Pass the Duchy Re: LUX, don't do it

Yeah, easyJet. You vicarious voyeurs didn't sign up for that now did you? Ahem.

Two things greeted me upon waking up, early on Sunday. Well, three things really.

  • Buster, Helen's cat, snuggled up next to my leg;
  • My head, pounding a mercifully gentle "you had a few stouts last night" rhythm;
  • And, this:

15 minutes? Meh, whatever. I did think: hang on, I hope this doesn't get any worse - but Helen sagely suggested I consult Gatwick departure and Luxembourg arrivals. There was nothing systemic showing. Chill the fuck out, yeah?

First off I had to go home, thankfully just one train stop away. Caffeine for breakfast, back in my flat I traded dirty takeaway stories with Wooj and did a bit of packing. Also I had to change my pants and photograph my new kicks.

Into my shorts pockets went a €20 euro note and, once I remembered it about 30 seconds before heading out the door, my EU emblazoned passport.

Oh god, what have we Brits done?

Also, a phone call. I generally don't answer numbers I don't know, but did this time. Mr Foreman, we're confirming your car for 9.30 tomorrow? Yep, cool.

But today, train to Clapham, out to buy a discount ticket to Gatwick plus some m&s salads. Enough time to eat them on the platform which was handy since the train was standing room only, full of people and their giant luggage.

There's airport signage I'd never noticed. Maybe new since Friday morning?

Departures is cordoned off. Given impending border controls I thought, well that escalated quickly. Followed by, no, that escalator isn't escalating at all.

Gatwick South looks like a giant drone.


No fast track security, but who cares? I was through to airside quicker than basically ever. The guys marshalling the queue were super friendly, and once inside I sought booze - but first, a slalom course through dense shopping.

I'm entirely unfamiliar with everything. Not sure I've ever flown from Gatwick South, and this might only be my second time on easyJet. It'll be fun, she said. And fine, she said. And intrinsically amusing, she said. Fuck it, I'm game.

The rules were: buy the basic easyJet fare. No add-ons - no speedy boarding, no paying for a seat, no fuck all. No priority pass lounge neither. Go to Wetherspoons with the stag dos, the Fisher Price My First Trip Abroad Without My Parents groups of impossibly young, implausibly thin boys, the grimly determined WE ENJOY EACH OTHER'S COMPANY families and everyone else.

Well fine! I'm not that much of a snob, I can live with this! If I can just find the the fuck is Gatwick south so hard to get a drink in? Spoons is bloody miles from the entrance, in fact there's seemingly nowhere to get sauce until you go upstairs. Pfft.

There's also no connection to the world, ironically for an airport. I have no phone signal and the airport wifi barely works - and even if it did, once I find a seat near the back of the pub there's no reception of any kind. I mean really, fuck off.

I'd bought a £4.80 Guinness and perched on a chair by a faux marble shelf, rather than a table, for maximum solitude in a daftly crowded place. My plan is scuppered as seemingly the only other solo traveller here asks if the seat by me is free. I tell him it is, he gets a pint and sits next to me.

10 minutes of silence passes, then he asks where I'm going. I never initiate conversation with strangers because they're all wankers with whom I have no interest interacting. But I answer him and we spend the next hour or so having a great chinwag about flights, stag dos, Netflix box sets, the referendum, sport, all sorts.

At one point my guard is as down as my bladder pressure is up, and I leave my bag with him when going out for a piss (the pub has no loos, for crying out loud). I immediately regretted this and wondered if he'd nick it, or plant something (which he would've got through security somehow, etc). So when I got back, I heightened my suspicion and barriers by offering to buy him a pint.

We kept chatting, interrupted towards the end of the drink by an American man desperate to see a replay of Ireland's penalty against France, the scoring of which had caused raucous cheers among the punters.

Alas, no more beer as I had to leave. As far as I knew it was still 15 minutes late but, y'know, always get to the gate on time etc. As it happens the boards now showed Boarding. They'd made the time up!

They hadn't made the time up. No, in fact the queue at gate 23 was static, and reached through the doors back to the travelator. Bleh. I joined it, left it, and bought a Diet Coke...

...with my phone, from a vending machine, which alerted my phone to what I had just done. It all feels so unnecessary compared to using coins.

Some photos of planes. Back in the queue. Back at the window. By now it's 3pm, my 2:45pm flight says Flight Closed everywhere but boarding hasn't even started and there's been no announcements at all.

And then, at about 3:15pm I guess? We board. I'm row 13, centre of the plane boarding from the rear. I have an aisle seat. The plane is full. There's no legroom at all.

The plane fills up, and the captain tells us why we're late. When preparing, they'd seen fluid in a pool on the ground and he was worried there was a leak so go it checked out. It proved to be leftover hydraulic fluid from a refill of a previous plane; our bird is healthy and ready to go.

We taxi. We pause. EasyJet seats are so close together there's no room for me to see where we are, but the mystery is solved when the captain comes back on the tannoy to tell us we're going back to the stand.

