Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Foggy old London town

Yesterday was filled with trains, planes, and automobiles and was quite a travel adventure. My goal was to fly to England from Germany to spend Christmas with my English relatives.

On Thursday, I had learned that because of heavy fog planes were not landing or taking off at Heathrow. So I called British Air and tenatively arranged to fly Hamburg to Dusseldorf to Birmingham instead. But after a train and bus ride from Lueneburg and I arrived at the airport quite early and discovered that my original flight, Hamburg to Heathrow, had not yet been cancelled as it had been the previous two days. The woman at the counter suggested that I wait until 3 p.m. and then come back to seem them about the flight. So I had a beer in an airport bar and read and waited.

At 3 p.m., they were pretty sure that the plane was going to fly from Hamburg. If I stuck with the Birmingham option, that was their last flight to England and if it got cancelled I was stuck for the night in Hamburg. So, I decided to go with the Heathrow flight.

We boarded almost an hour late, at 6 instead of 5:10. Once we were onboard, the captain told us that we were going to have to sit at the airport for another nearly two hours because of delays in London. He said they had boarded us because if there was a window of opportunity for going earlier they needed to be able to take advantage of it. If anyone wanted to get off and try another option they were free to do so. As far as I could tell, no one got off.

We got lucky. We only sat on the ground for about an hour. The flight to London was uneventful and I got some reading done. They had told us on the ground in Hamburg about how limited the visibility was and that the landing in London would be done by instruments. So, because conditions were unusual, people were a little nervous. As we began our descent into London, I kept trying to see out the window from my aisle seat. I could not really see much but as we got lower we were soon flying through the fog. It was quite thick. I never did see any of the lights of London. I only knew we were going to land when the sound of motors made that kind of tapering off sound and the nose of the plane lifts up just a pit.

We bounced but not very hard and the plane quickly stuck to the tarmack and reversed engines. Because there had been so little indication we were close to the ground there were a couple of gasps through the plane. Most of the passengers applauded (me too) as the plane was braking, something I have never seen. We were probably the first plane to land in 24 hours. The fog really was phenomenal.

All of the regular spaces at the airport were taken up by planes that had not been able to take off so buses came to pick us up and bring us into the terminal. On the bus, there were some jokes. One guy said: I've had harder landings than that when they could see what they were doing. Several people noted that Heathrow, the busiest airport in Europe and British Air's hub, only has two runways and there are plans for a fifth terminal.

Soon, after a bus ride to Reading, and a ride in my cousin's car, I was safely ensconced in Eddleston Manor, the name we've assigned to my English cousins's home.


Post a Comment

<< Home