Monday, October 3, 2011

A Frequent Flying Tragic.

Since moving back to Townsville last April, I have done a lot of flying back and forth between Townsville and Brisbane for medical appointments. We have worked to move as much as we can back to our local hospital, but even though we have a tertiary grade hospital, it is still a regional hospital and there are many many specialists that we are missing here. So, we still fly... down and back, down and back, down and back...

You get my drift.

I have often joked that I am just about part of the furniture when it comes to the airport lounges in Brisbane and Townsville, but today it became startlingly apparent exactly how accurate that joke has become!

So, lets start the day of a Frequent Flying Tragic at 3.45am when I crawled out of bed, much to my disgust, in order to meet my 5am deadline for checking in. Finally get out of my front door at 4.50am to walk to the airport... a walk that usually only takes me just under 10 minutes if I take my time.

I had barely gotten on to the main road and a car pulled over asking me and a voice calls out asking me if Nicola and I would like a lift. It was a flight attendant that we often see on our flights. I politely declined and said that we would be fine, I was quite enjoying the walk. A second flight attendant pulled over and asked me about 2 minutes later.

We got to the airport, the security guard in the car park knew me by name and said good morning.

The staff on the check in desk knew my by name and knew Nicola's exact needs. They pulled me out of the queue and let me through straight away.

The security staff knew us both by name, knew to be mindful of Nicola's stoma and her button and knew that she doesn't like strangers and they had to be quick.

The flight attendants on the flight knew us, the captain knew us and the special assistance team knew us.

When we landed in Brisbane, the special assistance guys knew that it was us before we even got off the plane... How? They recognised Nicola's wheelchair.

I realised after I had left the airport that in many ways I have started to form pseudo friendships with these people. One of the special assistance guys in Brisbane, his wife is due to have a baby in 21 days. I have known since she was about 11 weeks. Every time I go down he tells me the latest updates... and I know that next time I go down he'll have a photo to show me.

By some stroke of luck I ended up with our 'regular' taxi driver, even without calling him to tell him we were flying in.

When we were through, I decided that rather than go shopping or wasting time in the city I would just hop back to the airport... the Customer Service Manager of the airline recognised me when I was lined up and pulled me out and was even nice enough to find me seats on an earlier flight so that I didn't have to sit around for another 6 hours in the airport waiting to return home.

They boarded us early again so we had time to settle Nicola before the rest of the passengers boarded.

And, that was when the real fun began!

Now, I suppose I really should stress that the next part of this tragic tale is definitely not normal fare.

We were given the wrong information... or, rather, we weren't advised of the gate change until they went looking for us to board us early. Our flight was changed to gate 20, I was waiting at gate 1 where they told me to be.

We do a mad dash through the airport and get out to the gate. They take us straight down and put us in our seats and take Nicola's wheelchair and stow it in the cargo hold.

They started to board other passengers... about a quarter of the way through, the airport sirens start to sound. The airport has been locked down for severe storm warnings. The planes can't fly. Everyone has to get OFF the plane and head back into the lounge to wait. Because they've taken Nicola's chair, we can't get off the plane, so we sit there, waiting.

The airport is locked down for about 30 minutes before they finally clear the severe weather warning and start boarding passengers again.

Finally, everyone gets boarded and then they announce that because the airport was locked down at 2pm, which is when the industrial action kicked in and all the baggage handlers went on strike, there was no one to load our luggage into the plane and we couldn't take off without the luggage.

Another 45 minutes later and they finally get things loaded up and we can depart, but by that point we have to compete for space on the runway and end up having to taxi to the furtherest runway and take off from there.

So the flight that was supposed to depart at 13.55 ended up departing at around 15.00.

By which point Nicola had been sitting in the plane for about an hour and a half and was utterly over it, so naturally that set her up to be cranky and she screamed the whole flight home.

All I can say is that I don't know who was happier to see her bed... her or me!

Still, at least another trip is over and done with. Hopefully we will get a bit more of a break before we go down for the next one!

Maybe we can even make it a family holiday... I dare hope!! :D

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