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January 21, 2013

Planes, trains & automobiles

'More than 400 flights were cancelled by Heathrow Airport after bosses were forced to close a runway to de-ice it.' The news fed through to us in inconsistent segments.

Stranded in Seattle, I (along with 16 colleagues) was looking for the next best way home to London this past weekend. Stranded is an overstatement, as Seattle is not quite a deserted island. It is, however, only serviced by a single direct British Airways flight per day. Heavy snowfall caused a plane not to depart London, the same plane due to collect us or the return journey on Friday evening.

With the intention of getting home to family as soon as possible, the hunt was on to find the next available flight. Saturday was full. Sunday was available but that was too late. Like the 1987 movie, the search expanded to indirect flights, plane and train combinations and potentially even bus or driving routes.

With almost two dozen people trying to make their way home to Germany, Spain, France and the UK, what started out as a simple journey became the latest chapter of The Amazing Race... With no monetary prize! The spider web of return routes left us wandering who would make it home first, last or at all.

I joined 9 colleagues on a Seattle Chicago London route, which was surprisingly smooth, apart from waiting 45 minutes for a parking bay upon arrival at Heathrow and another 25 minutes for luggage to appear on the carousel. What amazes me is how we can be prepared to forego any convenience offered in the travel loyalty system, just to get on a flight. Shifting business class for economy, direct flights for multiple connections, in transit lounge access for hours of food court quality time all start to make sense in the greater scheme of things.

In the end, all we're trying to do is get home. And even though there's no monetary prize, the smile from an infant and the hug from a toddler when you walk through the door makes the entire experience worthwhile.

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