It was around 6:00am on a cold autumn morning in London.
My brother came to pick me up to drive us to the airport and accompany me for my first ever TP run
We were booked on the 8:30 to Amsterdam and due to come back on the 22:00 flight.
I paid about £125 for my ticket and he booked his using Avios.
It was pretty smooth sailing on the way to LHR that morning, we arrived at the business parking around 6:40
My brother was very impressed with the pods which took us to T5, as well as fast track security which was working very well, we were in the lounge by around 7am
He was quite impressed with the lounge too as it was not the usual zoo I have been accustomed to lately, in fact is was pretty quiet although I guess it may have been because it was still quite early in the morning.
We sat around the lounge for a while, had a couple of espressos and the bacon rolls were particularly good that morning, you know when the heat lamp begins to dry the bread out a bit so it goes crunchy? Yum yum!, I'm ashamed to say I actually had 6 bacon rolls, yes 6!! (that must be some kind of record right?) although I have been on quite a strict diet lately so it was good to binge out a little without the Mrs looking at me and tutting
The gate hadn't been announced yet so we just chilled around the lounge some more and loaded our bags with kettle chips, biscuits, little cans of sprite and diet coke. (Can we get diet sprite in the lounges please?
Around 7:30 my brother decided to go to the toilet so I told him not to be long as we would need to get to the gate soon.
It got to 7:50 and he hadn't come out yet, I was starting to get quite concerned so I phoned him and said, "dude, I know you are in there savouring the aroma, but we need to get going". He said he needed another 5 minutes so I had a look at the screens and noticed that we were going to depart from a C gate, EEK!
I waited outside the toilets for him to come out which he did at around 8:00, then we ran to the transit.
At the transit station the BAA lady was pointing us to the left hand train track, even though the arrow on the sign was clearly saying the next train will be on the right.
We waited, and waited, and waited for a train which didn't seem to be coming.
I asked the BAA lady if there was a problem and she said that there had indeed been problems with the trains that morning and gave us the option of walking through the tunnel to get to the gate.
I looked at my iPhone which said 8:10, the time that boarding was supposed to end
I decided that our best bet was to just wait for the train and if it didn't come then to hell with it, if we missed the flight we would just go to BA customer services, blame the train and ask to be put on the next flight (not sure how far we would have got with that excuse but it all becomes irrelevant as you will read in a few moments). The train arrived about 5 minutes later on the right hand platform, much to the surprise of the BAA lady.
When the train arrived at the C gates we had to really peg it up the escalators, we were literally the last ones to arrive there and the gate ladies commented on how close we were cutting it.
We handed over our passports and boarding passes to be scanned, then suddenly the gate lady turns around and said to me "hey, you look a bit young in this photo!".
I turned around, looked at her, completely out of breath at this point from running up the escalator after eating 6 bacon rolls (yes 6) and said "Huh?", then she turned the passport around to show me the photo, and there it was……. MY DAUGHTERS PHOTO!!!!
The next words to come out of my mouth a few moments later, after moving to the other side of the gate so I wouldn't offend the ears of the gate lady, would get me permanently banned from this board so I'm not going to repeat them, I'll leave that to your imaginations.
When I came to my senses and realised what a cock up I had made, I turned around and said to my brother, "it's OK, you go, you have never been to Amsterdam before and I would feel so guilty if you didn't go", but he didn't want to go without me so we asked to be removed from the flight and headed back to the transit.
The train arrived about 5 minutes later and the arriving pax got off, we got on and sat down, then a BAA lady on the next carriage waved at us to get our attention and then waved frantically for us to get off the train, I tried to explain through the glass that we had not made my flight and just wanted to go back but she didn't seem to understand. She just stood there furiously waving at us to get off the train looking quite annoyed at us by this point, we decided to jump off and hop on to her carriage to explain it to her, but no sooner than we stepped off the train, she pressed a button, made the doors close and a load of arriving pax on the other side of the platform got on the train, leaving us flabbergasted at what just happened. We tried to get her attention from outside the train and she did see us but decided to just turn her back and ignore us
We headed back up the escalator, over to flight connections and spoke to a security agent there to explain what had just happened and to ask how we could get back to the terminal and get out.
He explained that we would need to go back through immigration as arriving passengers but there was no way to get to the other side of the train track from where we were, so he kindly offered to go back down with us and escort us onto the train from that side which he did.
We got on the train and watched him hop on to the next carriage briefly to explain to the grumpy rude BAA lady what was going on which he did, then she kind of glanced over at us briefly and then turned her back to us again, no apology, no acknowledgment, no smile, nothing!
The train filled up, and I mean proper filled right up. It took us back to the terminal and we headed up to immigration with the horde who had just got off the train. Standing in queue for about 15 minutes to get to the desks, at some point I said to my brother, "this is going to be fun, getting out without a passport, I wonder how that works?".
We eventually got to the desk and explained to the man what had just happened. He asked me if I had any other form of ID on me, I said that I didn't and all I had was a few credit cards.
