I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

I don't know where I'm going, but I sure know where I've been

Whee, I'm in an airport lounge necking free booze again. Yay! Been here about half an hour, got, I dunno, 75 minutes left? Though maybe more. Who knows. Right now the only thing I can say with some certainty is that I'm sitting in the Iberia/Melia "Salon VIP", a landside lounge at Paris Orly terminal ouest, waiting for a flight to London. Though, uh, not just London...

Oh, Iberia. The foolish fools. In November 2013, someone made a mistake. They put a fare up for sale for Paris to Madrid return, around £300. That's about the right price. It had to be on Iberia flights - not Iberia planes, but you had to book onto an IB number even if the plane was BA's. And someone forgot to activate the "but nothing fucking stupid" clause present in the rules governing most tickets.


I bought a ticket from Paris to Madrid, return. And my outbound route is: Paris to London to Johannesburg to London to Madrid. Now, what the fare rules do not allow is for a passenger to stop more than 24 hours somewhere, and so consequently I am doing this all in the space of 40 hours or so.

And it's all in economy.

And that's why I'm now in Paris. Here's how I got here.

I flew from London City airport. Despite my office being roughly halfway between my flat and LCY, the journey time is similar, so I opted to work from home this morning, so I didn't waste time commuting - by wfh I could (and did) start at 8am to get a proper half day in. I have every idea when I became so diligent; I really fucking like my current job.

Come 1145 I was still working, in my pyjamas, and had just had it pointed out to me that I'd misremembered my flight time. It wasn't 1435, it was 1415. Shit! Lightning shower and got dressed, shoved a few shirts and pants into a bag, got my passport and print out and fucked off out.

I don't normally like to print much out. I'd prefer to keep everything on my phone, but I'd been unable to check in for my BA/IB flights with a message about the ticket needing reissue or revalidation, though BA customer services had reassured me everything was fine but the code share was confusing things. Just go to the airport, it'll be fine... easy to say, but "the airport" is in a different country on the end of a single ticket. Still, in for a penny.

Out of the house just after midday, onto the 1208 express to Waterloo, onto the jubilee, some frustration at Canning Town (scene of numerous failsome episodes in my recent life) and finally a DLR to City Airport - I'm through security - after some epic queue jumping, the guy getting really pissed off when told he had to get behind the 3 people he'd stolen in front of - and at the bar by 1pm. That is pretty fucking good going right there.

The bar was not pretty good going. My flight was with CityJet, a low cost spin off from Air France and KLM, on a ticket purchased only in July. Truth is when I booked the main trip I honestly thought Iberia or BA would go, ok, well done, you found a mistake - you can't fly it, you have to go direct to Madrid. Or they'd just cancel it. But, no, they've honoured them all - even the ones where people went to Singapore or Sydney. But by the time I'd twigged that I was definitely going ahead, all the mile-earning BA flights were too expensive and so CityJet it was, hence no lounge but instead the bar, "The City".

£5.50 for a fucking rotten Guinness. Bollocks to doing that again.

Meet the Fokker
Boarding opened so I walked down to gate 22, the first of the four, ordered 22, 21, 24, 23. What? At the gate the guy in front of me's boarding pass did the bad beep thing. The lass at the desk spent a couple of minutes searching for a pen and failing to find one, though it wasn't obvious until she asked "anyone got a pen?" and of course I did for my incessant note taking. So she borrowed it and asked to keep it until everyone was through. Ok. I have a spare anyway. But I thought about reacting like the "my pen! my pen!" guy from Kids In The Hall briefly.

My boarding pass also did the bad beep thing. The few times this has happened before have been because I was either getting an upgrade, or my chosen seat had broken inflight entertainment. But this is slow cost carrier with neither possibility. Furthermore I'd been the very first person to check in for this flight, sequence number 001, and there's only about 30 people here. What the fuck? Why can't I sit in 2A?

When my pass had been rejected, the guy behind me did an epic tut and then started mouthing off about me using my phone as a boarding pass, complaining about modern technology being as good as old school paper. Modern technology? Mate, you're about to GET ON A FUCKING PLANE. A big metal box travelling very bloody fast IN THE AIR in comfort and safety. How's that for modern technology? How about you just walk and swim to Paris? Ffhs.

