Holidays from the Island

It was one of those journeys where, when you reach the end and take off your clothes to have a well earned shower, you want to burn them. A simple journey from Fuerte to Amsterdam, which on a low cost airline would take 4 hours had ended up taking 25 hours!

...Because all the Transavia flights were booked, I had got a ticket routed through Madrid with Iberia. When I got to Fuerteventura airport, apparently, the plane they had sent from Madrid was too small, so they couldn't fit around 15 of us on it. The level of bureaucracy involved in moving us to other flights meant that I had a very unfruitful and tedious wait of 90 mins while they sorted this out. I was offered the option of overnighting in Fuerteventura, but wanted to minimise the amount of working time I lost the next day so opted for overnighting in Madrid as they would put me up in a hotel.
New tickets booked, I now had a few hours to spare before my new departure time of 8pm. So home I went and texted the taxi driver not to pick me up at the airport, emailed the hotel in Amsterdam to say I would not be there that night, emailed the person I was interviewing the next day to tell him I would not be able to make it, emailed my colleague to tell him to do the interview, and then back to the airport.
We had been given a meal voucher for 11e to spend at the airport. This is so difficult to do at Fuerteventura airport. Those of you who know the airport will probably agree that it does not exactly offer you haute cuisine! This was a Sunday and the airport was packed, so of course, the only place that offers hot food, speedy burger or the like, was closed – if fact, all the many time I have traveled out of this airport, I have only found it open once – do they make so much money that they can afford to close it at the airport’s busiest time? In which case, I really wonder what the burgers are made from.
So left with a choice of sandwiches or, umm let me see, sandwiches, I chose sandwiches. Let me tell you it is very difficult to spend 11e on sandwiches, lets add a bottle of wine, and some water and a coffee and make it 2 sandwiches , oh and keep the change!
I did rush my meal a little as I wanted a cigarette before the flight, then at 5 to 8 an announcement came that there would be a delay and they would be telling us more in 10 minutes. Needless to say we were told nothing and the flight eventually took off nearly 2 hours late. However as you can see from the picture, we weren't the only flight delayed that night!

This was after I had had to suffer watching 2 direct flights to Amsterdam take off without me. I eyed the passengers hand luggage carefully to see if there was any possibility I could stow away un-noticed, but didn’t think I could get away with it.
Eventually after circling Madrid numerous times, our flight, that we were told would take 2 hours, landed after 2.5 hours. So it was now nearly 2.30 in the morning and I had booked myself on the 6.55am back out again, which meant there was about 3 hours before I had to be back in the airport again.
I was lucky enough to be traveling with 2 other bumped passengers, Renee and Veronique, and together we set out to find out where we could get this hotel from. Several escalators and corridors and a bus journey later we reached the Iberia terminal, which was surprisingly busy at that time of night, but as we later found out, these were all bumped Iberia passengers, all looking equally disgruntled.

Everyone that is except for Veronique, who continued to look poised in that elusive Italian way - oh the glories of youth!

After waiting for the bus that should come every 10 minutes, for nearly an hour, we were all getting concerned that we would all fit on one bus. Hence the scramble when the bus came was more than a little undignified! We were then whisked across Madrid to a very nice 5 star hotel, where of course we had to queue up again in order to check in!

Finally at 4am we had our keys and were more than ready for our beds.

The only problem was that I had to be back at the airport at 7.30am!

Still it was a relief to rest for a couple of hours at least, even though they had to almost knock the door down to wake me up! I left the next morning, my bag full of the free goodies from the bathroom! Thankfully my flight to Amsterdam was on time and after a quick shower at the hotel I made it into work at 2.30pm.

Five days later and I'm back at the airport, this time to the UK for the weekend. I was going to London City airport as I was staying in the centre. I used to take this flight regularly and I was shocked by how much things had changed. Being at 6pm on a Friday, it was usually full with contractors going home, but there can't have been more than 20 seats occupied on a 120 seater flight. Needless to say the cabin service was speedy, but you have to wonder how long the airline, British Airways, can sustain such a loss.

