Monday, April 19, 2010
Ήφαιστος, the Greek god of fire, volcanoes and technology, is having fun at an awful lot of people's expense. Trying to get back to the Lands of the Sand is proving to be an exercise in frustration. Why? Well, apart from UK airports being closed, airlines aren't answering their phones. Too busy with their inflatable dartboards, perhaps. More likely busily selling seats to new passengers instead of putting existing customers whose flights were cancelled on them.
Of course I realise the problem, and also how even once the ash cloud eventually disperses there will be thousands of aircraft in the wrong place and getting back to normal will take weeks or months.
I've been examining other options. How about travel to a less-affected airport, such as Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Athens or Istanbul? An InterRail international train ticket would set me back the order of £500, and this assumes that I'd be able to get a seat on a train anyway.
So I checked Hertz car rental. Seemingly, there are numerous foreign-registered cars in various locations in the UK that resulted from one-way car hire. The website says to Ring this number and...etc, etc... So I did, and got a recorded message to the effect that no-one can be arsed to answer the phone. Checking with Hertz's main number, I learned that a one-way hire to Rome would set me back £1200 - that's over AED6000 - in addition to the normal hire charges, ferry or Channel Tunnel fares, fuel and hotels. And this is to do Hertz a favour by returning one of their vehicles to its country of origin. In keeping with Hertz's apparent policy of extracting micturation, I was charged over £50 per day for the additional two days I had the Group 1 billy-basic car, and yes I did inform them in advance. The vehicle is now back at Gatwick where it can gather dust and ash.
So I've concluded that the only realistic option is to wait it out in Blighty. Checking the Met Office map, if everything went even more pear-shaped I'd be in a foreign country where I don't speak the language (Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey) and stuck at an airport just as the ash cloud parked itself directly overhead. See how close the cloud currently is to Istanbul and Rome.
I can't even work remotely. None of my employer's UK offices are anywhere nearby, and I object to adding to my frustration by living in a hotel in order to work. Not that I'd be able to function without my computer, books and files. It will come as no surprise to learn that I did not take my office computer with me on holiday. Consequently even working from 'home' fails to be an option.
Looks like I'll simply have to have a holiday, punctuated by frequent reference to the news websites and - joy and delight - listening to Qatar Airways' telephone tree.
Edited 23 April to add:
The skies were reopened to traffic on Wednesday 21st April, and I eventually got through to Qatar Airways to book on to Thursday's flight. Amazingly, there were scores of empty seats on the aircraft. I'm relieved to be back.
And I even have five days of annual leave remaining.