According to my initial plan of 5 months ago, today I was flying to London to spend a week meeting some friends before flying back to San Francisco on the 17th.
Well, as often, the plan did not work out as expected. As I arrived at the airport, I was greeted by a screen showing that all the flights to London had been cancelled!
The only explanation I got for a while was that Heathrow had been closed for the day by the BAA and I had to book another flight. So I queued in the very long line leading to the BA sales counters and started waiting in order to reschedule.
After discussing with other passengers and through two interviews (yes, I am that on demand!) with journalists from BBC and Le Figaro that were gravitating around the queue with tens of others, I finally understood that the British government had closed the airport following fears of a terrorist attack.
1 hour had passed and I had only progressed 20 meters in the 100 meter long line. It was worst than the lines at the Buzz Lightyear attraction at Disneyland or at the Eiffel Tower some days before! The reason was that there were only 2 BA associates to help the hundreds of stranded passengers so it could not go any faster. For their discharge, it does not seem like they are equipped to do any better.
Some very nice Paris Airport employees were on duty to help the passengers distributing bottles of water and giving British Airways reservation line and Eurostar reservation line phone numbers. Too bad they did not have more information to provide us though. Still, most of the people were calm (and resigned?).
After seeing a guy bound to New York (that was holding every possible gold membership card of every possible airline) get transferred on another flight and a family bound to Montreal get rescheduled for Saturday morning, both after calling the BA reservation line, I thought I could also give it a try. Not having any cellphone, I tried to use one of the public phone but it turned out the phone number was not toll-free so I had to give up that option and thought it should not be that long before I get to the window.
Strike that! 3 hours since I arrived at the airport and I had only progressed 40 meters in the now 150 meter long line (how much I had left to do is left as an exercise to the reader). To make matters worst, one of the airport employees came around telling us there would not be any flights to London today so I should better just go back home and call the reservation line from there.
Well, I thought it was not a bad idea and made my way back home. $160 poorer but safe.
From there, I managed to reschedule my flight for Saturday morning. On the bright side, I have two more days to be with my parents and enjoy Paris.
And if you wonder why I am still going to London, you can read what I think of terrorism on a piece I wrote previously about Dahab.