Yesterday I set off to research the third book in my Lewis trilogy. This entailed a two-leg flight. Toulouse to Edinburgh on Saturday. Overnight at an airport hotel in Edinburgh. Then Edinburgh to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides today.
So why am I waking up in a hotel in Dunfermline, in Fife, a loooong way from Edinburgh? And why did I not get to my bed till 3am French time?
Well, it turns out that there is a strike of fuelers at Toulouse. Which actually turns out to have been going for a couple of days. But did the airline, Jet 2, tell us about it? No. Nothing on their website, no announcement at the airport. The first we knew that anything was wrong was when a girl arrived at the departures desk at the gate and put up a note on the screen warning that the flight was an hour late.
It was due to take off at 7.25pm. We weren’t aboard an aeroplane until 9pm. Only then did the pilot tell us about the strike and announce that he was going to have to fly to Nice to refuel.
So, after flying an hour in the wrong direction, and spending another hour on the ground perspiring in sweltering heat, we finally took off for Edinburgh, ETA 12.30am (1.30am French time). So did the airline offer a complementary drink, even a glass of water (given that there was no way we were going to get to eat when landing in Edinburgh)? No. They came round with their sales trolley, barely apologising for the fact that they didn’t actually have any of their advertised meals on board. So what was on offer? A packet of crisps (washed down with a miniature bottle of wine) a Twix bar and a horrible, stewed cup of watery coffee. And how much did they charge? £16.
This is the airline that lies to you about the price of your flight to con you into buying a ticket – only for you to discover that you then have to pay for a seat, pay for booking on the internet, pay for using a credit card (although no alternative way of buying is offered), pay to put your bag in the hold. It is the airline that sends bag fascists around the seats at the departure gate to see if you are concealing a handbag – which is NOT allowed.
Remind me NEVER to fly with Jet 2 again.
However, that wasn’t the end of the story.
Finally arriving in Edinburgh just short of 1am, we queued in the cold and dark to wait for the shuttle that would take us the five minutes to our hotel – to be met by a grim-faced receptionist. They had given our room away, and there were no others in the hotel.
“I’ve got a taxi waiting at the door for you,” he said. “It will take you on a very short 20-minute ride to another hotel where I’ve managed to get you a room.”. He stuffed £60 in grubby notes into my hand to pay for the hotel and promised to send a taxi to pick us up and take us back to the airport in the morning.
I resisted the temptation to introduce him to the knuckles of my right hand, and we dragged ourselves off to the taxi, whose driver confessed he had no idea where he was going. But he did confide with a giggle, “That guy in there was brickin’ it!”
The short 20-minute ride turned into a 40-minute, £40 marathon in the dark, across the Forth road bridge into deepest, darkest Fife. Which is how I come to be waking up (after 5 hours’ sleep) in a hotel in Dunfermline.
I hardly dare wonder what today holds in store.