I don’t know about you, (you could be a masochist after all!) but I find that flying anywhere is a total bummer – a time-wasting, stress-creating, ball-aching bummer. The sooner it’s banned because the tele-transporter has been invented or we’ve consumed all the oil the better. Before you laugh, both possibilities really do exist; the oil thing you know about, but there is also a guy in Vienna who has been transmitting atomic particles and the opening bars of Beethoven’s 5th between two devices that are opposite sides of the city, but here’s the freaky or exciting bit – whatever he sends arrives before he’s sent it! And I know that’s true because I read it in the Daily Sport!
Anyway, back to this flying thing and all that excitement and adventure; I’ve just heard that Cyprus Turkish Airlines are supposed to be back in business. I say ‘supposed’ because they were ‘supposed’ to be starting up last month (March 2011 (the year might be important as well)) and here we are at the end of April (2011!) and no sign of them yet! Which was always pretty much par for the course with the old Cyprus Turkish and accounted for much of the excitement element of booking with them – you could never be quite sure when they would turn up, or whether they would turn up at all, or, if they did turn up whether you would be left stranded on the aircraft as the crew walked out on strike because they hadn’t been paid for months – which, as it happens, is exactly what happened to J and me a few years ago.
As Max Bygraves used to say ‘I wanna tell you a story’ . . .
Me and J were off on one of those ‘trips of a lifetime’ things, this time on the Trans-Mongolian train from Moscow to Beijing, and we were pretty excited at the prospect. We were due to join our two sisters in London and then fly to Moscow where we’d stay at the iconic Ukraine Hotel before boarding the train. Our timetable went something like this: Depart Dalaman – 08.30. Arrive Gatwick – 10.30 (local time). Leisurely journey from Gatwick to hotel near Heathrow to meet up with sisters. Depart Heathrow for Moscow – 07.30 next morning. Simple, unrushed and unpressured – we’d planned well, or thought we had. On the morning of departure from Dalaman we were there on time, booked in and then through the checks to the departure lounge. Watched the plane land and taxi up to the gate; boarded the plane, taxied out towards the runway; and stopped – for about 40 minutes. Then it was dragged back to the terminal and we were told there was a small problem that would take a short while to fix; we were de-bussed back into the departure lounge where we waited, and we waited, and we waited.
Every request for info was met with some different reassurance and the time ticked by. People were hungry, they were thirsty and they were staring to get very angry. In the end J insisted on having the airport manager summoned (she can do things like that, I’ve known grown men tremble!) and demanded the truth. The truth was that the crew had gone on strike and had left the airport several hours earlier – can you believe this crap? They knew that when they were telling us that we’d be leaving shortly. Bloody hell! Then they told us that the flight wouldn’t be leaving at all that day and we’d be put up at a hotel until the next day – we had a flight to Moscow next day!
We asked about any available seats on outgoing flights but it was early in the season and although flights were returning to the UK empty they wouldn’t carry us because they had no insurance. A very nice young fellow offered to help and found us seats with a Thomas Cook flight but by the time they’d recovered our luggage and sent us to empty the cash machine to pay for the tickets (and would you believe me if I told you that the arse of a ‘Jobswurf’ made us go out through immigration control and then back in again just to get to the cash machine?), the plane had departed. We were bloody frantic and stressed out, I can tell you. Then, sometime after 5.30 in the afternoon the crew of an Onur Air plane that was returning empty to the UK agreed to take us to – John Lennon International in Liverpool! Well, we reasoned, at least it is on the UK mainland. There was just us and one other guy, who, unlike us, was happy to be going to Liverpool!
When we arrived we had to knock up the customs and immigration lot because there wasn’t supposed to be anyone on that flight; our luggage was delivered by a man with a sack-barrow, and then we were through, to a totally deserted airport – everyone had gone home! We did, eventually find a car hire office with the light on and one car left so we signed up and were at last on the road South to London – except, have you ever tried to find the road South from John bloody Lennon International? About 2.30 on the morning of our departure we eventually arrived at the hotel where our sisters were waiting; there had been no way to contact them to let them know what was going on and yet there they were tucked up in bed snoring like babies with not a worry in the world – I can tell you, without a twinge of conscience, that I took intense pleasure in ringing their rooms and spoiling their nights beauty sleep!
There was more drama in the morning when we tried to return the rental car to the 24/7 open office that wasn’t, but that’s another story! Oh! and when we complained to Cyprus Turkish we were offered some serious compensation – TL20, take it or leave it. I told them to stuff it where the sun never shines!
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü