Airline Story

This is my flight from hell story (long posting!): after being delayed 11 days by the volcanic disruption, I finally got on a flight from Sydney to London via Bangkok. The flight from Sydney to Bangkok flew OK, but movie system wasn’t working – not great with 2 kids (luckily they mostly slept). We stopped 2 hours in Bangkok and then taxied back to the runway. The pilot applied full thrust and we accelerated down the runway, but he then suddenly cut all thrust after about 5 seconds. It was actually a pretty scary experience – I knew we had plenty of runway left, but you’re left wondering what would have happened if we’d been further down the runway when that happened.

What happened next was not a shining recommendation of the airline. The pilot explained that there was a warning indication on one of the engines. We were kept on the plane another 2 hours while they worked out if they could make repairs. The air conditioning wasn’t working, and it was getting extremely hot on the plane. They finally decided the repairs could not be completed, and we were told that we’d have to stay the night in a hotel in Bangkok. Note that this is a city that is currently having violent clashes between anti-government protesters and the police. Tourism advice centres recommend to avoid this city, and now I’m being forced to stay here.

In the end we were sent back to the terminal (this was about 3am). We where herded through Immigration (they had to organise a special visa for us), and sent on a bus to one hotel, but we actually ended up at a completely different hotel (apparently the first hotel couldn’t fit us all in). They gave us food vouchers, and that was it. It was 5am, I was stuck in a strange city, with no idea of when I was going to be able to get home, and no way of contacting anyone in the airline to ask questions, and realising that I’d left my laptop on the plane. This was on top of the stress of being exiled from London for the previous 11 days, and desperate to get back home. It was one of the worse days in my life, and I’m afraid I didn’t react very well to the situation.

I pestered the hotel staff for information, but they weren’t really able to help at all. It was finally around 10am that I found a letter from BA sitting on the counter in the lobby, which said that the flight was rescheduled for 11pm later that day. It was a relief to finally have some concrete information, and I was finally able to relax slightly.

At 3pm the BA airport manager came to the hotel to talk to us all. He explained that the problem was due to the fuel injection monitoring system on engine 4, and a part need to be replaced, which was being flown in from Hong Kong. At this point I realised that I might not event get home that day, which made me more upset. When questioned, the manager said that there was a 30% chance that the repairs would not be complete. However, they would still have to assume everything would be ready, and get us through check in, emigration and security to ensure we could hit the take off window. It was a lively meeting: there were a lot of people in the same situation as me, and this was the first airline representative that anyone had actually met face-to-face through the entire SNAFU.

Suffice to say that the plane actually did take off, with much cheers from everyone on board (and my lost laptop was returned!). However, there was one more insult to injury: when we (finally!) landed in Heathrow, our baggage got stuck for about 90 minutes. No one had thought to organise baggage handlers and a carousel to return our luggage to us, on top of which there were two BA10 flights landed within minutes of each other (our delayed flight, and the next day’s flight), so there was a lot of confusion about where to go. Eventually, we had about 300 people crowding 10 deep about the smallest carousel in the airport, while next to us the biggest carousel was empty.

Anyway, I’m home now. I now have a fun letter to write to BA customer relations.

The End.