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By Larry Bannon - 27th June 2014 4:29pm
It started off as one of the hottest days so far, 33c at 10:00am, when Kerry and I, set off for the airport, but having enjoyed a lovely relaxing 10 days of Spanish sunshine, we were ready for home.
We arrived at the airport in the calm knowledge that the threat of the French air traffic controllers strike was not going to affect our take-off time at 12:15pm and that by 2:00pm (UK time), we would be landing in Manchester... or so we thought...!
On arrival at San Javier/Murcia airport at 11:00am, we heard the news that the plane from Manchester had not left, due a fuel leak and we were going to have to wait for a replacement plane, due to arrive at Murcia at 1:00pm...not bad only a 45min delay.
People who had started to queue at check-in, about 10:30am, were still standing in the queue when we heard the announcement, that the airline could not find a similar sized replacement plane, so were sending two smaller planes instead, one from Leeds and one from Prague.
As Lady Minshull doesn't do queues, we were still sitting and observing the same people still standing in line at 2:30pm, to hear that the first plane was not due to arrive until 3:45pm and take-off at 4:15pm and the second plane was not due to arrive until 4:30pm and take off at 5:15pm.
The ground staff were allocating passengers to the two planes, but basically, people with 'hold' luggage were going on the 4:15pm plane and most 'hand' luggage passengers were on the second plane...hurrah!...for the first time in 13 years we had taken 'hold' luggage and we could get away 45 minutes earlier that the other plane. So about 3:30pm the check-in line finally started to move. Kerry and I finally joined the queue and got to the yellow line (which you dare not cross unless beckoned to..!) when the loading system failed. We and the last of the late arriving stragglers were given food vouchers and asked to await further announcements.
At about 4:00pm we were called back and had to line up again for the check-in, but it didn't matter, because we were finally on our way. Through to the departure lounge we went to see our plane waiting for us on the apron and at 4:15pm, on time, the second plane arrived too.
As we had our seat numbers, we again sat and watched as passengers, once again lined up to get on board, but as the queue went down, we noticed that some passengers were returning to the terminal again. It transpired that these were passengers who had already checked-in on-line and were only carrying hand luggage, so had gone straight through to the departure lounge, on arrival at the airport, but were unaware of the requirement to be re-checked in, due to a change in planes. This meant that quite a few passengers had the same seat numbers and confusion and delay rained..!
Eventually, some order was resumed and it seemed that everyone had boarded both planes, however, we were receiving the in-flight safety instructions, when the ground staff came aboard to say that they could not account for one passenger.
After numerous head counts, it was decided that the passenger must have left the airport. But just as the second arriving plane had left first, at 5:30pm, there was now concern from the captain, that there may be baggage in the hold, which was not accounted for, as the mystery passenger could not stand up and be counted...only one thing for it..."take off all the 'hold' baggage and have all the passengers identify their own luggage"...did I mention this was one of the hottest days, so far..?
So everyone disembarked to the tarmac in the searing heat to await the ground staff (who were either on siesta, or manana) to arrive to remove the luggage. Guess what?...every bag was accounted for and passengers, now very hot and bothered, hungry and thirsty, re-boarded the plane.
It was 7:30pm when the engines finally roared into action and took off for Manchester, but at least we were on our way. After about 25mins, the cabin crew announced it would be shortly coming round with very welcomed food and drinks... that is until the captain once again came over the intercom to announce, that although the plane was airworthy, it had developed a problem, which meant he would have to turn around and return to Alicante airport, to replace the plane, however, as we had just re-fuelled in Murcia, we would not be allowed to land with full fuel tanks, therefore we would spend the next hour in a fixed flight pattern to burn-off enough fuel, to allow us land.
At 9:00pm we eventually landed at Alicante and our return plane landed, some 15 minutes later and just 25 yards away on the apron. Once again the luggage had to be unloaded and re-loaded on the replacement plane...but what about the passengers?... surely we would just walk the 25 yards distance to get on the new plane?...oh, no, we had to wait while the ground staff arranged for two buses to pull along side the plane, load the passengers and drive over to the other plane. We eventually took off from Alicante airport at 10:30pm, some 10 and a quarter hours late and only 50 miles, from the villa we left at 10:00am that morning.
Arriving in Manchester at 12:30am, who would have thought ...it was going to be one of those days...!
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