I had perhaps an inkling of how they were coping when I returned to Holland on the Sunday night. Having misjudged my journey time to the airport, I arrived, 5 minutes before the gate was due to close. Check In was no problem but I had the joys of security to face next. Over the weekend I met up with a friend of mine who is now a beekeeper and she had brought me a present of some honey. I dutifully went out and bought some 100ml jars from Muji and decanted it into them. However, the sight of 3 jars of an unidentified brown viscous liquid raised some suspicion. Especially as the guard could not find any indication of the volume of the jars, does anyone know the Japanese for 100ml?? Excuse me but how long had he been doing this job, can he not judge by eye how big 100ml is?? Would an extra 2 or 3ml be enough to tip the balance and allow me to blow the whole plane up? I understand the need for security but can we also use some common sense in this.

I suggested he tasted it but this didn't go down too well. I checked my passport to see of my name had been mysteriously changed to Lizzie Borden, but not so. Eventually he let me through and I ran to the departure lounge to find - yes you've guessed it - the flight was delayed!

It appeared I had just under 2 hours to wait and no smoking area! I went to the desk and asked the reason for the delay to be told that the outgoing flight left late. Hmm, this is a 40 minute flight, had it even left yet to return so late? I also wondered if this was also the reason for the other 3 BA flights being delayed that evening, but received a non committal reply.

I asked for a refreshment voucher and was told that these were only given out after 2 hours. Hmm, neat scheduling! Luckily the very nice man behind the bar let his hand slip when he poured me my gin and tonic, which put me in a much better mood. After about an hour the delay changed to 2 hours so back I went to the airline desk. Armed with my voucher for a fiver I headed to the sandwich bar to see what this would get me, not a lot was the answer. The cheapest sandwich and a cup of coffee, no less. I headed back to the bar for another gin and tonic!

Again the flight only had around 20 people on it, and I suspect that this was more than one flight rolled into one. Eventually I got to my hotel at 1am in the morning, to be up again at 7am for an 8.30 meeting.

A day and a half later and I'm back at the airport, this time flying with KLM to Copenhagen and then a train ride to Sweden. No delays this time, everything exactly to schedule, and the planes were fairly full both ways.

Back to Holland for a couple of days and the lovely people at the Johannes Vermeer Hotel had put me in the honeymoon suite, complete with a double jacuzzi, what heaven!

Then with work finished on the Friday night I went to stay with a friend who lives in a lovely old house on the edge of a canal between Delft and Rotterdam. What a beautifully peaceful place.

and with a great whisky cabinet!

The next day we went for a lovely walk and crossed the canal in this great chain ferry - no delays because you operate it yourself!

Then it was off to the airport again to check into a hotel for the night as my flight was at 6am in the morning. After a swim and a relax in the steam room, I climbed into my 8th bed in 13 nights, really missing Fuerte and my dog.

Up at 4am and off to the airport for my Transavia flight home. Transavia seem to have changed their schedules and operations over this year and although it may be working for them, it is hard on the passengers. I counted 14 Transavia flights leaving between 5 and 6 am in the morning. They have a high occupancy rate so I estimate there was around 4,000 people all trying to check in. Of course a lot of people check in online nowadays, but they still have luggage to drop off and these desks now outnumber the check in ones. Even so every one of them had long queues and the whole process took a lot of time.

True to form the flight was delayed but only by about 10 minutes and we still landed on time. It also made all the difference that I was coming home, very weary and yearning for a cuddle from Tubo. Just think, only 2 more weeks and I'll be doing it all again, the joys of business traveling!!

My lessons learned from this are:- Scheduled airlines seem to be putting flights together or overbooking to get their occupancy up. If you do get bumped from one of these and are offered a night on the island or Madrid, opt for Fuerte!

The lower cost airlines seems to be reorganising their schedules and processes so that they can cut costs but they seem to be meeting their schedules more reliably.

Corinne Sellens