It was a rubbish flight time to begin with. A wee-small-hours departure for a four-and-a-half-hour flight to arrive home in time for breakfast and a day laundering fusty towels.
But something was clearly afoot.
Instead of the usual relaxed end-of-holiday sighs of resignation in the foyer late-evening, the atmosphere was tense. The “Arrivals” board at Glasgow Airport online was reading “cancelled” for our flight (that wasn’t) arriving at 6.30am or so the next day.
Eh, but, like, we checked out of the hotel eleven hours ago… and the hotel is full… and we have used up all our how-to-kill-time-when-you’ve-checked-out-of your hotel-strategies! (One can only precision-pack one’s hand luggage for twelve hours, keeping within airline protocol of pastes, creams and liquids, I find…)
Perhaps not, it appeared, as a local rep someone had rung said that the flight was really going to Glasgow. Probably.
But the other local rep someone had rung said that the flight was going to Manchester instead. Probably.
We didn’t mention this on the bus. Probably just as well.
The tour operator’s messenger, fully expecting to be metaphorically shot, delivered the bad news on our arrival at the airport.
Your flight is no longer going to Glasgow. Your flight is going to Manchester.
All of a sudden I am in a muted mob of irate Scots.
One irate Scot began a line of logic that lasted rather longer than I thought it would: this rerouting wouldn’t have happened if we were all English. They have done this to us because they can, because we are Scottish. Just so we will know our place.
Although, I imagine, if I were a holiday company, the last thing I’d want to do is needlessly irritate 300 tired and sweaty Glaswegians.
But the conspiracy theories had begun.
Someone remembered that when they had booked the holiday, the flight had been at a different, earlier, altogether more humane time. And then, without so much as a by your leave, the time was changed. Harrumph.
This, and the cancellation/diversion upon us MUST therefore be linked.
Then another lone rep did his line-up of apologies. Most people remembered not to shoot the messenger. The message, though, was largely disbelieved, given the seepage of the conspiracy theories bleeding throughout the queues.
The rep said that aeroplanes have an equivalent of an MOT, and the plane we were getting on was due its test. It had fortuitously got a slot and a bunch of mechanics lined up at Manchester, and if it didn’t get itself seen to… well… it kind of needed to, so it was … a can’t-be-helped kind of thing. The mechanics were simply not in Glasgow. They were in Manchester.
And then faint worry fluttered through the crowd. What was the urgency to see a bunch of mechanics? If this was the case, should we be getting on this thing, if its airworthyness was in question? What were the Mancunian Mechanics going to do? (No one said it in my hearing, but… if we had been English, would they have chanced it? Fast and loose, fast and loose. )
Faced with… no choice but to get on the plane, we got on the plane and enjoyed our complimentary drink and unexpectedly humungous plane.
It was a Boeing 767, much bigger than the plane that took us to Gran Canaria in the first place. Swathes of room. It was as if… it was… well… as if… this wasn’t our intended plane. This was a long haul plane, doing a short haul flight.
We wondered why.
Once through customs in Manchester (Hello Manchester!) we were given a £5 voucher each. I took ours into the first shop I saw, grabbed as much food as I could carry (just like that cauliflower game in Crackerjack) and staggered to the checkout trying not to drop any of my ‘breakfast’ items: pringles, mentos, mini cheddars, mars bars, crisps, fanta… you know me, health health health…
At least it wasn’t one man versus 300 disgruntled Scots. Poor soul.
We trollied our cases up and through and down and through and out to where some buses were waiting to take us to Glasgow.
No checks were made. The headcount a bit… sketchy. And off we set.
The question of the moment became, “When did YOU hear about the change of route?” The bus drivers had been recruited at about four o’clock the day before – seven hours before the ticket holders and, apparently, the reps – proof positive, for the theorists, that this was premeditated act, not a happy happensance of mechanics and machines.
By the time we had had our tea at Tebay Services, the conspiracy theories had reached fever pitch: this change of plan had been the only ever plan. There was no flight. The change in original times was just a first step to the obliteration of the flight as a concept mapped to reality. Those tickets were just a mirage, a cruel promise… a metaphor for multimillion pound corporation domination….
I then stumbled upon a theory of my own…
In the Manchester Evening Times, it details a flight in a Boeing 767 from the day before when a pigeon flew into the engine on the way to Egypt and it had to turn back. The passengers had a ten hour wait and a replacement plane took them to Egypt. Their plane was reported to be functioning again…
In my theory, we switched planes with the Egyptian flight so that they could get off to Egypt while the bird was cleaned out of the engine. Once the 767 was bird-free, it could come and fetch us, but perhaps had to get back to business from Manchester where it was meant to be. And an MOT post-pigeon-trauma can’t hurt.
Who can say?
Either the pigeon or the English had it in for us.
Or maybe not.