Flying disasters


I fly a lot, so it’s not surprising that I should have my share of flying disasters. Tonight I’ve just had another. The picture above is the view standing outside Madrid airport at 0241 on a Monday morning waiting 20 minutes for a shuttle to a nearby hotel.

I was flying to Montevideo to visit Uruguay’s vineyards, travelling with Iberia via Madrid. I boarded the 1845 from Heathrow’s terminal 5, but it had problems with its auxillary power unit, and the pilot tried three times to start the engines off-stand, and failed. Then we went back to the stand where there’s the facility to start the engines from a start cart. But by this time some of the passengers were freaked and decided they wanted to leave the plane, which causes more delay.

In the end we were four hours late and I missed by connection. The 2355 flight had departed, and the next one is 2355 the following day. To Iberia’s credit they had a new boarding pass ready and they’ve given me a decent hotel for the night, but I lose a day of the trip (and I only got to my hotel room at 3 am).

The previous disaster was October last year when I was flying out of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport with BA. We were sat on the tarmac for 6 hours while they tried to rectify a problem on a new 787, before being taken back to the gate. I was automatically booked onto the first flight in the morning via my BA app, but the problem with Moscow is that the BA crew don’t have visas for Russia and can’t leave airside, and we passengers mostly had single entry visas which we’d used up. It was pretty chaotic, because Russia doesn’t allow electronic boarding passes, you need to leave airside with an emergency visa in order to pick up your new boarding pass. I ended up sleeping the night in the lounge with Daniel Pi of Trapiche who was sharing the same flight. I did get €400 compensation, though.

Prior to this, a disaster of my own making when I lost my passport in Penticton and missed a flight to Toronto. That was in July last year. It cost me CA$713 for a new flight, after I’d found my passport. Without finding my passport, I’d have been in a spot of proper bother.

In August 2018 I had a disastrous 24 hours in Newark Airport, waiting for a new flight to Rochester. United had diverted our incoming flight after the airport was closed for two hours because of a storm, with dreadful knock-on effects for local connections. It was chaos. No compensation here, though.

I had a Vancouver-Toronto (I think? It was in Canada) flight cancelled in July 2017: we were all in our seats and the last person to board was rather out of breath, and promptly collapsed and died in the aisle. It was pretty grim.

Back in November 2015 I was flying to Australia, and the BA flight was cancelled, and we were all put on the same flight the following day. They were going to provide us with hotels, but wanted to feed us with the plane food (much cheaper, it was already on board), but it takes about an hour to heat the food up, so we were stuck on the plane. I was living close to the airport, though, and was allowed to leave and come back the next day. Lost a day in Sydney, but got the maximum €600 compensation.

But apart from this, my flying has been relatively trouble free.

The key thing is even if flying disasters are unfolding around you, they are almost always out of your control, and it is pointless worrying about something that you can’t change. So you just have to keep a level head, refuse to give into stress, and hope for the best outcome, doing all that you can do to make it happen.

wine journalist and flavour obsessive

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