PSST – it’s pretty bad on the way back too!
I was one of those caught up in the Sunday Morning Massacre, or at least mass delay, at Dublin Airport. And I only had carry-on luggage.
Today I flew home from Brussels after covering the EU summit. My boarding pass told me that the gate would close at 9.40am.
With the Irish experience fresh in the mind, I set the alarm for 6.15am to ensure I was out the door of the hotel at 7am precisely. Luckily Zaventem Airport is only 20 minutes away by taxi, and my taxi driver was a fellow Arsenal fan. We zoomed there in no time, unlike the Gunners’ end-of-season collapse.
Brussels airport was a breeze – straight through the gates and easily through the security queue in about 10 minutes, which meant I was an over-early fool.
My flight wasn’t even listed. At 8am I looked at an information board which said the gate would be revealed at 9.20am. Turned out it was due to take off at 10.20am.
Coffee and reading Nuala O’Connor’s usefully lengthy novel (420 pages) about Nora Barnacle served to pass the time. None of the travellers around me seemed in the least bit stressed. They shopped or snacked, or glided with guided wheels wherever they were going.
At the appointed hour, I had a relatively easy saunter to gate B32 for the Aer Lingus flight home. All went well, and it was marvellous to relate there were no freaked-out infants in the iron capsule itself. Even more happily, the seat beside my place at the aisle was empty. Perhaps I was on Carlsberg airlines? This was flying as it should be.
That was until I landed at Dublin.
Touchdown had been as heavenly as the day itself as we dropped down from our view of glorious mountains and unparalleled greenery. I texted ‘Landed’ to a colleague at 11.08am.
Then the problems started. We cleared the main runway and stopped. The pilot told us that “because of congestion at the airport” we were waiting for a stand, “which should become available in 15 minutes”. Fifteen minutes!
He further explained that the blocking aircraft was waiting for passengers held up in the departure queues.
At the end of the wait came a further announcement: it was going to be another 10 or 15 minutes. So it would be half an hour after landing to get a chance to disembark.
In fact, it was fully 40 minutes before our Airbus A320 made the “doors disarmed” announcement. But we were not at a gate with an airbridge. A stand meant just that – a parking space for a jet.
At 11.54am I climbed down steps and onto a bus that would take us to arrivals, fully 46 minutes after landing. The bus took three minutes to wend past other aircraft on the tarmac — St Ibhar, St Dallan, St Ronan, a whole canonisation of aviation — before leaving us to walk the final stretch where it couldn’t go.
I entered the terminal at 12.02pm, and it was relatively plain sailing after that, even if passport-reader machines were misfiring for many.
It was an hour after landingthat I reached arrivals proper – and this with only hand luggage.
Three minutes later I joined the taxi queue and met with Annemie Neyts, a 77-year-old former Belgian MEP who had been on the Brussels flight with her husband, bound for an ALDE Party conference in Ireland.
A decorated politician (Commander of the Order of Leopold, Knight of the Legion of Honour), she was caustic about the Dublin chaos. “They should have foreseen it,” she said. It was bad in Dublin, in Schiphol and in Britain, but nowhere else, she added.
The taxi driver’s verdict? “You were lucky. I had someone who said they landed at 11 o’clock. He got into my car at twenty past one.”
The advice was don’t bring a big suitcase! Buy clothes abroad if need be, and leave them there.
“Cheaper than paying for a bag in the hold anyway,” claimed the cabbie.