Move on now: Misadventures at LHR

Some airports in the world have better reputations than others. Heathrow is a stand alone as the worst airport I’ve ever been to. This is probably because I’ve almost missed more flights at Heathrow than at all other airports combined.

1.

It is my last day in London. My alarm goes off, I pack the last of my things and leave my “hotel” (prison would be a more appropriate name). I stop for breakfast and catch a glance over at a clock and to my surprise it is an hour earlier than I thought it was. Somehow I had set my clock at hour ahead while trying to set my alarm. I take my time and order some “American pancakes” that in no way resemble pancakes, very much like how vegetarian ginger beef in no way tastes anything like actual ginger beef, but are good nonetheless. I had all of my luggage limiting my freedom of mobility, so I trudge down to the tube to head to Heathrow.

The Piccadilly line is the only underground line that serves Heathrow, which means that if there are any delays everyone trying to get to Heathrow becomes increasingly stressed and panicky as the train moves along at a glacial pace. That was one of those days and I was beyond thankful for my extra hour. The train slowly moved along and filled up with travelers. Across from me was a guy who with a large snowboard bag and a family consisting of two small children, a mother and a father. The children did not notice the predicament they were in and did colouring sheets. Periodically they dropped crayons and such, and I would pick these up and hand them back to them. The mother, who was hiding a sense of deep panic would look over at me gratefully as she willed the train to move forward and prepared for a sprint to her gate. I also had the opportunity to observe the surrounding area. A sea of airport hotels — close to the Piccadilly line is the main qualification for this — homes, and businesses.

When the train finally pulled up I hung back and let the crowd surge nervously forward before getting off. An older British couple had also hung back and beat me to the carts/trolleys. While selecting one the Husband took a cart and said, “Darling, this one’s a dud.” To which his wife replied, “Oh, Darling they’re all duds.” I chuckled to myself and stepped forward to take my own cart, which seemed to be incapable of moving in a straight line, instead it favoured the left ever so slightly.

2.

It is my last day in London. I set my alarm early but press snooze repeatedly and sleep in. This results in me hurriedly rushing out and hoping to catch my bush from my airport hotel (see previous comment about airport hotels and surrounding area) to Heathrow. I do not. Instead, I wait twenty minutes for the next bus. I can tell that it is going to be a long day and that no amount of wishful thinking can alter the schedule of buses or trains or planes. My bus arrives. I have passed my first hurdle.

The next step is taking the train from one of the terminals to my my terminal. This is not an expedient process. The train fails to arrive at the scheduled time and instead I wait, nervously, thinking to myself it can’t possible take longer to just walk. Eventually my train arrives and as I disembark I glance at my watch and know that I am about forty-five minutes behind schedule. Not good.

I get in line to check in and this goes rather smoothly. I am surrounded by Canadians — these can be distinguished by accent, presence of an unnecessarily large number of Canadian flags on backpacks and bags, and by being apologized to when you bump into someone — who seem to be getting on the same flight as me. This is a good sign. My luggage may not make it but hopefully I can.The security lineup isn’t too bad and I get through quickly.

Now for the largest and most problematic part of my day finding my gate. I wander looking for signage or an employee to direct me — these later prove to be unreliable — to little avail. This place is worse than Hogwarts, I think, and the stairs aren’t even moving. After walking the wrong way for about ten minutes I turn around and find the tunnel that leads to my gate. It is very long and I spring for about five minutes. I arrive at the first British Airways desk and ask if my flight left. The attendant says yes. I quickly go from frustrated to panic and sadness with a side of exhaustion. The attendant tries to comfort me and explains to me how I can rebook my flight. I begin the long walk of shame back down the tunnel. I glance out the window along the way and notice that there is a plane from my airline still sitting at my gate. I think to myself was she wrong, pull a 180 and sprint to my gate just as boarding is beginning. I take my seat, relieved, and wait for my heartbeat to return to normal. That was close.

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