Gate 13

After an additional day in Malta, I was ready to go home. But several twists of fate meant that home wasn’t quite ready for me.

The flight to Manchester was scheduled for 1230, but at check in passengers were told that it had been delayed – perhaps by an hour or so. Not a problem. However, once through security it emerged that our plane hadn’t actually taken off from Manchester, some three hours away.

Flight delays are bad enough. But flight delays without any access to electronic communication to rearrange things back home create a whole new set of challenges. I soon made friends with an older couple who were equipped with a laptop. He stared blankly at the screen, wondering why the airport’s free wifi wouldn’t connect. I went to the information desk to try to find an Internet cafe. No such facilities exist these days, since everyone has a smart phone, right?

“I’ve heard it’s snow. But how come Thomson could take off and EasyJet couldn’t?” ranted a grumpy Northern woman. “I’m NEVER flying with them again.” I rather wished she hadn’t in the first place. Her friend helpfully added “Look at the boarding card – Gate 13. What does THAT tell you?”

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Eventually, special pleading got me a few minutes access to the VIP lounge. Yet being online got me no closer to finding out where our plane was or when it might be arriving. After several hours, EasyJet provided vouchers for lunch – a whopping €4.50 – slightly less than the cost of a sandwich and a drink.

The clock was slowly ticking. If we didn’t land in Manchester by 7.30pm, I couldn’t get a train home to Nottingham that night, given that once back, I’d also have to call out a locksmith. Eventually, the plane landed. It looked like we might just make it.

And we would have, had it not been for the painfully slow refuelling process, and the age it took to bring on passengers with mobility problems via the comical cherry picker. Then the multi lingual computer broke down. And without the obligatory safety announcement in Maltese, we couldn’t take off. I hate reinforcing stereotypes, but our cabin crew of Ryan and Dan looked barely old enough to have their own passports, yet probably legal enough to be Joint Members of the Mile High Club. Sadly there was no additional opening for newcomers. Guffaw.

All of which added an extra hour, which was just enough to mean landing 30 minutes after my own deadline. The flight itself was made worse by a new on board service called The Old Scouser In Row 4. In Row 3 I was treated to various extras, including having my seat continually grabbed and jostled each time she moved, a running commentary on how she wasn’t hanging around train stations at one in the morning and – almost every time I just about managed to doze off – a loud conversation with an equally animated woman in Row 2. It was like a West End Farce at 30,000 feet, involving a meaningless dialogue between a slim version of Miranda Hart and Merseyside’s answer to Julie Walters.

Predictably, Manchester was enjoying a heavy rain shower when we landed – three minutes before my last train was due to leave. I resigned myself to a night in a hotel, finishing off my final cans of Maltese beer.

A great holiday, a nightmare and an adventure all in one. I can’t wait to get out of this country again.

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