack with me, you charge it up and then can use it to change up phones and the likes. He plugged in his Galaxy Note II and it sprung in to life. Things were looking up, but the battery was so low it refused to start. We waited as we inched forward in the queue and the desk got closer for the battery to get enough juice. When we got to the desk it still was not on so we stood aside for a while and waited.

Eventually it turned on and after a long boot and a wait for the mobile signal to lock in he got the app open and his boarding card was displayed. He quickly shoved it under the bar code reader just before the batteries died again, but he was checked in that is all that mattered to him. We were one of the last to board the bus to the plane which was clearly running late.

The flight made up time and arrived on time at Belfast. Some tourists were grabbing their car from the Enterprise queue but also wanted to discuss the best way to get somewhere, they were on holiday and had all the time in the world. I was already behind schedule and thought to myself we need queues for tourists and queues for business people. When I got to the front of the queue they had made a mistake with my booking the car was waiting for me at the other Belfast airport, so it took a bit longer to transfer the booking to International, but I was grateful and soon on my way.

Waiting on the tarmac

I arrived at the offices slightly later than anticipated at 10:15, I had time to catch up with a few people before my face to face with BF at 11:00. The meeting went well and reminded me that phones and video conferencing is all very well but sometimes it works much better face to face, and this was one of those occasions. That meeting was followed by another one which took me up to the time I needed to leave to get to the airport with enough margin to ensure getting the flight. The traffic was a bit heavier than usual and I had time to fill up the rental car on the way.

At the airport I handed back the keys and then sped up as I got into the building to get in front of the two Hen parties and a Stag do that were heading towards security, I did not want to have to queue up behind them if I could help it. As it happened I was in the lounge with plenty of time for a coffee before the gate was called. I passed the time catching up on my emails and making a few phone calls which I had not been able to do whilst in meetings at the office.

The flight was called at gate 17, not one of the usual gates for EZY186 to Luton. It has a strange herding system I have not seen elsewhere, after they have checked your boarding pass you are send to a pen made up of rows of seats bolted together, where you stand and wait while the plane is prepared. The flight left slightly early and we were back in Luton before the scheduled time of 18:15. Traffic was light and I was home just after 19:00, it had been a long day but I had the weekend to look forward to.

Miscellany or musings

The mouth of the river Mersey

If you read the last post you will know I am travelling today, and I am obviously inspired to write as this is the second one and it is only 08:26 in the morning. I am sat on an easyjet flight.

The trip to the airport was full of surprises. I missed the parking bus so walked to the terminal. I noticed in the verge what looked like an orchid but it was blue, I must investigate. The priority lane has become popular and I ended up queuing, but still had time for and express and a pain au raisin.

The flight was called on time departing from gate 18 the closest one to the terminal building. I am definitely convinced that speedy boarding is a waste of time. I was at the front of the queue and got a window seat near the back, with little effort, and none of the rush you have when you have Speedy boarding and feel you must be at the front to get the seats you have a right to because you paid extra.

The plane was at 2/3 to 3/4 full. The rain had cleared the atmosphere and the views from the window of the aircraft were great. The Irish sea still looked a bit choppy and we hit some turbulent air as we left the west coast over Liverpool. I also noticed that the Rape crops are starting to flower, it is surprising haw much of the English country side is taken up with it. Does it go to human consumption or animal? I have had cold pressed oil but I prefer the flavour of olive oil.

Arrived only 10 minutes late, and picked up the hire car. The weather in Northern ireland was similar to the mainland typical spring blueskies with big cumulus clouds threatening, a down pour.

Meetings went well, and it was soon time to head back, I left a bit later than I would have liked, so did not bother to fill the car up, luckily for me the petrol gauge was the LCD block type and had not registered any usage so I got away with it. No sooner had I got through security the flight was called to gate 18, don’t you just love it when things run smoothly, (that comment may have been a bad mistake!).

Easyjet plane from gate 18 Belfast International

The flight was quite crowded, more than 95% full, they were looking for volunteers to put baggage in the hold free of charge, to ensure enough room in the overhead lockers. You could tell we were running to capacity because the steward was making announcements to the effect “hurry up and stow you baggage, then sit down so we can take off” but using the politeness only air stewards are capable of.

Despite no speedy boarding I got a decent window seat near the back. I managed to drop my pen twice whilst seated, it can be very difficult to retrieve anything from the aircraft floor once seated. If you lean forward hand have long enough arms then you can just about reach the floor, if the item is any where other that where you feet go forget it, the item is lost. I was lucky twice I dropped my pen and twice I was able to retrieve it.

Apparently we flew over Liverpool at 37,000 feet which compared to Everest nearly 30,000 feet is pretty high, the sun was shining we were way above the clouds, I could see some bubbling up into storms but nothing really very big, so I guess the weather below was probably quite pleasant. The captain announced that we were 20 minutes ahead of schedule, they day just got better and better.
If I was a real writer I would now have to turn this post in to a story where everything was going well then… But I won’t.