It was my first ever long haul flight.
Before that I had only ever been to Europe and Tunisia. Nothing further than 4 hours away.
I was heading off on a solo backpacking trip around Southeast Asia, and I was a total newbie to this long haul flying malarky.
It was the same time that I had quit my life – that is, quit my job, left my London flat, packed up my belongings and set off into the unknown. It was to be quite the adventure. And to celebrate, I spent the previous couple of weeks going out a lot and meeting up with friends.
So there I was. Staying in South London with an early flight to Bangkok leaving from Heathrow.
I had not been able to sleep much the night before due to nerves but when the alarm went off at 5.30am I really struggled to get out of bed. Eventually I managed to throw on some clothes and started my slow walk up to the tube station in the freezing cold November morning. I was chilled to the bone. You see, I wasn’t going to need a coat in Southeast Asia so I was dressed in just the bare minimum and a light hoody. Brrrr…. it was freeeeeezing.
Twenty minutes later I was tapping my oyster card and jumping on the first of my tube trains. Now, this is where I made the BIG mistake. Instead of just stomaching the 20 quid for the Heathrow Express from Paddington I decided to just sit on the Piccadilly line all the way to Heathrow. MASSIVE ROOKIE ERROR. To my horror, and high stress levels, the tube took forever to get to Heathrow. I hadn’t factored for the gazillion stops and slow train.
Eventually we arrive at Heathrow and I am running seriously late for checking in. I think I had only an hour before my flight. So I jumped off the tube and ran up the escalator, complete with heavy backpack on my back. I ran straight up to the departure board to find my check-in desk only to find my flight wasn’t listed.
Why wasn’t my flight listed?
Had it been cancelled?
But why was there nothing to say it had been cancelled?
Oh my god where is my flight?
I then noticed that all the flights on that board were all heading to Europe. I was confused.
So I took my backpack off. Heart now racing. Forehead sweating. And scrambled around to find my print off with my flight details. I looked. Yes, it was the correct day and time. I looked again.
Oooohhhh…. there are lots of different terminals at Heathrow. I was at the wrong sodding one. I had taken the wrong turning at the tube station.
So I legged it back down to the tube station, found the correct passageway and ran to the correct terminal. There I found my flight on the departure board, sprinted to my check-in desk just as they were about to close. I flung my passport on the desk and my backpack on the conveyor belt. The attendant looked down at me over her glasses.
I recounted my awful tale. She seem disinterested.
Nevertheless she checked me in. Boarding pass in hand I went in search of security, made it through after queuing for a while and then breathed a sigh of relief when I got to the other side.
I relaxed a little.
Starving, I went in search of bacon. Heathrow didn’t look quite how I remembered and the old canteen had gone. So I settled for a bacon sarnie from Eat. It was horrible and tasted of cardboard. I forced it down as I wandered around WHSmith picking out sweets for the flight whilst making the obligatory phone calls to my parents.
I was in my own little world pottering around the terminal when it occurred to me that I should probably check when my flight was boarding. To my surprise, and mild panic, I saw that the last call sign was flashing angrily in red. Then I heard the exasperated tanoy yell for the last passengers to make it to the gate.
I had totally not heard those calls. Ooops.
So I threw the rest of my cardboard bacon in the bin and starting running towards my gate.
Now, if you have ever been to Heathrow you will know that it is freaking HUGE! Getting to my boarding gate was not simply a stroll out from the main terminal waiting area. Oh no. This was miles and miles and miles of corridors and travelators (is that they’re called or is that just a term from the Gladiators?) to get to my gate.
I kept hearing the tanoy yelling for me.
Oh no! What if they leave without me. It was only 10 minutes before take-off.
As I was running down the corridor, my little unfit legs wanting to give way on me, I saw a few air hostesses running towards me.
“Are you Ms Sellers?!”
“Yes, yes … that’s me!!! I’m so sorry!”
They hurried me along and flung me on the plane, practically slamming the plane door behind me.
I then began the walk of shame past all of the passengers patiently waiting and glaring at me.
Oh, the shame. I was THAT person.
I settled down into my seat. Got my headphones ready. And then came the announcement…
“I am sorry to announce that there is a fault in the cockpit. We’re going to be here for a while.”