Grounded stories: 'We got on the plane but then waited eight hours'
Rob Sharp and John Elmes talk to passengers hoping to get away for Christmas but who find themselves stranded at Heathrow
Monday 20 December 2010
Adam Schaffer, 29, was meant to be flying to Melbourne, for his wedding on Thursday. The bride is already there. His 11.25am Cathay Pacific flight was delayed yesterday, and he remains stranded at Heathrow's Terminal Three with his best man, trying to console his distraught fiancée by phone.
"My dad's out there, my uncle's out there, my fiancée's out there, she's crying obviously and we're sitting here waiting. I'm just so stressed.
"They're holding on to see if they can get us on to a waiting list for today's flight, and that's the situation. I'm just doing anything I can to get on any plane that's going anywhere out of this city. Whether it is going to LA or Hong Kong or Bangkok or Singapore, as long as it is somewhere where flights can manage to take off towards Australia.
"At the moment I'm trying to be positive and hoping I can get out of here. Theoretically, the last time I can leave here is tomorrow night, so I'm going to stay here – I'm not going home – I have to keep pestering all the airlines. That's all I can do. No one's actually co-ordinating. It is bad enough they can't fly the planes, the least they can do is have someone in charge of communications."
Canadian Gary Davis, 36, had been hoping to go home for the first time in six years, with his girlfriend, Vicky Kirner, 29. Their 5pm flight was delayed on Saturday and they have been camping out at Heathrow. Because of cold temperatures within the departure lounge, Mr Davis constructed the couple a shelter made out of tin foil blankets and scavenged cardboard.
"I have planned this trip since January because my girlfriend has never been to Canada for Christmas. My parents have split up, and my dad is here and my mum is over there. Most of the family are there so this is frustrating because we haven't had a good family Christmas for ages. We were looking forward to this so much.
"We were given bottles of water and blankets, but no information. We've just been waiting. The Heathrow website tells you one thing, then the information boards tell you something else. We scrounged around and got some mats for last night. The floor was really hard on Saturday night. I hope we'll get to fly out today but there's not much we can do if the weather stays like this."
The mother and child
Anna Gracie, 36, was booked with her four-year-old son George on BA's 9.30am Saturday flight to Abu Dhabi, where they were going to meet up with the rest of their family. They made it on to the aircraft, but no further...
"On arrival at Heathrow, there was utter chaos. The main problem was the lack of information being passed around. BA offered its customers terrible customer service. A British Airways customer adviser was standing in the middle of the bag drop with a megaphone shouting out what people needed to do and where to go – no one could hear it and all the customers flocked to him, breaking down the queues and forming a mass around him.
"We eventually got on to our plane and I thought we were the lucky ones. But instead we were sat there for a very long time – for eight hours in the end. The stewards did a sterling effort in trying to keep us entertained, but if BA think that one sandwich in an eight-hour time frame is enough they are mistaken.
"When we finally disembarked in to the terminal the fun really started. We were met with two BA ground staff who gave us letters and told us to move on. I tried ringing the numbers given and was told that due to high call volumes all customers should contact the website. The website was not up to date and in fact showed us having landed in Abu Dhabi, so we couldn't change our flights. Customer advisers greeted me with with untold rudeness.
"At baggage reclaim we had to wait another 2.5 hours for our bags to arrive. The captain explained that the ground crew were not planning on bringing in our bags – it was only at her insistence that they started off-loading a few. One of our bags didn't make it – I'm not sure how you lose a bag that hasn't left the ground?
"None of the passengers minded that we had been sat on a plane for eight hours, that we only had one sandwich or even that we had our flight cancelled. What we did mind was the constant lack of information and lack of foresight."
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