Trans-Pennine Express to Manchester airport – uneventful. Plane to Heathrow – uneventful. Plane to Dubai – uneventful until pilot announced fog at Dubai. And said we probably wouldn’t be landing til 9:45. Panic set in. My flight to Christchurch via Sydney left at 10:00.
Seems many people were transferring to other flights all in the same sort of time period. We reasoned that if there were several people all transferring and we were all using Emirates for our next flight they must have some sort of system whereby we could get the next available flight. Deep breath.
It transpired that the fog was not local, it had affected places as far off as Singapore. Our Heathrow flight slotted into a holding pattern alongside other Emirates flights from all over the UK – Manchester (why oh why didn’t I fly straight from here?), Glasgow, Birmingham, Gatwick and we all landed between 9:30 and 10:15. I do feel for those who were supposed to land at 07:30 and had been circling for more than 2 hours.
So there was this mass of people who descended on the transfers desks, all wondering if their flights had left, if Dubai was going to make an exception and if they could still board, etc, etc.
The ground staff had a unique way of keeping us all (panicking) under control by saying all flights had been cancelled but would all those going to Perth please step this way… Something not quite fair there.
While we were all milling around in some semblance of queues for the transfer desks, they began announcing final calls for flights up to 9:30, or saying flights had been delayed by so many hours. This now being 10:30, it took some weird logic to work out that perhaps the flight to Sydney/Christchurch hadn’t left yet and perhaps I could still make it. However, only flights up to 9:30 were on the departure board, so I had no way of finding what gate I was supposed to be at.
Ground staff than called passengers for my flight and few others, the gate scribbled on my boarding card, and I was off – through baggage check, and then I couldn’t decipher the scribble, and I couldn’t remember what gate! It still hadn’t made it to the departures board, and then the final call was announced. Gate 47.
Dubai has 50 gates, all in pretty much a straight line – 1 & 2 opposite each other and so on. I wish I could have described the departure hall – apart from seeing some palm trees, it all passed in quite a blur as blind panic ensured I ran and sped walked along the travelators towards gate 47. There were a number of us heading in the same direction, all wearing our British winter coats and sweating profusely in the Dubai heat.
Got to gate 46, but where were gates 47-50? Down the ramp, round the corner, and down some more ramps, down to ground level, and then onto a bus which then transported us to quite literally the last Emirates plane at the furthest end of the airport. Once on board we joined the several other passengers who’d either been on the plane since 10am or like me had the fun of running through the airport. We waited for another hour for any remaining passengers – I wish I’d known that before I’d dashed down the departure hall. We finally took off about 1pm (Dubai time), thereby ensuring a delay in Sydney and our final touchdown in Christchurch was at 4pm, instead of the planned 1:30pm.
Any thoughts of me wandering round town were dismissed. The food on the planes was good. For supper leaving Heathrow I was served a hefty slice of salmon and my thought at that point was that perhaps all GF lunch/supper meals on board flights would be fish considering Virgin gave me fish too. I was pleasantly surprised. A variety of GF food was served, and I ate well. Perhaps too well considering I couldn’t eat much of the last meal served between Sydney and Christchurch. How much food can you eat if all you’re doing is sitting down for 13 hours?
For some reason the flight between Dubai and Sydney seemed to take forever. This I found a little strange considering Jo-burg to Heathrow was between 10 and 11 hours and that was fine. My only thought on this was the interactive flight map that remained on the overhead screen all the time which constantly updated the flight info – so many hours/minutes lapsed since leaving Dubai and so many hours/minutes to Sydney and number of miles/km to Sydney. By the time we reached Sydney it was firmly entrenched in my head that our ground speed was approx 1000km per hour, at an altitude of 11km. The cameras at the nose of the plane looking forward and one looking straight down were a nice touch though – that definitely appealed to me – even though the one at the front was covered with ice crystals for most of the flight.
I was so thankful that I’d booked a comfortable bed (en-suite) ahead of arriving in Christchurch. Not in a hotel (they were mostly booked up when I was looking at accommodation back in September), but in a hostel, but a nice hostel at that. I stretched my legs by visiting the local supermarket and got some snacks which would either be supper or breakfast. (more like lunch today, the 23rd).