So I sitting outside my glorified non A-C shed listening to the waves crashing in onto the shore just down the sandy slope not quite believing it’s been a week since I ended up stuck in a Ramada hotel on the outskirts of Istanbul ‘courtesy’ of Turkish Airlines. It was not quite the end of an eventual fraught 24hrs that started on the Friday at Gatwick with us departing over 40mins late. For those of you who know how tight the take off schedules are (i.e.very) is akin to missing not only the birth of your child (and you’re the mother) but also your own funeral. My connection at Istanbul was 1hr 10, maybe a bit more if you allowed the gate to stay open to allow for the connection, after all the route itself was sold on that basis.
Our late departure was not too bad a problem allegedly as we were told we’d arrive pretty much bang on. Of course they’d put nearly all those with connections, to Riyadh, to Mumbai, to Nepal, to just about everywhere at the back of the plane. The air steward was smiles and all ‘it’ll be fine’. Only it wasn’t. At the point we were due to land we started to circle, and circle and circle. Radio silence. No mention of why, what was going on or indeed what that meant for all those people all on connecting flights all leaving (somewhat bizarrely) at 19:35. The radio silence continued, even to the point when we landed, at now 7pm. No interest in those with connecting flights, no priority and so we then waited at the back of the airplane, then as we disembarked to the waiting bus, we saw it drive off…..bugger. Even at this point there was still hope (damn that blitz spirit).
The second bus pulled up, we leapt on. The driver leapt off and wandered up into the plane for a chat. Gone for what seemed like an age he finally sauntered down, seemingly so what surprised to see a group of sweaty, anxious connecting flight people all attempting to use the power of the mind to release the handbrake. He set off at exactly the same pace that he’d walked down the stairs from the plane, I think it’s called ‘relaxed’. Of course we were parked the other end of the airport, practically in Ankara, and no doubt we all passed by our respective connecting flights, and so we trundled, trundled ever onwards to the beckoning but now fading lights of the airport terminal. Then shit happened.
I still shudder slightly at the number of people I accidentally took out, trod on or pushed in my somewhat unexpected Ataturk Airport Bootcamp and apologise, particularly to the small boy whose luggage I knocked over, then I trod on his foot – as well as international peace treaties there should also be rules keeping to the right, whatever mode of moving travel equipment you’re on. Anyhow suffice to say I saw a lot of the airport.
Lap 1 took me upstairs, initially to Gate 219, where en route to I was overtaken by my next-door seat neighbour from the flight headed to 215 in an airport cart. I managed to shout ‘Stop stop’ as if fleeing some sort of Armageddon. Reluctantly the driver did and then proceeded to tell me he was driving no further than gate 215 where my ‘nds neighbour’ was headed. And fair play to the driver he was right, he refused to go no further and not help. Leaving me to fall out the cart and do the 200mtr dash (read emphysemic shuffle) 4 more gates along. To no avail. It was empty, bereft, lifeless. I found out later you could walk all the way through and down to the bus, I even saw one waiting….maybe it was for me, more likely it was Turkish Airlines teaser there to lure me down before the driver put the pedal to the metal and roared off at a mighty 10mph.
Not really kitted out for sports day, nor even for the airport equivalent of Challenge Anneka and being a tad unfit the return back the way I came was paining in the extreme, sweat pouting off me so I looked like a human Niagara Falls, both dehydrated yet really needing a wee. The return journey was slightly alleviated by the travelators all going in my direction this time. I did send a few people in slightly different directions as I barged through however.
Back downstairs where I’d started from 10mins before I asked again what to do particularly as it seemed unlikely I’d be getting the flight.The man rolled the connecting flight dice and this time said 214.
Lap 2. Stupidly believing that the gate was the back of the wardrobe to my now Narnia-ic (eg fictional flight of fantasy) flight I somewhat naively set off again. I was directed a different way so that this time I went up and round through security (?) back to the gates. 214 was the flight bound for Paris. ‘No lady, we can’t help’, the derisory flick of the hands at me as if I’d just presented a turd on a platter to him. Then pointed me to a (non) helpdesk where the response was more shrugs, definite, nay rude ‘can’t help you LADY’ and told to go back downstairs. So….
Lap 3, here we go again……..roll the dice and 216 this time. Nope. Back to (un)help desk. Begging and pleading with the ‘customer’ service lady she refuses to do nothing other than tell me ‘I can’t help you LADY’, ‘go downstairs LADY’. We play verbal table tennis, she says her bit, I say ‘please help me’, she says her bit, I say ‘take me where I need to go, I don’t know where to go (as clearly where I’ve been going has been NO help other than randomly picking desk numbers for shits and giggles). She’s thinking ‘yeah I know where I’d like you to go’ and walks off, as it transpires, to the loos, where I follow her, finally making her accept that this International Airport Sports Day failure is actually a human being who deserves a bit of compassion and shows me the right way downstairs and where to get to…..the sole sucking transit desk of missed connections. 2 people working and about 30-40 passengers lined up. There I meet at least 5 others off the flight, including nds neighbour and we queue, and queue and queue,meanwhile we miss a flight with Qatar Airlines that could have got us in. An hour later we arrive at the front of the desks. ‘Flight is tomorrow’. ‘Hotel tonight’. But what about visa? ‘Yes, you pay for visa to exit’ Even though it’s not my fault. ‘Excuse me, not our problem’, I kind of think it is…..
The finish line? Nearly….Anyway, we weren’t winning that one. Assured our bags were safe and that we needed to go to the Turkish Airlines Hotel desk (staffed by quite a few as it turns out, no wonder, there was close to 70 people all waiting to be sent to various places across Istanbul that night) after visa procurement out we went into the arrivals hall to find the desk tucked away at the end of the terminal. Come on, if you’re going to be this useless, may as well be upfront and move your desk a bit closer to the exit for everyone.
An hour or more later we speed off, two minivans packed with sweaty tourists in need of food, cleaning, sleep and recovery. At the hotel we were told no food unless you wanted to pay for it (now after 11pm). Knackered, I booked a flight to Goa for Sunday (having erroneously gotten a friend to book me a flight for the day I couldn’t fly whilst waiting in the customs queue to exit the airport….clearly lost a lot of brain cells whilst doing my workout and managed to substitute Sunday for tomorrow multiple times, doh!), felt slightly smug at having spare pants and a toothbrush, then slept. The next day was a lolling day, I think in the world of sport Dickie Davidson would have called it a recovery day. It was much needed. The ride to the airport was in itself eventful, first by not heading anywhere near it, in order to pick up more victims of the connections catastrophe then heading out slam into non-moving motorway traffic, everyone holding their breath as the time ticked down to our departures till suddenly the airport hove into view. I’d have kissed the ground at the departure terminal but it was exodus Saturday and being run over by a trolley with an oversized bag and an oozing box on it was a reality. We had made it! Thank foof.