Wait, what?

We're going back to the stand. Already over half an hour late, some piece of computing equipment is broken. Having already told us he's a wimp and safety mad - which is probably a good thing - he's worried we shouldn't fly with one of 7 computing units broken, even though we could make do with 2.

I'm quite worried now. I kinda need to be in Luxembourg. I mean, I'm sure everyone on the plane does, but I've got a deadline. No one seems to acknowledge this. An engineer boards, goes into the cockpit, there are loud grinding noises for 5 minutes, he leaves.

So apparently this plane is going nowhere. There are 18 kids onboard - anyone want to get a photo in the cockpit, "pressing the buttons that do work"? So a queue forms. I don't join it.

Instead, I send a series of ever more panicky Facebook messages to Helen. See, normally I think I'm pretty good at going; crisis? What crisis? It'll be fine. But then, normally I'm on a plane to somewhere in Europe and I'm going to return on the same one. So delays to the outbound are fine, because they'll roll forwards.

But this time, I'm flying easyJet to Luxembourg for the lols in order to catch BA back. There's four hours grace in my timetable, and it's seriously being eaten into. I think we won't go. I totally want to Leave, but easyJet are making me Remain.

I feel sick, even like I want to cry. If I miss my BA flight I'm fucked. It's the first leg of a much bigger journey, paid for with miles and cash, no insurance covers this afaik. If we do go, very late, there's no alternate way back to London tonight. And with planes, if you miss leg one the rest are automatically cancelled. I'm looking at losing all my miles and cash, not going to Australia, and forking out for a hotel and flight home. This is really bad!

My conviction that we're going nowhere multiplies when the captain says they've asked to borrow a spare plane but no one has any. You ain't asking for a new plane if you expect to go, right?

Engineer comes back. He has an idea: turn everything off then on again. Brilliant. My phone tells me my next flight is in 3 hours, and Helen manages to convince me to ask BA for help so I tweet at them.

Oh, yeah, I'm on Twitter now, in my capacity as ludicrous drunken travel blogger. @darrenfRTW, yo.

I finish tweeting and captain says, right, rebooting didn't they replaced it. Things work, so we're going to refuel and the dispatcher will let us go. Really? By now it's 1800 in Luxembourg, just over 3 hours until my flight. We should have landed an hour ago but are still on stand. And the loud pro-Leave guy a few seats up is annoying. Like, really annoying.

We taxi, take off, and fly. Fast. 30 minutes between belts off and belts on for approach. I'm calming down a bit. The service has been lightning quick with basically no one buying. I'd been instructed to get a snack box but food wouldn't have stayed down anyway.

It's chaos getting off. Inside is a connections route, but it's closed. Thankfully the border is fast and, oh, I'm in Luxembourg. My flight is in 2 hours. Time to nip outside, take some deep breaths and an unimpressive photo.


There's a brewery, or at least a bar named like one, landside...but y'know, I just want to get back airside. I don't know this airport at all, want to get in the lounge, want to start my journey proper.

Security is a breeze, though they take particular interest in my Bluetooth keyboard and USB chargers. Straight through there's escalators to departures and you're deposited in a big duty free shop you can't avoid.

I don't know the gate. I don't know where the lounge is. There's non-Schengen immigration and my spidey sense says no, don't go there. So back through the other side of the lounge. There's a sign which says it's up, but the lift near the sign only goes down.

Neither the one world website nor other reviews nor Lux Air site help me out, until I twig - it's back up before the shop, in a badly signposted corridor! Grr.

But eventually, I'm in. My boarding pass is scanned. There's very few people here. I get cheese and meat and a local beer. Some electricity, and calming runway views. I research compensation for delays thanks to pesky EU red tape punishing airlines by making them be fair.

More beer, and cake. I'm wolfing it down. The BA plane arrives and the monitors say it's already boarding, very early. Tactical piss then through immigration, jump the queue courtesy of fast track and into seat 1F. Fuck you easyJet, hello BA business class!

There's an army of buses.

Clouds are awesome, as usual.

And a majestic 747 cargo plane.

A moody kid sits next to me, headphones on, dad and brother across the aisle. I'm rocking much better sneakers than he is. It's ridiculously early, 8:45pm for a 9:20pm departure. And so it proves - we leave the stand before the time written on my boarding pass for gate closure. Take note, easyJet, with all your safety bullshit!

Flight time is really short, but still there's food and champagne. Hurrah!

I think I'm calm now. They announce descent to Heathrow T3 and I'm like, T3? What? Surprise turns to annoyance when we arrive 25 minutes early but lose all the gains by joining a 300+ person passport control queue. No working e-gates at T3.

But, I'm coming back here tomorrow. Maybe I can go get a boarding pass? In a largely deserted departure area, some police and other staff watch me try a self service machine 3 times, punctuated by a loo break, all to no avail. Grr.

So it's late and I'm still two buses and 90 minutes from home. At least it's quick from here on. Oh, wait...

Plus 3.
Created By
Darren Foreman

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