He told us to go and sit down on this little bench in front of the desks and then had a little conference with a couple of colleagues before coming back to me and asking if I had anything else which would back up my story.
Luckily, I had printed our boarding passes so I handed them over, he also took my name, address and my daughters passport, went off for about 5 minutes to make enquiries then came back to tell us it was OK to leave. PHEW!
We headed out and back to the pods, got in the car and started driving home. We kept saying how gutted we were about what had just happened and were still a little bit in shock. I felt really sorry for my brother as I know he had really been looking forward to the trip and because it was our first ever trip together just us 2. We just kept saying, gutted, gutted man, gutted.
Then I suddenly thought, sod it, we ARE going to amsterdam today one way or another, I don't care if we have to go on easyjet! I proceeded to get my iPhone out and checked the BA site for other flights on the same day. There weren't any more flights for sale either outbound or inbound and to book flights for the next day (sunday) would have cost us around £450 each for a Y return.
Next thing I did was call BAEC and ask if by any chance they had any award availability for the later flights that day and they said they did indeed have 2 flights on the 13:15 flight, then coming back on the 22:00 flight we were originally meant to be on.
I then realised my BAEC account was a HHA and I wouldn't have been able to book for my brother since he isn't in my HHA so I hung up and called Avios.com but they said they didn't have any availability on the 1:15 outbound, only for the 22:00 flight coming back.
I asked him to check again as normally Avios.com has better availability than BA, not the other way round. He just laughed and told me, "no sir it's exactly the same".
In the end we called BAEC back and booked the tickets through his account, luckily he has quite a fat stash of avios thanks to my regular brainwashings so he didn't mind paying for the tickets. We gave the BAEC lady all our details over the phone and she confirmed the costs would be £60 for the 2 tickets plus £30 telephone admin fees. After explaining what had happened that morning, I asked if she would kindly waive the telephone admin fees as we were having a really bad day, she thought about it for a moment and said OK
We got back to my house so I could get the correct passport, stopped for about 5 minutes to see my lovely daughter who I thought I was not going to see that day, gave her a big kiss and a cuddle (awwwwww) then left to head back to the airport again.
Things were looking up and I was feeling quite smug about getting the £30 admin fee waived so on the way back to the airport I decided to give BAA carpark a call and ask if there was any way they could let us back in to use the rest of the parking we had already paid for that day. The lady I spoke to said they did do it in certain cases but I really should have spoken to the customer service desk before we left and explained the situation so they could give me a temporary ticket to exit the car park and come back again. She suggested I called in there on our way out with the old ticket and see if there was anything they could do.
We got back to the airport around 11:30, got through fast track security and into the lounge for around 11:45 and had a little time to kill so we asked for some champagne and had a bite to eat there as lunch had just arrived and was looking quite fresh (something I have never seen in a BA lounge before, fresh looking food!).
2 glasses of champagne each and a triple vodka later, we found ourselves heading over to plane food to grab a couple of picnics for the flight.
We got to the (a) gate in good time and had to wait around 10 minutes for them to start boarding.
My brother really liked the fact that we were the first ones on the plane when they called for BA Gold, Silver and Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members to board
We got on the plane and I showed him what 5 A and C looked like, as these were the seats I had selected for us previously and even had to pay for his seat selection as we were on different PNRs and he has no status.
Oh well, we had 7 D and E but the flight was not too full so the chap from 7F was quite happy to jump into the row behind which had E and F vacant, so we sat in D and F giving us a pseudo business class effect which was quite nice.
The flight left on time and arrived at Schipol on time too although we were given the tour of the airport by the plane on it's 15 minute journey back to the stand.
I had heard this was bad, but really it's ridiculous, that runway really is in the next town isn't it!
Arrivals at Schipol was reasonably painless, no queues, sweet!
The next bit of fun we had was at the train ticket machine, and if anyone understands how this works and would care to enlighten us I would be most grateful!
Basically, you have various options when you buy your ticket, 1st class, 2nd class, then from what I could understand there were 2 trains you could choose from, the first one looked slower as you had to make more stops, and the 2nd one was faster since it didn't have as many stops. I think the difference between the journey times was about 10 minutes but what would have been useful was if they told you when each train actually left the station and which platform to go to. How would you know if the slow train was leaving right now, or the fast train was leaving in 1/2 hour for example unless you already knew the timetable? You might be better off getting the slower train sooner rather than waiting around to get the fast one if you see what I mean. In the end I just decided to go for 2nd class in the fast train and it came to about 18 euros return for both of us.
We found an official from the train service and asked him which train we should get on to get to Central Station and he told us which platform to go to. Waiting on the platform we then realised, he didn't see our tickets or ask us whether we paid for the fast train or the slow one, how did he know which train to send us on?
Anyway, we got on the next train to arrive and sat upstairs, not sure if this was first or 2nd class as the doors were not labeled but it did seem rather quiet up there so I have a feeling we may have jumped on 1st class by mistake, oh well
We got to Central Station in about 3 stops, so I assume we just got lucky and ended up on the fast train, but to be honest I didn't see anybody at the station hanging back for a 2nd slower train so I wondered if anyone had actually paid for the fast train or did they just get on the first one to arrive like we did?
