Posted by: tim ellis | December 23, 2012

Just Cats:- Monday 15th October 2012


The journey down to Heathrow is trouble free (despite the coach playing the “we will shortly be stopping for refreshments” rather than the “welcome to National Express”) message as we set off.

Terminal 5 does not have check-in desks, it is all self-service terminals. The screen asks for a 6 figure reference number, and there is nothing on the e-ticket that says “reference no” – the Ticket Number is 9 digits long. Fortunately someone is able to point me to the correct field (“PNR Number”) and I am able to check in. It offers me a choice of two seats – one in the middle of a block of 3, and one in the middle of a block of 4. By the time I have checked in, the bag drop is open, so I join a queue, and then notice the lady in front of me in the adjacent queue has a Naturetrek luggage tag, so I decide to ask her if she is on the same tour as me once the bag check is completed. However, her queue moves quicker than mine, and once I am finished she has vanished. (It turns out she is on my tour – it was Doreen).

My seat is on Row 46 – as the plane is full they board by seat number, starting with rows 48 -53. It appears half the plane is sitting in the last 6 rows, judging by the number of people who go through before they call the rest of us. I find my seat (in the block of 4), there are two elderly South Africans on my right. I tell them I am going on holiday to look for Big Cats, and she looks slightly concerned. “What do you want to do with them?” she asks.

The plane is filling up, but the aisle seat next to me is still empty when the steward arrives to tell me I have been “upgraded” to a window seat on the other side of the plane in row 41. I am not convinced this is much of an upgrade, especially as I am already settled in, but they are trying to sit a father and daughter together. I bargain for an aisle seat instead,so end up sitting next to a young Portuguese couple.

There is a good selection of fairly recent movies, but after we have taken off it appears the entertainment system is not working in some other parts of the plane. The chief steward apologises and says he needs to reset it – it will be down for about 5 minutes. He does so and we are all busy fast forwarding through to where we were in our various movies, only for him to announce it is still not right and he needs to do the longer, 10 minute reset, during which dinner will be served.

Now things start going wrong! Following the 10 minute reset we can no longer access anything, and before I am served, they run out of choices for dinner leaving only aubergine moussaka. Fortunately a very kind steward manages to find me a fish from club class that had been rejected by it’s intended recipient (he is more than welcome to my aubergines), and the full 20 minute reset is performed, after which we are asked to refrain from using the system for a further 6 minutes to allow it to “catch up” with itself. This appears to do the trick for everyone.


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