Quite frankly I am sick of snowmen as I have contributed 100+ viewings of the Youtube clip and 20+ full shows of Disney’s ‘Frozen’. I could claim they were all for Isla, but let’s face facts, parents, we’ve all watched it a few times sans enfants.
Why do I bring this up? Well, you’ve probably barely noticed there’s been no blog for seven weeks. This is because the Diplomat, Isla, and I decided to go show off the new boy – Joshua – to the family in England and Canada. For some inexplicable reason we decided to come home by a non-stop itinerary that meant a flight from Toronto to Heathrow with a two hour lay over before heading back to the sunny climes of Bangkok via a 12 hour flight. We had left Thailand in some kind of peaceful instability and an inaccessible Lumphini Park, returning to find a military coup had been announced and I have no chance of watching the Eastern/Western NHL finals because every TV station is broadcasting a message in Thai that we couldn’t read. But I can say we DO have copy of Frozen to watch again and again and again and..weeping…oh and Lumphini is open again.
Anyway, back to our return trip. Having picked up enough blog material over the six week period to satiate people for a little while we decided to grab a car at 17:30EST for a two hour run to Lester B. Pearson airport. Flight was due to leave at 23:00. Given Joshua had screamed the entire way on the outbound leg of this car journey it was a pleasant surprise to find him smiling beatifically most of the way. We got to the airport in a calm frame of mind; this achievement was partially realised by the Diplomat using some kind of calming homeopathic spray. You see, the Diplomat rules the airport run. The family’s job is to stay in line, keep our mouths snapped shut, ask no questions, and do everything that is asked immediately. That way we all arrive at the gate in a happy manner.
No one wants to find out the “else”. So when I had been told four hours earlier that Air Canada had shuffled our carefully pre-booked seats, scattering them across the cabin of an Airbus like unwanted candy wrappers so that our two year old was ten rows behind me and the Diplomat stuffed next to a toilet and we now had no bassinet for Joshua..well, I delicately dropped into “listen” mode. The Diplomat called Air Canada and contemplated through clenched teeth the Biebster’s latest hits warbling on for 45 minutes as she entered the infernal telephone automated queuing system. Eventually getting through she was told, in under 60secs, that the flight had been handed to the airport so there was nothing the Air Canada person sitting in the Philippines could do. Add that to the fact Isla’s infant meal had been given to a strapping teenager on the outbound flight – “sozza, ain’t nuttin’ we can do ’bout it, eh. Call Air Canada to complain.” being the only advice given – our terseness with Air Canada was understandably manifesting in any conversation we had with anyone who cared to listen. We were heading to the airport with no bulkhead bassinet for a three month old and the family sitting nowhere near each other. Despite the fact we had paid for it.
We navigated Check In – this time the lady who fobbed us off to the Gate desk was very polite and sympathetic.
“Change of planes, dearie” she huffled. “The computer then reallocates everyone. Check In closes at ten pm so you can ask then. People might not make the flight. Have a nice day.”
Fat chance. The flight was overbooked and Gate Desk people said “they’ll sort it on board.” No they didn’t. All we’d got all day was a demonstration of teflon customer service. Our only amusement was watching three people struggle for seat 21A. Three others swapped out seats they weren’t even in. We eventually got a row to ourselves and watched as four – I’ll call them “fat” because it’s the plain truth – people languished with a louche air in our seats. They had no baby. One might have been pregnant. Hard to tell. The Diplomat was understandably miffed and approached her country folk.
No dice. The Air Canada air stewardess grunted at us: “Sozza. Hey, try calling Air Canada Reservations to complain. They might refund your bassinet seat.”
http://blogs.canoe.ca/travel/airports-getting-there/new-survey-finds-air-canada-flight-attendants-among-the-rudest-in-north-america/ – check this out from April 2014.
We left thirty minutes late due to the fact Air Canada had overbooked the flight and there was a verbal scuffle delaying matters. That left us 90 minutes to get across Heathrow. At least we were in the same terminal.
Of course when one arrives over the sodden grey skies of the land of UK you are promptly put into a holding pattern over Luton or Gatwick or some dreary place. Result was we landed at 11:33BST – another 30 minutes lost. Our Thai flight was due push back at 12:30. Didn’t matter if we tried to get off quickly, the pushchair and stroller we had were lazily lugged last to the top of the gantry so we had to wait. Tumbleweed was blowing through the place when it got there. We sprinted through Heathrow, caring not a fig for running over people’s toes as they sauntered myopically down the Heathrow travelators. I hadn’t realised the land of my forefathers possessed an airport that made you redo your security. I took us through the Fast Track given our time issues only to have some fresh Etonian apologize his way ahead of us, led by the nose; his ring was clasped by a burly Heathrow security officer. We tentatively asked the Heathrow officer loading everything into trays for scanning if we might skip through. He said and I quote:
“No point. We don’t let anyone skip the line. If you miss your flight that’s just the way it is.”
Out of the corner of my eye I could see the Diplomat frantically overdosing on homeopathic calming spray.
We have two infants so there’s always fluids in the carry on. This meant they shoved one bag into the “red zone” where a bored Heathrow employee waved a wand and then sauntered around chatting to her mates before asking us to open the bag. Each liquid was then bagged, scanned, shoved in what looked a microwave oven, before eventually getting back to us.
“Our flight closes in five minutes.” we pleaded. You can imagine how two tired infants were behaving at this point.
“Well, if it closes in five minutes then you’ve already missed it.” yawned the bored security woman.
Much could have been said. Was in fact said silently, but the Diplomat proved her career worth by smiling sweetly at them. We left. No hope. We were going to have to find a hotel.
Then….it was like stepping from Purgatory into Heaven. The rain clouds vanished and angels wearing Thai Airways uniforms floated towards us.
“Madame Diplomat? Khun travels? We are holding the 747 flight for you. If you hurry with us we will make it in time. See here, there are ten people to assist you with bags, infants, tickets, passports. Madame Diplomat allow me to refresh your homeopathic calming spray.” Well, perhaps I made up that last bit, but you get the gist. Canada/UK 0 Asia 1.
Then 0-2, then 0-3, then 0-4 then…you see what I am saying. Thai Airlines know how to deliver service. Politely, efficiently, sympathetically. None of this reaching for the pedantocratic bureaucrat’s guidebook to foil passengers. Just great customer service as we were whisked onto the plane and found seats to suit us rather than what had been booked. Isla was given a colour book and a toy plane. A stewardess sat next to her and chatted away to give us some time to settle. Joshua’s seat was found to be a trifle too big for the seat belt – “No matter, we’ll sort that right now” (and they did). Drinks were brought, smiles were given. Eventually we turned on the Inflight entertainment.
“Frozen” blinked out at us. “Hey, Isla. Wanna build a snowman?” For the first time in ages we all wanted to build one.
We got to Suvarnabhumi to flashing messages on phones about the coup, mentioned it to the Thai Airways greeter.
“No problem. There is a coup, but Bangkok. It is the same as ever. You will enjoy your stay,”
You know what…she’s right.
Is this what diplomacy is all about?