My new pass had a revised boarding time of 1351 (from 1345) on it. It was already 1358. Some of us notice these things.

Anyway. Boarding started, and we were invited to walk down the stairwell labelled "pedestrians use the handrail", as if anyone other than pedestrians use the stairs here. A short walk across the Tarmac to the 6-high steps onto a tiny prop Fokker 50 and I see "CityJet premium" adornments on the first row, in which some heavily pinstriped men are getting comfortable. I guess that's what counts as business class.

Meanwhile in row 3a I am very pleased indeed. I have a great view of the left propeller, no one sitting next to me, and more legroom than BA's European business class - possibly even more than that Singapore airlines flight from Colombo last month. It's fantastic.

The woman from the gate comes onboard, and hands me my pen back. Behind her a man with a clipboard shouts "Mr FOREMAN!" at me, and I say "yes?. He responds "OK" and fucks off. People stare. I am bemused.

Doors lock and a propeller fires up. On the right. Not on the left. Aren't they both meant to be going? A couple of minutes later and they are, as are we all. It's a lovely day with great views of London and the Thames estuary, then Kent and the very very tip of Southeast England. At cruising altitude I am surprised that free snacks are given out, though hardly anything - I opt for an out of character cup of tea, and a frankly delicious Belgian chocolate.

The stewardess places my stuff on the table in front of the empty seat next to me, but I transfer it to my own table which I place in the slightly higher position than that one.  A few seconds later my folly is revealed as disaster strikes: my table jolts down to the one and only true, lower position, and the tea goes all over the show, with a huge patch on my right leg looking just like I've pissed myself.
SE England. Literally.

I laugh out loud. What a dick. Wonderfully, I realise I forgot to pack a pair of shorts - my only changes are shirts and underwear, with my jeans meant to last me 48 hours (not my design, but by idiocy). And now I'm sat with a big wet stain on me. The tea, mercifully, was piss weak and I hadn't added milk, nor was it remotely hot. But, for fucks sake Darren.

The rest of the flight is unassuming. There are no more liquids for me to have mishaps with, and the views of coastal and inland France are great. I have a fantastic sight of the Eiffel Tower as we approach Orly and think back to how right I am about Gatwick being a shit airport for London, because passengers don't get the "wow, look at London!" thing as they fly over Sussex. We land at 1640 local time, on time.
I've never been to Paris Orly before. I know two things: that I have to check in at a desk, and that the Iberia lounge is landside. As I am 3hrs before my flight and it's a busy place, my flight isn't on the monitors yet. I can't see any Iberia or BA desks, but there are earlier Iberia flights where check in is in Hall 1. I am in Hall 3.

Hall 1 is a bit of a trek, not least due to unfamiliar surroundings. But I find it, and the Iberia desks have no queues. I stroll up and he asks if I'm going to Madrid. Well, yes, sort of... but no, London. London? We don't fly to London. You need BA. They are in Hall 3. Grargh!

Back to hall 3 and a bit deeper in, I find the BA desks. Again, no queue. I hand him my passport. "Sir, you are flying from Paris to London, London to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to London, London to Madrid?" I asked, each clause said slower than the last and with a corresponding raise of the eyebrows. I thought he was going to strain them. "Uh, yes, that's right" I say. He looks astonished. And then he checks me in and gives me two boarding passes, one to London and one to Johannesburg.

He also says my BA number isn't in my booking, and should it be? Well fuck yes it should be, one of the main points of doing this is that it's a comparatively cheap way to earn almost 30,000 avios which I can spend on a less punishing...ok, who am I kidding, an equally punishing but more comfortable trip in the future. So he fixes it up, and then confirms I can use my other shiny card to get into the lounge. Which is, of course, back in hall fucking 1. 3, 1, 3, 1, 3, and the flight goes from gate 31. Enough already!

Aaaand that's where we came in. I'm waiting to start this preposterous ticket, looking forward to a trip in economy at the back of a dilapidated 747 to a country where people shoot people. But am I actually going? Officially, I have 1h20m between flights at Heathrow this evening, and I think the minimum legal connection time is 50 minutes. Last I heard, my flight from here is 16 minutes late...

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