Airlines Business Travel

Another sweaty-palmed travel moment

I flew home to London from Jersey on Thursday night, in the middle of the news-making storms which cut a swathe through the UK. Thursday had been a pretty full-on work day and I hadn’t really been keeping up to date on either potential flight delays or if a storm of biblical proportions would ground my plane. Or smash it into tiny pieces somewhere over the south of England.

There were of course delays to my flight, but I could at least enjoy the extended wait in the relative comfort of the BA Lounge, enjoying (and finishing!) the small number of chocolate muffins available. (While I remember: Dear BA, how about a few sandwiches in the lounge at Jersey?)

When we eventually got the all-clear to board the plane – not our plane, which was stuck up in Edinburgh due to the end-of-times weather Scotland was experiencing – I experienced the full force of the wind and rain on the short trot from the terminal building. In short, it was hellish windy and I got a sinking feeling that all would not be well. I got to enjoy this weather for longer than expected, stood on the steps up to the aircraft doors, while some arse who had already boarded fannied around with this overhead luggage compartment and blocked the way for everyone else.

I harrumphed appropriately as I passed his seat. That’ll show him.

I wasn’t filled with confidence when the pilot managed to take her finger off the intercom button at the wrong moment during the usual welcome announcements and then appeared to laugh it off. She sounded like she was having far too much fun in the cockpit, unlike most dour pilots who at least sound like they’re concentrating on keeping the aircraft in the air. She also glossed over the weather report, making a blasee reference to “some bumpiness” during take-off. This elicited nothing more than a Spock-like quizzical eyebrow lift from me. Honest.

In reality?

It. Was. Awful.

It reminded me of that bit in Star Wars where the Millennium Falcon comes out of hyperspace straight into an asteroid field*. As ever, picturing myself as Han Solo lowered my blood pressure a little (it always does) but it was never particularly relaxing or comfortable. I could have crush walnuts between my buttcheeks.

And then it got worse. The landing at Gatwick was the worst I have ever experienced. Worse than my infamous “almost sideways” landing at City Airport a few years ago. The kind of landing when you can hear the engines moaning (and then screaming) as the pilot tries to keep us in a vaguely straight line.

The kind of landing where even the cabin crew look like they’ve soiled themselves.

There was a bit of nervous laughter as the plane bounced around the sky and a few muffled screams as we lurched downward. I didn’t have a window seat, and so had no idea how close we were to actually landing. I therefore kept up an incredibly tense (and sweaty-palmed) existence for about 15 minutes of a 40-minute flight.

When we did land, we hit the runway like a car crash, causing panicked screams to ring out in the cabin. We then took off again, then hit the runway once more this time even harder. I have to say my exceptionally cool external demeanour was destroyed at this point and I let go with the truly Wildean “fuck me!”.

I wasn’t alone. People all around me were calling out to their respective gods (most of whom appeared to be called “Christ!”) while one woman behind me starting to cry. I saw her later in the terminal building being comforted by a very pale-looking work colleague.

I didn’t have any luggage to pick up and so got to the train station at Gatwick pretty quickly. My hands were still shaking at that point. But not so much that I couldn’t use my phone, as the following tweet illustrates:

Fuck me. Worst. Landing. Ever. Passengers screaming. Life flashed before my eyes. (Note to self: do more stuff from now on.) Home to bed!!

The worst bit? I have two more of these trips to Jersey to make, with no sign of the weather improving for about 6 months. Suggestions for surviving the travel stress most welcome in the comments below…

(* Yes, I know it was the remains of the recently-disintegrated planet of Alderaan. Do you think I was born 30 parsecs ago?)

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