A Story on Travel

Above the clouds

I’m currently going roughly 917 kilometers an hour at an altitude of 10668 meters between Budapest and Basel on Etihad Airlines. The lovely flight attendant just brought me a beer – an extremely welcome sight after the adventures I’ve had today (even if it is just a Heineken). What happened today? Well, nothing too exciting, other than having a plane malfunction in mid-air, returning to the airport, going into a country that I wasn’t technically supposed to be in, then reentering through customs, immigration, and just phew. Let me start again.

It was the 7th of May, around 1430 or 1440. I can’t quite remember now. But that was two and a half flights, one faulty plane/mid-trip turnaround and entry to London ago.

I started my adventure at a little airport in Arkansas connecting in Chicago, O’Hare. The flight from O’Hare to Heathrow, London was jolly good too. It wasn’t till we were about 40-50 minutes on our flight from London to Abu Dhabi on British Airlines that things started to go wrong. The captain of the plane came on to announce that there was a small technical error, but still big enough that we had to turn around. OK, that’s fine. I’d much rather be alive than risk spiraling down someone near Athens or Ankara (as much as I would love to visit those places).

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Upon arrival at Heathrow (again) we were informed that there may be the possibility of a small internal fire of some sort, and that there may be the chance we’d have to quickly leave through the emergency exit. That didn’t come to pass, but we were informed that on the off chance the error may have been no more than a light on the control panel that didn’t come on at the right time we would have to A: exit the airport terminal completely which would require B: going through customs & immigration and C: announcing why we were coming into London and how long we would be there along with contact information. The BA were gracious enough to reschedule our flights, but that required us to navigate through London International (which is a bitch to navigate if you’ve never flown through there before), explain to them who we were and where we were going, rent a taxi, get to a completely different terminal, get tickets through a different airline, and finally find the gate for the plane that wasn’t announced till forty minutes before the plane was scheduled to leave. The BA did give us a 10 pound voucher for food as compensation…

Khaled, one of the passengers on the original BA flight, said that, “I had been planning at first to fly continuously from America to the UAE, and after this I definitely will. I do give the pilot credit for the decision made. Better to be safe than to take a risk. Most crashes from airplanes are more often than not human error, and those errors are made when they decide to take a risk. I’m sure the decision was not made lightly.”

Others, like Marianne, say, “Well, I’m relieved I suppose. I’m certainly grateful that there were people who were kind enough to stick together through the experience that we all had. The situation wasn’t so much a problem for us as it was for those more vulnerable; like the mother with the two small children and the elderly. I think that they should have had direct escort through the airport, though her children were in fact quite well behaved. Still, I believe all things work together for a purpose.”

Collin agreed, but then added that BA “certainly didn’t make it easy for us to get here!” And indeed they did not. Luckily I was able to share a taxi with Marianne and Collin – only cost us about 14 quid. But that’s not the point. The BA discovered a problem, and instead of helping their passengers navigate the confusing airport they gave us directions foggier than the smog around London on what to do to finally reach our destination.

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I just looked up to see that we have traveled 1116 kilometers from London and that we are due into Abu Dhabi a little after midnight local time. Hm, about six hours later than I should have been arriving originally. My friend Marianne often said that everything happens for a purpose. For me, instead of having flown nearly 20 consecutive hours without a break, I got a few hours off to stretch my legs in London, so I guess that’s something. But the most amazing thing about all of the crap we got was that even when it was most stressful, we didn’t panic and everyone stuck together. In times of uncertainty, it’s nice to know that the human race can still prove to be just as remarkable as the old stories say we were.

By James Kennedy

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