I spent last week walking in Austria. And jolly nice it was too – the weather was near-perfect, the hotel was a lovely little family-run establishment with great food, and the company (my parents) was excellent.
The only thing which threatened to mar my much-needed holiday was that it formed the meat in a sandwich, the stale bread either side of which was London Gatwick Airport. On the way out, on 21 June, I arrived, checked in my luggage, breezed through onto the plane … and sat there for an hour after we were supposed to take off. First, the plane had apparently been over-fuelled. Second, our bags took ages to emerge from the terminal. From my seat at the back of the plane, I eventually got to watch the first few being loaded … before the staff downed tools and disappeared, apparently owing to us overlapping a shift change.
Returning last night, I got off the plane (after it taking ten minutes to find a bridge for some reason), congratulated myself on having a biometric passport which allowed me to bypass a large queue … and then spent a full hour waiting for my hold luggage to emerge from the plane. Personally, I was only mildly annoyed – armed with 45 minutes of free WiFi, I sat on an empty luggage conveyor belt and ploughed through much of the e-mail backlog which had built up during my week away. Others around me, especially those with small children and/or a taxi waiting with the meter running, were not amused. And rightly so. Half the vending machines didn’t work, it was far too hot, and the announcements over the PA system all seemed to be about a total lack of progress.
So in answer to all the ads around Gatwick about where we should build Britain’s next runway … based on my personal experience, the answer is Heathrow or Manchester. Or, even better from a selfish point of view, let’s expand the hilariously -named London Oxford Airport.