Like I say, it was confusing as hell and also at no point did we have to swipe our tickets on any machine or show them to anyone. For all they cared we could have been travelling without tickets and nobody would have been any wiser.
We came out of Central Station, WOOHOO, finally we were in Amsterdam, so we took a little walk around, managed to find our way to the canals and starting heading into where all the other tourists were going.
By now it was around 16:30 as we lost an hour during the flight due to the time zone difference as well as the hour the flight took.
It was quite busy to say the least, Amsterdam on a Saturday is certainly a very popular destination, everywhere looked really hectic but we managed to find somewhere off the main road on along one of the canals where we could stop for a, erm, coffee
We really enjoyed that coffee, in fact we really didn't need another one after that and stayed there chatting to various people for the next 3 hours about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Like I said, it was very very good strong coffee indeed!
I don't think I've ever enjoyed one as much as that before which is just as well as considering we had to take a flight to get it, it's probably the most expensive one I've ever had too!
We decided we needed to start heading back to the airport around 19:30 as we didn't want to risk missing another flight especially after what had happened earlier in the day, however, by this time we didn't have a clue where the station was, we asked a few people for directions but they were also tourists so they didn't have a clue either!
I popped into a souvenir shop to buy a little wooden windmill for my daughter and asked a nice chinese man for directions which he gave us, and not a moment too soon as we had been heading totally in the wrong direction.
Eventually we found the station but had no clue which platform to go to for the airport so I joined a very long queue for the information desk. Luckily my brother had spotted a sticker on the window of the information desk saying that trains for the airport leave at 4 and 34 minutes past each hour from platform 13b or something, so we went to find platform 13b and stood there waiting for the train, then we thought, hmmm, noone here looks like they are heading for the airport so we asked a couple of people if this was the right platform to get a train to the airport, they said no, the train was going somewhere else so we headed back downstairs very confused not knowing what to do and there were no uniformed officials anywhere to be seen so we headed back to the information desk and rejoined the long queue for the information desk again which was moving at a snail's pace.
After waiting about 5 minutes in the queue and starting to panick a little, I spotted a couple of dutch businessmen with wheely bags who looked like they were going to the airport so I asked them if they knew which train to get on, they said they did and to just follow them to the platform which we did, but when we got to the platform the sign was saying the train was going somewhere else so then they started looking as confused as we were and saying what a mess the dutch train service was. Eventually they asked someone else in dutch who directed us to the correct platform, which wasn't the one on the sticker at the information desk by the way and it wasn't at 4 or 34 minutes past the hour either, it was around 20 past. We had to run for the train as it was literally about to close the doors as we jumped on and went upstairs again.
We arrived at the airport eventually around 8:40 and managed to find the BA lounge which was quite pleasant, I mean, apart from the lack of any proper food there it was not terrible, it was clean and calm at least, the 2 most important things to me about a lounge are cleanliness and calmness so it gets a thumbs up from me! Not sure why people think it's not that great.
The lounge dude came to tell us personally when the flight had started boarding (which I thought was a nice touch) so we made our way to the gate to board the plane.
Incidentally, I thought they were going to cancel our inbound flights when we missed the outbound flights but the inbound of my original revenue ticket was still showing on my iPhone so I showed them that boarding pass rather than the new one for the Avios booked flight as I thought 10tp and 625 Avios would be better than nothing and sure enough the machine beeped.
"This isn't going to be an upgrade is it", I said, "no I'm afraid not", said the gate lady, "it's saying duplicate passport, why have you got 2 tickets for this flight?".
So then we had to explain it to her. On her screen she could see that we had 2 tickets each for the flight. They hadn't cancelled our inbounds! I wish I had known that when I spoke to BAEC earlier, It would have saved us 9,000 Avios and £30
We got on the plane and sat in our originally booked seats 6 C and D, rather than the seats we were assigned on the Avios booking in row 15. I had chosen these so we could make a swift exit from the plane, after being seat shifted from our original business style 5 A and C when the curtain moved at t-24. Again the flight wasn't that full and I was able to jump into 6F in order to get away from the bloke in 6A who was snoring quite loudly.
We got back to heathrow at 9:50, 10 minutes early. There were very small queues at immigration so we got back to the car quite quickly and went to see the customer service agent at the business parking.
I showed him the 2 tickets and explained what had happened. He ummed and arred for a few minutes, then went tap tap tap on his computer, printed another ticket and gave me a lecture about how they should have charged us again blah blah blah but eventually let us go without paying anything extra, result!
On the way back home in the car we talked about the day we just had and decided that we had a lot of fun and that it was worth it.
If we had given up after missing the first flight, we would have spent all day moping around and feeling annoyed. The way it worked out was actually more fun and made it more memorable. Thankyou Avios!
It's not every day I get to have a mini adventure with my little brother and this one we will certainly never forget!
(See post #12 for part 2 and post #55 for some other news