Stansted at a standstill...
I don’t travel well – but the following must be the worst problem I have ever caused…
Stansted Airport near London is to most people a well laid out airport – basically a rectangular shed with two floors for arrivals and departures, runways at one side, and drop off / pick up at the other side – plus a few satellite gates. Nothing simpler you might think. That’s what I thought.
In auto mode I got onto one of the automatic shuttle trains to get me to gate 32. But the train stopped at gate 30. There were a couple of requests to get off the train. But I thought – not a problem – the train is simply going to go back to pick up more passengers, and I could get back to where I started, so I stayed put. Wrong decision. The train went onwards, down into a dark tunnel, and stopped at a siding, and turned its lights out. Not a good feeling. Oh well, it will soon start up again, and go on its merry way. Not a bit of it. Another train came down the same track, and stopped, and it’s lights also went out. Feeling now less than optimistic about making the wedding in Sicily – I looked for emergency phones. None to be found. I then opened the train doors and ventured out onto the platform - dusty, and mine were the only foot prints. There was one door at the end – which had multiple warnings saying DO NOT EXIT – and one on the side, that I went through, and found another platform and an emergency phone. I picked it up. ‘Are you the person who left the shuttle train?’ said the voice at the other end. On my confirmation – the voice continued ‘Stay where you are! Do not move! You are in a very dangerous situation. Wait and help will come.'
Good news in a way. I waited. And soon a man appeared on another platform further down the track, and asked me to get onto the tracks. Yup – you guessed it. They had turned off the shuttle trains. I was then escorted to a man in a jeep. I was informed that I was the only person in Stansted’s 25 year history that had made this error – not good. I wondered if I would make my flight. I was told that other people might be missing their flights because of me – and was pointed to shuttle busses that had been drafted in to replace the trains. Perhaps very unjustly, I was then dropped off at the gate that my flight was at, and was there in time.
Have you ever been through security and your bag goes on a detour to be inspected by plastic gloved hands of airport security staff? And then the dawning realization that your expensive aftershave, or hand cream, or… just made it into the wrong bag, and you are left with no option but to take the hit, bin it, and accept the loss.
I was informed of the two options: (a) bin it or (b) go back through security, and check my carry on bag into the hold. After a moments hesitation, and being in good time – I went for option (b).