Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport. 1045 in the morning, on the first day of summer. The clocks in England changed today and the rule is that one loses an hour of sleep (“spring forward, fall back”). So the alarm went off at 0615, which yesterday would have been 0515, and suddenly the idea of staying up until midnight to watch the football on Match of the Day didn’t seem like such a good idea after all. Even if Leeds United did win. Which they did, 0-1 at Millwall. Which is brilliant. But I digress.

The alarm went off at 0615 and by 0645 the check-out formalities were completed. We stayed at the Radisson Blu at the airport last night, so this morning we just had a 15 minute walk through the walk-way to Terminal 3 and the BMI check-in desks. Our flight to London was scheduled for 0930, with a connection to Toronto.

“You’re early”, said the lady. This led to some confusion as I thought she was referring to the time change whereas she was referring to the fact that there was no BMI flight to London until 1130. Eventually it was determined that the 0930 flight was no longer on the schedule – with the coming of summer comes a new set of flights, apparently.

She told me that BMI routinely does this, as do all airlines, and the new schedule is sent to the other airlines who then contact their passengers. “Nobody contacted me”, I complained. She phoned Air Canada and was told they had let me know, by e-mail, of the change. “No they didn’t”, I said.

“Go and have a coffee”, said the lady, “and I’ll try and get a supervisor down here. We have no ticket agents working until nine thirty because we don’t have any flights!”

We went and had coffee. Then we bought and read the paper. Then we had another coffee. At 0735 Mr Carl Breeze turned up. He is a BMI Customer Service Agent. If ever you are stuck in Manchester Airport, ask for him. He was brilliant.

After reviewing the situation he went back to the desk. Five minutes later he was back with a telephone number. He gave me his mobile phone and said “phone Air Canada in London”. I did. I gave the lady my reference number, and told her I was in Manchester. “No problem”, she said, “it’s only seven thirty and your flight isn’t until nine thirty”.

“Big problem”, I riposted wittily, “there’s no plane until eleven thirty”. I gave the phone to Carl.

He started chatting to her, explaining the BMI position that they’d let Air Canada know and why hadn’t the latter changed the tickets? He also pointed out that one Air Canada agent had told BMI they had informed us, but now she was still showing that we were on the flight that no longer existed. So even if someone had told us, which we claimed they hadn’t, why had nobody told her?

He kept talking, wandering around, and every so often coming back to tell us they were working on it. At eight he brought us two “light refreshment” vouchers, so we had another coffee and some breakfast. Costa Coffee make good coffee but their warmed up bacon and brie sandwiches leave rather a lot to be desired.

At eight thirty Carl, after nearly an hour on his mobile phone, told us we were sorted, and were re-routed via Frankfurt to Toronto. But the thing was, Air Canada had to initiate the new tickets, and wouldn’t do that until they heard from Lufthansa. So we had to push our trolleys back to Terminal 1 and go to the Lufthansa check in desk. “They know about you”, said Carl.

We were there just before nine. “We’re overbooked”, said the guy at the Lufthansa check-in desk, “there are no seats.” We reviewed the story to date. “Hang on”, he said, and picked up the phone.

We then were sent to the Ticketing Desk, where we waited while a lady paid £57 so she could take her 9 week old Belgian Shepherd puppy on the plane in a carry-on bag. When it was our turn, the lady said “Air Canada has to issue this revised itinerary, it’s their ticket”.

“But they won’t without hearing from you.”

“Have you talked to BMI?”

“Yes. They talked to you and to Air Canada. But Air Canada only wants to talk to you.”

“Right. Hang on. Have a seat, this will only be a minute”.

The eight seats were filled with nine giggling teenagers from China or Taiwan, sharing the ear-buds of their iPods and paying no attention to the world around them. We stood. Fifteen minutes later the lady called us over to the desk.

“OK, you’re good, go back to the check-in desk please”.

We did. The person with whom we’d spoken earlier was now busy with another customer, so we went to the adjacent desk.

“Frankfurt? I don’t see you …”

A voice from the adjacent desk said, “it’s alright, they’ve been re-routed, they have seats held”.

“Right, here we are. Do you have any bags?”

“Yes, four”.

“You’re only allowed one bag each”.

“No, it’s Air Canada and I have a frequent flier card, we get two each – how do you think we got them here?”

The voice from the adjacent desk said, “don’t argue, just check them in, they’re having a bad day”.

So we got our bags booked in, but only as far as Toronto. We’ll have to collect them there, and drag them to a hotel for overnight. We got our boarding passes, and are seated together for the first flight but have to get the seats allocated in Frankfurt for the second leg. We’re not sure if we have seats on the plane to Charlottetown tomorrow, or even whether there is one, as the Lufthansa people can only check the Air Canada schedule, not the one for Jazz.

Manchester Airport. It’s 1115 in the morning, the first day of summer, I’ve been up for 5 hours already and have travelled about 800m from the hotel. But we’re through security and I’ve got a coffee, and the flight to Frankfurt will be boarding soon, so all in all things are better than they might have been.

And, again, a big shout-out to Carl Breeze of BMI, who spent over an hour of his time to make all this happen. Thank you.

Previous: The Spectre of Unemployment
Next: Sunday Afternoon PS