I had made it to London, and that meant I had only one flight left that day, my first on the recently re-capitalized Flybe. But first, I had to make it through the gauntlet that is Heathrow, and I had to do it with no sleep. This was my first visit to Terminal 2, also known as The Queen’s Terminal, so it was unfamiliar territory. While it was striking, it appears to have been designed to make you walk as much as humanly possible.
- A Last Minute Pilgrimage to Islay, the Home of Scotland’s Peatiest Whisky
- Air Canada Business Class Via Vancouver to London
- Heathrow’s Terminal 2 and Flybe to Edinburgh
- An Evening in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Airport and Loganair to Islay
- 50 Hours on Islay
- Transport Potpourri: A Ferry, Bus, and Train from Islay to London
- Air New Zealand Business Class from London to Los Angeles
Terminal 2 has a main terminal as well as a satellite — 2B — that lies to the east. I believe that the main terminal will be much bigger once they clean up the old Terminal 1 site, but for now, it seems most flights use the B gates. And Air Canada had parked us at the far end.
Once I got off the airplane, I had to go up to a suspended walkway over the concourse and then down underground past a monstrous Thai A380.
After that, we were herded across to the main terminal, and then I lost all track of where I was. We may have done a loop-de-loop at some point, I can’t be sure. Exhausted and not thinking straight, this is when I made a fatal error.
Had I thought this through, I would have just gone through the line that would have dumped me out into London as a local arrival. Then I could have gone to the arrivals lounge and showered while I waited for my next flight about 2.5 hours away. Instead, I followed the purple flight connections signs since I was, after all, making a connection. That turned out poorly.
First I made it through a painfully-slow security line. Even with Fast Track it probably took me 15 to 20 minutes. They made me take my liquids out and my laptop, as elsewhere in the UK, but then they analyzed every bag going through the x-ray in excruciating detail. It seemed like half of the bags were being pulled aside for further examination after going through the x-ray. The process was downright glacial.
Once on the other side, I went to the passport line for UK/Ireland connections which was very short. I had a mobile boarding pass for my next flight, but it wouldn’t scan in the UK’s verification system. The woman working the desk was brand new and had no idea what to do. She asked if I had any other boarding pass — which of course I did not — so she just kept calling people over the radio asking for help. Eventually someone told her how to override it and she gave me a piece of paper that she said I’d need to give to someone down the line. (Nobody every collected it.) In the meantime, the line behind me had swelled with tired and angry travelers.
After walking through a duty free shop, because, well, London, I found myself in the main terminal, also known as the A gates. I thought to myself, “hey, I bet Air Canada will let me use the lounge since I just got off their flight in business.” The problem is that the Air Canada lounge is a good 15+ minute walk back to the B gates on the satellite. With time to kill, I did it, and I was promptly shot down.
The agent said I could buy lounge access from the United lounge nearby if I wanted, so I trudged over there. It was $59, but that agent was very nice and did the math with me. Because of how far I’d have to walk to get back to my gate in the main terminal, I wouldn’t have all that much time in the lounge. I passed, admitted defeat, and dragged my bags back to the A gates.
At this point, I looked at all the food options and settled on liquid food. I went to the London Pride pub, had an ESB and some chips, and Skyped with the family. The gate posted while I was there, and about 40 minutes before departure I wandered down to the Flybe bus gate area down below.
Boarding was a complete mess. I don’t understand why this happens on a domestic flight, but they required checking passports at the gate. Then for some people, they had to take photos. I couldn’t figure out who got that treatment and why, but I’m guessing it was for non-residents of the UK… and there were a lot of them.
As if that wasn’t creating enough of a slowdown, they kept flagging bags as possibly being too big to carry on the airplane. Were they too big? That agent could bother to help. Everyone had to stand in line to talk to a different agent who would use the sizer to see. This was terribly inefficient. After the agent made me stand in line, the second agent didn’t even measure. She just looked and said that would be fine. It was all so very British.
But oh, that wasn’t the end. This was a bus gate, so we had to board a couple of buses and then get driven out to the airplane on the far east side of Terminal 2, past the satellite. Because of my bag issue, I was on the second bus and we were actually cutting it rather close to departure time. When we pulled up, I saw a big, purple Flybe airplane waiting for us. I squeezed off the crowded bus and got onboard.
April 20, 2019
Flybe 2106 Lv London/Heathrow 230p Arr Edinburgh 405p
London/Heathrow (LHR): Gate A1, Runway 9R, Depart 1m Late
Edinburgh (EDI): Gate 34, Runway 24, Arrive 1m Late
G-PRPA, Bombardier Dash 8-Q400, Purple Body colors, 95% Full
Seat 3A, Coach
Flight Time 1h3m
It took some elbow grease but my bag did indeed fit in the overhead, as I knew it would. (This is why I like duffel bags.) I took my seat and stared at the ad for Avis and Budget in front of me through glassy, tired eyes.
The flight was mostly full, and it took a bit for everyone to get settled. The two flight attendants seemed quite young, but they were eager and friendly. Kudos to them. I can’t imagine that’s easy bouncing around the UK in turboprops at an airline that nearly just failed.
I was surprised after all the chaos that we left only 1 minute late. When we did push back, it was a long slog to the western end of the runways, and there was quite the line, a surprise for Heathrow which always seems to keep airplanes at the gate. At least it provided some great spotting opportunities for everything from the BOAC 747 to a SWISS A220. I love spotting at Heathrow.
Once airborne just abeam Terminal 3, we bounced our way up to 10,000 feet. At one point, there was enough of a drop to elicit an audible yelp from somewhere in the back. I’m not sure if it was wake-related or just bumpy at lower altitude, but it smoothed out quickly. After that, it’s all a blur. I do know that the flight attendants came through selling drinks and snacks, but I didn’t partake.
I had hoped to get some great views out the window since it was sunny the whole way, but the haze obscured that somewhat. More importantly, the windows were filthy, so it wasn’t great for spotting. About 15 minutes in, I lost consciousness. You could say I fell asleep, but it had been far too long since I last slept, so I fell hard. The next thing I remember was the beginning of our descent where the change in pitch from the engines woke me up. We went out over the Firth of Forth and then came back to the west for our landing. This was the best shot I could get out of the window.
Once we landed, the pilots came on and said we were going to do an engine run-up before we parked because the engine sounded louder than it should have on the way in. I’m glad they waited to tell us that until after we landed. The airplane didn’t fly again that day, so I imagine they may have found something to fix.
Glad to be done flying for the day, I hopped on the tram and went into town. I was tired, but I wasn’t about to just go sleep away my one night in Edinburgh.