Since my elder brother moved to Brussels 3 years ago, it's become a regular destination for me. So when, during a visit in August, he invited me for Xmas, I was delighted! As I only live a short distance from EMA
I usually book on BMI
from there to BRU
, and so I did the same for this trip. Alas, a month after booking I got a call from BMI
telling me that my outbound and inbound flights on Dec 23 and Dec 27 were cancelled, and offering me alternative flights on the 22nd and 28th. Those dates were not workable for me so a refund was provided and I rebooked on BA
. Not ideal, but even with the M25 congestion LHR
is usually reachable in 2 hours. If only I'd known...
Waking on the 23rd, packed and excited and ready to go, I checked the status of roads and flights - everything was slow and delayed by thick fog. I decided to set off early for my drive to LHR
, knowing it would be a 3 hour trip. Three hours into the drive, I received a text message from BA
informing me that my flight was cancelled and suggesting that I call them or check the website. As I was in the car, I had to call, so I called. But the BA
customer service line was too busy and I was told, each time I tried to call, that I should use the website instead, and then disconnected. I'm thinking that approach needs a slight rethink.
Eventually, after 4 hours of very slow traffic, I got parked up at T4
Business Parking and jumped the bus to the terminal, ready for a very frustrating few hours. BA
's customer service in T4
was, thankfully, much more usable than its telephone equivalent. The lovely lady rebooked me on the 17.40 (my cancelled flight was the 15.50) and assured me that it was very unlikely that this one would also be cancelled as it was full up with the rebooked passengers from the earlier flight, and because the flight after that one had also been cancelled. Of course, given the list of 3 hour delays on the departures board I wasn't expecting to be going anywhere at 17.40!
Which meant it was time to kill a few hours. As the fog was so thick, there was no plane-watching to be done - I couldn't even see the wing tips of the 744s parked at the gates right in front of me - so it was off to the pub to join the Australians whose Sydney flight delay meant they'd be getting home sometime on Xmas afternoon, I think. After a couple of beers, several walks up and down T4
, a short sleep, a haircut in the Hair Pod and some general time-wasting, our flight (on one of BA
's nice, newish 321s) was finally ready to board at 19.00. The plane was actually ready on time, but the assigned cabin-crew was still in the sky due to the fog delays so it had been waiting for a replacement crew to arrive.
Once boarded the Captain (a veritable comedian providing some much needed comfort) explained the problems, and said that we'd be on the ground for about 45 minutes before a tug could arrive, and that if it didn't arrive within an hour we'd be going nowhere as his and the FO's legal hours would be exhausted. And then he asked if anyone had any spare underwear for the cabin crew (who'd be having a night stop in Brussels) as they'd all forgotten it in their rush to get in. I hope he was joking...
Finally, at 19.55 a tug arrived and we were pushed back and on our way to 27R. How the flight deck could see anything when taxiing is beyond me, but we got there (slowly) in one piece to join a queue of 16 aircraft. And the moment we stopped the fog lifted, miraculously! So they started landing planes on both runways and made us sit around for 15 minutes more. And then, at last, the departures started. And they were departures like I have never seen before. The heavies waited in line beside T1 whilst the "lights" got going at an amazing frequency - planes were starting their rolls as soon as the preceding plane had rotated, and everything was rotating very early, I guess it was full power take-offs all round.
The ensuing short flight was uneventful, ending in a hands-off landing in the light mist at BRU
, arriving at the gate 10 minutes before the flight crew ran out of hours.
So a 4 hour door-to door trip by my usual route took 12 hours, and my younger brother who got Eurostar at the same time as my original flight arrived hours before me. I'll still fly next time though.