We got up at a decent hour yesterday morning, ate breakfast and drove to the local airport to catch the commuter plane to Heathrow. The airport was quiet, no line-ups while checking in, and we didn't have to pay any overweight fees!
Our flight landed ahead of schedule in Heathrow, we picked up our luggage and rechecked it onto our scheduled flight to Toronto. Again, no hiccups. Then we sat down to a final fish and chips lunch, spent our last few pounds on duty-free wine and made our way to the gate.
Judging from the line-up at the gate, the flight was full - primarily of families returning to Canada. Cute little toddlers were running around everywhere. We happily took advantage of the pre-boarding option for families and got settled into our seats.
People seemed to be boarding at a good pace, and when the captain came on and informed us that the winds were favourable and we'd actually be landing an hour ahead of schedule, it put a big smile on my face and made up for the fact that we hadn't lucked out with one of the planes with upgraded personal entertainment systems. The boys could make do with their GameBoys and movies on the computer for the next 7.5 (as opposed to 8.5) hours.
As the plane started taxiing out, I looked at my watch and registered with utter disbelief that it was doing so 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I mean, when does that happen? And at Heathrow, to boot?
I've travelled via Heathrow countless times, and I know that "Never" is the answer to those retorical questions.
Which is why, mere seconds after the purser had expressed his utter delight at the shortened flight schedule, the plane screeched to an abrupt halt.
Words like "...a bit of concrete flew into engine upon start-up..." and "...damaged engine blades..." started coming out over the speaker system, combined with lines such as "...need to call maintenance..." and "...unfortunately the paperwork will take at another 45 minutes to an hour..."
And so it was that we ended up standing on the tarmac for 2.5 hours, waiting for the plane to be fixed and re-cleared for take-off.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate Air Canada making sure the plane is fit to fly, but it is beyond me why the paperwork should take longer than the actual work done on the plane.
Bottom line, our precious one hour of saved time turned into an added 1.5 hours of total travel time, even with those helpful winds. Ugh!
And those lovely families with happy toddlers running around during boarding? Not so happy after a while. Let's just say it was the longest shriek-fest I've ever experienced! Double ugh!
But we're here now. In our own house after 10 months away. It feels strange and familiar at the same time. But more on that later. For now, I must focus my attention on the piles of luggage that are literally blocking our front door.