Plane crazy – in which a day trip to Germany turns into a nightmare for Business Traveller’s long-suffering columnist

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  • Anonymous


    It’s the middle of January and I’m already on my fourth flight of the year. At least it’s only a day trip to Germany with BA. What could go wrong? The online check-in works and I manage to print off boarding passes for both my outbound and return flights, so I know I can cut it that little bit finer in the morning. Every bit of sleep counts…

    As it’s a day trip I’m driving to LHR and parking in the short-term car park. It’s quiet, as is Terminal 1, and I’m through security far quicker than expected so I even have time to nip to the lounge for a bowl of Alpen and a bacon roll. Sometimes travel isn’t so bad.

    The flight departs pretty much on time – so far, a textbook trip. All is going well and I’m into my final meeting when I get a text from a colleague in London telling me about a plane crash at Heathrow. As soon as I am able I hop in a cab back to the airport, but as I enter the terminal I know it is bad news. The customer service desk has a queue of about 100 people.

    I approach a member of staff on the floor who tells me all flights are cancelled. She seems to know nothing about the crash while everyone else is talking about the bad weather in London. I’m not sure whether the BA staff don’t know or have been told not to mention it. They are polite but firm – British Airways is taking no responsibility.

    I subsequently discover the crash was an “act of God” – I await the CAA’s report with anticipation. The woman I am talking to suggests I either join the queue or phone to rebook my ticket. I ask if BA is helping with a hotel or giving out packs with basics in them and she says “no”. I ask if they have a corporate deal locally and she goes off and returns about ten minutes later with a piece of paper with the NH hotel the crew stay at written on it, adding it charges a reasonable rate of £44. I call and manage to get a room. I then phone the UK Executive Club to rebook my flight. The operator is helpful and says she can get me on the first flight to Heathrow or London City. Not knowing what Heathrow will be like in the morning, I opt for City.

    Now to get some clothes and toiletries. What is it about the airport shops? Everything costs a fortune so you’d only buy out of desperation. Oh yes, that’s the point. I’m sure the shirts are the rejects which didn’t make it into the factory clearance, and at over £50 a time I’d have hoped for something better. The pharmacy does at least have a good selection. As I’m only here for the night, I want small quantities, but my request for deodorant results in the response that they “don’t have any for the night as all are for the day and last for 12-24 hours”. If only my German was better.

    The NH hotel is modern, but when I switch on my computer I can’t find a wifi signal. I phone reception and am told I need to collect a cable. This I do. It must be over five metres long, which means I could use my laptop in bed, in the bathroom, or out in the lift lobby. Now I know why they don’t need wireless. I go to the bar for a snack, and try the NH Burger. A big mistake. Nice chips and salad with a piece of rubber in a bun. I eat the bacon, chips and salad, and go to bed disappointed and underfed.

    The next morning I’m too early for the hotel bus so catch a cab and am on the plane in good time. As we pull back, a steward rushes down the aisle with a bottle of oxygen – he has spotted that a man three rows in front of me has passed out and turned grey. As he approaches, the man comes to and vomits over the seats and aisle. Around the plane there is a scrabbling for the air vents. A couple of minutes later the pilot announces we are returning to the gate and that doctors have been called. They confirm he is not suffering from a hangover, but has a bug which could be infectious, so we are evacuated to some buses while cleaners sterilise the plane.

    Two hours later we’re in the air. The pilot assures us we’ll make up the time and tells us he has turned up the ventilation in the cabin to try and stop any bugs spreading. Arrival at LCY is uneventful and within ten minutes I’m on the DLR into London.

    Now all I have to sort out is getting my car back from Heathrow. After a couple of hours in the office I head over there. At the information desk I ask if BAA are making any provision for passengers who had been delayed because of the crash. You know what the answer is. Still, he is helpful and suggests I email customer services. As I go to pay at the machine I request a receipt, but no luck. It’s going to be fun filling out my expenses form this month.


    That’s a great trip report, Anonymous – you really need to post it on Flyertalk’s Trip Reports:

    Thank you for your post LindsayW – we’ll pass on your comments to our anonymous frequent traveller, who also writes regularly for the print edition of Business Traveller (click here for more details). We were kind of hoping that business travellers would use our new forum to post their trip reports though…


    If anything can be learnt from that it would be always stick to LCY when possible. It is a fantastic airport.

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