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A day in the tortured life of a TV crew trying to travel in the snow chaos

Chris Jackson | 22:37 UK time, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Departure board at Newcastle Airport.jpgYou might have heard me on BBC Newcastle's breakfast show on Wednesday morning reporting from a snowbound Newcastle Airport. I was there from before 06:00hrs and still hadn't left the terminal building by 20:00hrs.

As of Thursday morning by the time you read this I will be having another attempt at reaching my destination. Here are my diary notes of my travel woes that seem to rival the classic movie "Trains, Planes and Automobiles".

I needed to get to Nice, France on Wednesday for some interviews for a forthcoming Inside Out film. The cheapest option was:

PLAN A
Drive to Liverpool Airport and fly to Nice.
This was scuppered with the forecast of heavy snowfall on Tuesday night and an erroneous cancellation of our flight on the airline website. So we cut our losses and we decided on:

PLAN B
Producer Andy and I decided we'd spend a bit more and fly from Newcastle to Stansted and then on to Nice - again with Easyjet. So at midnight I booked the flights for a 07:00hrs departure. (A few minutes later I double check the Easyjet cancellations webpage and the PLAN A flight appeared as back on again - but what with the snow problems we stuck with PLAN B).

04:00 Get up after three hours sleep. Wash and dress.
View of aircraft covered in snow at gates at 06:00hrs06:00 Arrived at Newcastle Airport after driving through scary snow-filled roads. Check-in.
Aircraft on ground covered in snow. Not feeling optimistic.

07:00 Due to depart. Information board hangs on "Wait in Lounge: 3 mins" for ages.
09:00 Finally board aircraft. Still OK for connecting flight at Stansted.

Easyjet plane being de-iced at 09:00hrs09:30 Plane de-iced. Engines about to start when captain hears Stansted now closed.
11:00 We disembark and end up back in departure lounge.
Flight delayed until at least 14:00hrs.
11:15 Search internet for alternative ways of getting to London. Trains not running well.
11:20 Discover PLAN A flight has now been cancelled after all, so we feel smug.
11:30 Discover our connecting flight from Stansted to Nice is cancelled. Not so smug.
11:31 We decide to go to:

PLAN C
11:45 Discover seats available with BA to Nice via Heathrow. Double check with the airline's disruption advice page. Still looking good.
11:46 Realise our luggage is still on Easyjet plane.
11:50 Go back to original departure gate to ask for luggage to be offloaded.
(earlier they said this would be easy, but there's no-one there).
11:55 We are now stranded at gate.
No personnel about and we are locked out of departure lounge.
11:57 Blag our way back through locked doors to departure lounge.
12:00 Find flight crew who contact other staff to come and assist.
12:05 Still no one there.
12:15 Lovely calm Easyjet woman comes to our rescue and radios ground crew to
offload our cases.
12:27 She takes us to through to baggage reclaim.
12:35 Carousel starts - one bag comes up. It's not ours.
12:36 Our two cases are nowhere to be seen.
12:37 I run back to gate. Lovely lady goes out to plane herself to organise baggage retrieval.
12:40 Run with all our bags but am now once more locked out of baggage reclaim area.
12:45 Dump bags and run back to gate.
12:50 Someone helps me get past security doors to get back into the terminal!
13:00 Exhausted we slump at BA check-in desk.
13:01 Relieved as our flight is not due to leave until 15:05hrs.
14:00 Watch our PLAN B Stansted flight leave Newcastle but we still feel smug.
14:30 BA announce delay on our flight to Heathrow. Fear sets in. Snowing at Heathrow.
15:00 BA announces flight now delayed until 16:00hrs.
15:40 Heathrow flight now put back until 17:00hrs.
15:42 We discover our connecting BA flight to Nice is now cancelled. Time for:

PLAN D
15:45 Still expecting to get to London tonight so rebook Nice leg for Thursday morning.
Not sure where we'll sleep - but assume something will be sorted.
16:15 Heathrow flight now put back to 19:00hrs
16:20 Discover all later BA flights to London are cancelled so ours will be last out today.
17:45 Heathrow flight now put back to 20:30hrs.
Chris Jackson waiting for a meal at 18:20hrs18:00 Go for a meal.
18:20 Food about to be served.
BA announces our flight is now postponed until Thursday morning.
Lose appetite.
18:30 Finish meal anyway. Go through to baggage reclaim AGAIN! Ready to implement:

PLAN E
18:40 Pick up cases but revolving exit door is jammed and alternative door won't open.
Stuck in baggage hall area with other irritated passengers.
18:45 Doors finally prised open. Go to BA desk. Huge queue. Long wait.
19:30 Rearrange flight yet again. New departure time 10:00hrs Thursday.
Chris Jackson leaves airport after  fourteen hours inside terminal building19:45 Finally leave airport after 14 hours and head home to bed.

And so I'll be starting this adventure all over again tomorrow.

If I get to Nice I promise to send a postcard.

UPDATE:

Thursday January 07 - The saga continues.
08:00 Arrive at Newcastle airport AGAIN.
08:05 Stand in BA check-in queue.
08:25 Get to desk to be told the flight is cancelled. no-one had bothered to announce this so have to go to booking desk.
08:30 Stand in ticketing desk queue. (Fortunately my long-suffering producer Andy has forseen trouble and had got in this queue earlier and bagged us a place near the front.)
08:35 Told about the chances of:

PLAN F

Next available flight is 17:50 tonight! We transfer anyway in vain hope it will work.
08:40 Get taxi back to BBC offices.
09:30 Just in case this plan doesn't work I prepare for more possible ways of getting to Nice.
13:00 Radio colleague rings to say "newsflash". ALL BA flights from Newcastle are now cancelled. Try to stifle a huge expletive.
13:10 Hit the internet to see if we can rescue our plan, but we have to be in Berlin by Friday to catch up on our filming schedule.
14:30 We have hatched a new cunning plan. See next blog for details of.....

PLAN G


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