Aground at Heathrow Airport

Aground at Heathrow Airport

Alaska Wilderness Trip July – August 2003.

Subject: Flight BA 049

This is the story of two travelers who think to meet a carefree holiday in the rugged Alaska but instead spent 27 hours at Heathrow airport.

Here is our story:

July 20, 2003, at 10:00 Sunday morning at Schiphol Airport, At the TQ3 desk retrieved our tickets, the employee reports yet you are lucky the previous flight is canceled, this one goes through, if he had told me about the situation at Heathrow Airport we would not have left Amsterdam.

We arrived at 12.00 noon UK time at Heathrow, and the plane waiting is 45 minutes for an available trunk, the first sign of the chaos, then off board, there are still many thousands of people, later we hear 10,000 or more at the Heathrow departure and arrival halls, sleeping over each other, with the babies and little ones in between.

Just checked a TV screen for the gate number for departure of our 14.35 hour flight to Seattle, it shows only ” please wait” and that has stood there to 16.30 hour. We ask at the information desk and there appears to be between 40 minutes and a little more delay, but they certainly will depart! Get yourself to the test , since there are 6 men or women behind computer screens and each has a row of up to 15 travelers waiting for him, however they frequently leave, saying sorry it’s my time I go, and you must line up in a different row, this is unbelievable, they should arrange a replacement!

Eventually the gate manned, and everyone goes on board at 16.45 hours, we will leave in 25 minutes was told, at 18.30 hour we are still at the gate and nothing happened, the crew does nothing, knows nothing, and It’s hot because there is also no air conditioning running anymore, than the captain speaks over the intercom and tells us that because of the waiting time plus the flying time the crew will be over the number of legal working hours and are no longer allowed to fly, he mention something about a new crew, but I do not believe in it and I seem to be right.

The Captain say’s we’re going to do food serving, and we will see how we go on with it, we cannot promise that we can arrange a hotel for all of you, so maybe tonight you remain to sleep in the plane and tomorrow continue with us, that will cause homicide! There are already people fainting! They do serve food but it is also a mess, the doors are open but they leave no one out, they say due to safety reasons.

Then we get a live action, there’s a man going ballistic, he runs past the guards down the stairs of the aircraft at the airport, where he eventually get caught by some guards and pressed flat on the ground and brought back in the plane.

It is now BA / terrorist Ltd. We are held hostage by BA, and after 5 1/2 hours negotiating with the head office, we are disposed, yes believe it or not walking down the stairs from the plane at the airport then upstairs to the departure hall, there we are told that our luggage despite earlier promises cannot get back, they do get the luggage from the aircraft, but they do not know where it ends and it is pointless to go there to search, there are now 50,000 + pieces of luggage, not registered anywhere on the airport. The staff at BA say only if you go with us tomorrow it will be put back into the plane, (if they still can find it) if you do not want that, we will get it removed before departure and we will ever look twice when we deliver and where!

I am now in contact with TQ3 in the Netherlands to see if there are other opportunities to escape or get out of here. Therefore, I demand that we get our luggage back, if TQ3 can book another flight for us as we can get out of here, but they continue to refuse to look for it.

Eventually first to the Raddison airport hotel, which is regulated by BA, and then continue to call with the TQ3 people in Holland, we would like to depart with the new flights TQ3 has reserved, by the fact that I lost faith in BA, but it will be  a) 5000 euro more expensive, b) we cannot get our luggage back and we must buy our equipment + clothing again, this is another 5000 euros, and we have longer to travel and may not even come in on time at Juneau, Alaska.

So finally I decided to continue with BA, in the hope that they do not burst it for a 2nd day, it will be pretty smelly in that airplane, because there were already many people wearing the same clothes since Friday and for us it is already the 2nd and the next day the 3rd night that we wear the same clothes. Our change is all in the suitcases that BA has confiscated.

We have already lost 1 day of our holiday, what else is going to happen? Help, we are victims of a dysfunctional BA Organization! How does this end?

Heathrow, 21 July 2003, 07.20 am At 09.00 am.

There are 300 people ready in front of the hotel because the buses should be there; BA argues that it eventually becomes 10.15 am. and then there was only 1 bus! This went on until 11.30 pm, the driver told us that the chaos at the airport was now complete and many times worse than yesterday, so it was, nobody could go inside, everyone was on the street in front of the terminal already cordoned off by police and security, there were countless ambulances and enormous first aid buses, the big radio and TV stations were present with buses and trailers with satellite antennas on the roof, there were certainly 5000-10000 people waiting outside and inside many more, so they kept us outside, there was much turmoil and strife, people become unwell etc.

We are told that the promised departure times of 11.00, 12.00, 13.15, 14.30, now again with many, many hours would be exceeded, if it would leave, and one would get the people who already waiting from Friday and Saturday, and after them it will be our turn! I found that given the obligations and booked vacation in Alaska this is not acceptable. And the risk again being abandoned by BA, I call TQ3  to definitive book the reservations, the cost should then only be charged to BA.

We go with a Taxi to London City airport, I promise him 50 pounds if he can make it on time because we have only 1 hour to go! We get there on time at KLM city hopper and at 16.00 pm. back in Amsterdam, after 30 hours back at the place where we started!

While we were traveling back to Amsterdam my Wife had already purchased new suitcases and toiletries etc. and I called the Zwerfkei (outdoor shop) already  to order our entire gear again ready to be put, (nice that they store everything in the computer ) upon arrival at Amsterdam we headed for the Zwerfkei in Woerden to pick up the new outdoor gear for our trip, 4300 Euro to new clothing, thermal underwear, shoes etc. bought because all is in our suitcases confiscated by BA’s who are somewhere in the chaos at Heathrow airport! 

In America I will buy decent clothing and shoes for the Business section of this trip, because I do not like to visit my clients as a tourist. Another problem turned out my phone, my Tri-Band is in the BA case, and my Dutch phone cannot be used in the USA, and we cannot rent a phone in the States, so I have to make all my appointments from the hotel, at a very expensive call rate.

July 22 we are finally heading to the USA. Thanks TQ3 well organized, but it was obviously the task of BA to book us on another flight, this is a very gross negligence of BA. For the service in TQ3 and the staff of Zwerfkei Outdoor sports in Woerden thousand thanks!

Eventually through KLM / NW flight had a good flight and arrived instead of Sunday night July 20 on Tuesday 22 July at 16.00 in Juneau – Alaska.

Our advice: Never fly with British Airways!

Laowai