Heathrow Fun

Photo: Adding insult to injury. A late train leaves Paddington on a Sunday night (as usual).

I’ve added a new category to my blog – “UK Annoyances”. That’s so you don’t have to read them if you don’t want to (I’ll figure out a cool way of spliting this out into sections later). Some of you are quite happy with this country and not as pissed off with things as I can be – but I’ve created this section for anyone who ever agreed with me that signage in the UK is designed to be confusing, that it’s not acceptable to expect bad service every time and that things could actually be better.

Heathrow Fun

Ticket to Brussels: 92.50GBP return.
Time inflight: 45 minutes.
Time spent being fucked over: 4.5 hours.
Spending more time in Heathrow: priceless.

There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else, there’s London Heathrow.

So, I got to Brussels airport (BRU) earlier. The gare central in Brussels might be ugly, but the train was exactly on time and got me to the airport right in time for my flight. Great. The flight was even on time (though it was the second BA flight this weekend and has helped me to confirm that I dislike them as much as the rest of One World) and got me to Heathrow within around 5 or 10 minutes of the anticipated time.

There then followed the typical “I’ve only got hand luggage but it still takes 40 minutes to get out of Heathrow” problem that seems to be unique to this one airport (even Mumbai was better. And that’s saying something). So I get out through the silly passport control stuff (they’ve now got one of those Iris systems that myself and others know to be a weakpoint stupid waste of time and effort – but I bet that’s a really good way for people to enter and leave the country with only a machine to stop them, and nobody was using it either) and into the lobby and debate the fact that I know I’m going to now have to go to the central bus station to get the Railair bus service to Reading (this I found out through imperical experimentation last time, while they were figuring out how to fuck it up even more.

They should just accept that Heathrow will forever not be “quite right” and it’s better to leave it alone than constantly “revamp it”. This means that almost every time I come into Heathrow they’ve done something slightly different – moved things around like supermarkets do, just to annoy regularly paying travellers. They love to leave little inadequate signage which is only usable if you follow the exact routes that they did when they printed it, and they hate the idea of redoing signs when it’s possible to leave the odd confusion around for good measure. I decided to risk going straight to the bus station on this occasion, since I had previously learned that there is a grand plan to centralise everything (you get dropped off at your terminal, but come back tired out and have to walk miles and take trains just to get the bus home again). I did this, stood in line and got a ticket. I was helpfully reminded how I’d just missed a bus but assured that there was another one “in 20 minutes”.

Except, there wasn’t. In this country, we don’t have clear signage with bus times clearly displayed at otherwise high tech bus ticket counters and there is some apparent need to guesstimate things (the timetable was available outside the bus station by the stop for said bus after I had bought the ticket but all of those wonderfully useful looking flat panel displays that seem to have such potential within the station building were of course not functional at the time). Of course, it being a Sunday evening and because I was trying to get a bus, they decided this would be the time when there would be a new timetable and a 1.5 hour random separation between services. So much for the “from Reading to Heathrow, we’ll get you there, Railair” jingle and 20 minute claims. Even Saddam was closer to that. But I disgress.

So, I decide to get a refund. Of course this requires at least 20 people and lots of “umming” and “ahhing” before the computer system (which invariably is overly complex for the purpose) is finally used to get me a cash refund – since they can’t refund my credit card for some reason. Fine. I decide to get a taxi. Except those are 80GBP from Heathrow (quite excessive), so I decided that I was too fucked off with Railair (it had become a matter of principle by this point) to sit and wait and got the train into London.

Normally, getting a train into London isn’t such a bad idea. There’s a Heathrow Express to London Paddington and I live in Reading, which is a major interchange from Paddington. Except on Sunday evenings (they regularly try to screw me over there, but I know about it). Tonight it was another “waiting for a member of train staff” (which always means the driver – I know it was because I was listening to their radio. It pisses me off that they can’t just admit that) after the train was already late and a medical emergency then delayed matters further. Still, our chirpy pal in the buffet car is happy to continually announce such wonderous services as might be obtained if I’d only be bothered to get out of my seat. I wasn’t. I sat there while an overnight train and some engineering works ahead of us delayed my journey still further.

Anyway, it’s 01:24 and I just got home. I landed at 08:50, got out of that hell hole at 21:40 and finally finished getting shafted by various transportation companies just a few minutes ago. All in all, I’m fucked off with public transportation and have decided it’s easier, faster and cheaper to just pay the 30GBP weekend parking rate next time. Yes, I’m going to get that driving license sorted out and just give in to the car.


P.S. I’m not entirely wrong about some of the comments above. I’ve been bouncing some of the points raised here off friends in N.A. for a while now. Few of them would put up with this crap.

One Response to “Heathrow Fun”

  1. asqui says:

    Regarding your Iris whine: Security weak-point or not, I would have though a frequent traveller such as yourself would be quite keen to take advantage. I used the system for the first time today — I was out of the plane and out of the terminal in three minutes flat.

Leave a Reply