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The Independent Travel
The best thing about the end of the school summer holidays is a reduction in the numbers of disconsolate faces of the people at any of Britain's big airports. Every year the airlines promise to do their best to make it a stress-free summer, yet every year holidaymakers are left stranded. Florida seems to attract more problems than most destinations: last summer, thousands got stranded at Gatwick or Orlando while Laker and Airtours got their acts and planes together; this year, 350 holidaymakers were stranded for a day and a half at Belfast International.

Heathrow Terminal 3 is not a happy airport, either, even though it handles only scheduled flights. "Is it always this chaotic?" I asked the poor chap whose job it was to shepherd travellers through the shambles resulting from the collapse of a tunnel being dug for the express rail link. "It'll be like this at least until December," was the cheery response. But by the time you have battled through the labyrinthine queues, Richard Branson may give you cause to smile. He has named his latest Boeing 747 "Tubular Belle". This is more than just a poor pun on the name of Mike Oldfield's album - it is recognition by Mr Branson that the success of the simplistic euphonies of Tubular Bells created the wealth that led to the creation of Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Mr Branson has since expanded his empire to include a large slice of Britain's rail network. The Manchester-to-London run is one of his acquisitions, but given its punctuality record, the name he has chosen for one of the locomotives is particularly apt. It's called "Mission: Impossible".

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