All good things …
Standing at the airport in Budapest, I suddenly found myself listening to conversations around me. Mainly the moaning complaints of my fellow passengers who seemed to think they’d booked First Class passage with an airline from a Royal principality, not a low cost corporate business. Yes, we were standing in a shed that extended from the plush terminal. Yes, indeed, we watched our plane pull in infront of us, whilst the arriving passengers disembarked. And funnily enough, no, there was no additional seating in our shed. Because my fellow passengers wanted to save money, like me, and fly with a low cost airline, they some how thought that they would still have access to all the trimmings that you actually have to pay for in the cost of your ticket. Like gate fees. Which have to pay the wages of the people who attend to the gate, etc. These are the same people who get upset that they have to take the scissors out of their bag and throw away the 2 litre bottle of water at security for absolutely no good reason at all. That’s just good money in the bin!
Once boarded we were on our way home. Flight was on time. In fact, we were probably a little early. The flight was so unremarkably good, that I spent most of it with my head back, mouth agape, having a little snooze to myself. Attractiveness abounds in me!
Finally becoming conscious and fining that we were flying north over Eastbourne in the U.K., I began to notice smooth twists and turns from the plane. Oh yes, there we go. The dreaded two words of aviation: holding pattern. It appears that we were no longer going to be early into our destination.
Once the Captain got the go ahead from flight control at Gatwick, head brought us down nice and smooth. In silence. Silence, you say? Yes, silence. You see, I do miss the Estonian peoples. I miss them on my plane. You know when you are traveling with Estonians, because the moment the Captain gets rubber touching that tarmac, the Estonians in a bizarre display of usually unheard of public emotion, applaud (and sometimes cheers) the Captain for his efforts. Every. Time. So yes, silence. It appeared that these Hungarians might be a little more uptight that their Estonian counter-parts.
We taxied into our gate, but had to wait a bit. Several tonnes of metal burning kerosene fuel, just hanging about, because there was no one at the gate to greet us. Oh, nice work ground staff. Where’s that London 2012 team spirit that was posted all over your terminal only until recently. Let me say, at this point, the alarm bells should have started ringing. But never-the-less, they appeared from nowhere, we moved on into the gate and were able to get of the plane.
I follow my fellow passengers through the twist and turns and escalators and steps of the Gatwick North terminal. We eventually got to the end of a series of corridors that brought us out to receive our baggage. Yes, I said baggage. Hmm … we just arrived at baggage collection. Those that had only carry-on, were out through the exit doors already. Past baggage collection. Having flown in from Hungary. Even though it is part of the E.U., it is still an international country. And there were some of it’s citizens walking out the exit. Without a single immigration check. Because we had been parked at a domestic terminal gate, not an international one, by-passing all Border Security. And this, we the passengers worked out in about two minutes of arriving at Baggage Claim. And that was two minutes for the ones who don’t travel on a regular basis. It seemed to take the staff manning our arrival much much more time than that. Wave to the nice foreign people as they enter the country completely unhindered or unobserved by any of Her Majesties Border Security Staff. Can any one say blunder?
A passenger alerted the staff, because it appeared that our luggage had gone to a place where it actually could be inspected. Then there was much chitchat over walkie-talkies. And quick, strident walking. With purpose. Those of us that remained, were huddled into a corner of the claims area, and told we were being taken to another part of the terminal. But could we please be orderly, because as we were about to board buses, they had to do a head count. Both getting on and off. They couldn’t lose any of us that remained now. This was comedy. Many of us finding the schadenfreude in the situation, because we knew that if not now, very soon, someone was going to be getting a bollocking over this. So onto busses we were herded, and set off to another part of the terminal where our immigration status could be checked. Some of us took advantage of using the automated passport checks, to get out of there faster. Err, oops, ahh, sorry, could we all please get out of that line because the wanted each of us to be screened by actual human being. Names were then taken to check against the passenger manifest. Oh and three other flights had landed as well, so don’t mind the line up. This is where the comedy of the situation completely ran dry. Standing in that line I could started feeling the biorhythyms of my body changing with the fluctuations of the phases of the moon. A child was crying “why” in his mother’s arms. I knew how he felt.
And for the first time ever, I found Border Security to be down right engaging once they knew I was on THAT Budapest flight. Oh, did I have a lovely time? Oh, I say, you’re Australian, but that’s an Estonian passport. So what’s your heritage? Oh lovely! Oh yes, tea and scones? Cream? Guffaw jolly good show what!
Once through security we got to Baggage Claim where for the first time in my entire life, my bag made it there before I did. So much so, they had stopped the conveyor belt, and had neatly lined up all of our luggage ready for collection. Which then saw us have to get our names ticked off yet another list. And then we could leave the building. Finally.
I wonder what became of the others, those on the plane who’s names were not ticked of a list, and whose heads were not counted. Oh, is that a knock knock knock at the door?
Somehow I don’t think the Estonians would be applauding.