Friday the 13th

Today, being Friday the 13th, I was expecting something unlucky to happen.

Here’s the scenario:

1. My colleague’s flight departs Luton (well, London Luton as it seems to be called, kind of like “Glasgow Prestwick”…) at 1450 – he’s travelling to Glasgow.
2. My flight departs Luton at 1455 – I am travelling to Edinburgh.
3. At 1355, we are both in the same hire car heading towards Luton airport
4. The hire car needs to be re-fuelled and returned to the “hire car return” place.
5. The hire car return place requires a courtesy coach ride back to the terminal – via the Long Term Car Park so this ride takes longer than planned.

My colleague comes up with a brilliant plan: we’ll go straight to the airport and check our bags in. We’ll park the hire car in the “drop off” car park and each run in to the airport individually – this was a great plan that worked a treat. Once checked in, we then re-fuelled the hire car and returned it. We jumped on the courtesy coach that would take us to the terminal…this was at 1430.

For those of you who might be wondering where this story is going: easyJet insist that you are at your departure gate 30 minutes before the flight takes off. Clearly we had both missed this “deadline”. Anyway, the coach was moving and we were minutes away from the terminal. There was a chance we might be able to make it – hey, no bags to check in, we had our boarding passes: surely it’s just a case of dash through security and jump on the plane?

The Italian language is so elegant, so beautiful, so graceful, I could listen to it for hours. I was pleased that we shared the courtesy coach with four Italians: I could listen to their banter for a few minutes. We were slightly amused at their style: one of them went forward to the driver to ask if this bus went to the airport departure terminal. However he did so in a very “Anglo” way: his first words were: “EXCUSE ME”…followed by a barrage of native Italian. Hand gestures of an aircraft taking off were the only clue the bus driver got!

I should point out that I know some Italian and my colleague knows none.

Imagine how quickly we both “learnt” a handful of Italian words when one of them went forward to the driver, “EXCUSE ME”, followed by the Italian for “we’ve left important travel documents, tickets, in the car hire return area, can we go back for them?”

We returned to the car hire return, we checked our watches, 1440. Luckily our Italian friends recovered their missing documents and we were back on the road and at the terminal at 1445. Run: gate 17 for Glasgow, gate 18 for Edinburgh.

We made it with seconds to spare: my colleague’s name was announced as “holding up the flight, please proceed immediately to gate 17”, etc. My flight was still queuing prior to boarding.

I waited in my queue, moving forward when required. I had moved forward by about 10 paces when I heard what sounded like a door alarm going off. Nobody else panicked, so we just remained in our queue. Seven minutes passed; then a gentleman (not from these parts) from easyJet spoke to us. I didn’t understand a word he said, however it culminated in all of us moving through the boarding area and on to the tarmac. Hey, I still have all of my boarding pass – that little bit they tear off: I had it in my grubby hands and I was on the tarmac air-side!

Anyway, it turns out it was a fire alarm. I muttered to another easyJet spokesman that the alarm wasn’t really much cop and that it needs a voice telling us what the alarm sound is for. He looked stunned, they had installed a female voice that exclaimed “Evacuate!” just last week! Incidentally, this said easyJey employee, nice bloke, very funny, communicated using his mobile ‘phone…something that is prohibited for us travellers.

The Glasgow flight had fully boarded, the doors were closed, ready to go etc. The fire alarm grounded everything.

I had boarding pass number 127, which meant I had to wait for 1-30,31-60, 61-90 to board before me. As luck would have it, we had to go through the whole boarding card/passport check thing again, even those passengers who had already lost the tear-off part of their boarding pass. Since I was last in the first time ‘round, I was first in when we snuck back in through gate 17 to get back to gate 18.

Once I had part of my boarding pass torn off, I moved in to the 91 and above boarding area: there were four of us in the boarding area, the other three being in the 1-30 area. There was another problem behind us and nobody joined us for a few minutes. Anyway, the gates to the tarmac opened and an easyJet employee said “come on, let’s go!” So I did, and I was amongst the first five people to get seats, despite having boarding pass number 127. Jackpot.

So whilst today was full of drama, I enjoyed an element of luck. The whole thing only delayed my travel by 30 minutes.