This is bloody criminal!
I’m talking about the delays at Heathrow airport of course. It is the busiest airport in Europe. 200, 000 people pass through Heathrow on an average day. This is the busiest time of year, with lots of people heading home for the holidays, so the amount of people heading through is even higher than usual. There can’t be any risk of things like this happening. The people in charge are being absolutely ridiculous because this so-called “severe” weather was predicted weeks in advance. They had time to prepare.
In New York City, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto where I’m from snow dumps like this are very common in December, January and February. Somehow the planes in the airports there manage to fly regularly throughout those months. I know in Toronto temperatures of -12C do not prevent the planes from flying. Only super heavy flurries do and then the delays are usually of a few hours, not several days. It’s not like the equipment to deal with snow and ice on runaways doesn’t exist! The fact that they only have one runway open is absurd!
Today was my second day spending almost the entire day in Heathrow airport standing in line. I don’t have any of my luggage as it was checked beforehand and now I’ve been rebooked to December 25th. It’s been months since I’ve seen my boyfriend and family and I was really looking forward to seeing everyone. All this carrying of baggage back and forth has been awful on my back. The staff at the airport tell you to phone your airline provider to find out about rebooking, but all the phone lines for Air Canada and other airlines are jammed solid. Even calling from Canada, my Dad in Toronto was on hold with them for 2 hours and they only managed to rebook me an entire week after my original flight was supposed to leave!
Still, I’m relatively lucky. At least I can stay at my apartment in London. Seeing all the people lying in the airport on thin foam mats and wrapped in silver tinfoil blankets like human jiffypop was just awful. Little kids, old people, people of all sorts were lying on the ground all over the airport with their luggage around them. It was like a scene from a movie about refugees. I saw a number of people crying and people whose tempers were seriously fraying. I was actually amazed no fist fights had broken out. All those people crammed together in lines for hours and hours with little comfortable sleep and all the food at the restaurants eaten up or having to wait for it for hours. I was amazed most people maintained their composure.
Saturday was by far the worst. I only wish I’d left on Friday or Thursday instead of waiting for the school year to finish because of work. On Saturday when my flight was supposed to leave and I came to the airport by cab it was absolute chaos. There were very few cabs leaving the airport because of the weather and lines for cabs were so long it would take hours to get one. Worse still the tube was shut down so you couldn’t leave via the Picadilly line, which no one knew. A huge crush of people jammed into the tunnel that went to the Picadilly line and the Heathrow express train, while people were coming from the opposite direction at the same time going to the airport and more people were merging from another tunnel that came from the Arrivals area to meet in a giant jam of people in a very narrow tunnel. I saw parents with kids in strollers getting jostled around and they had to protect the kids’ legs because people couldn’t see the stroller ahead and were coming through with luggage. It was absolute chaos. It was a miracle no one was injured. In the end the only way out of the airport was by the Heathrow connect and express trains and I had to pay seven pounds for the pleasure instead of just using my oyster card for the tube like I should have been able to.
Needless to say, I doubt Heathrow will refund me my money or the money spent by all those people who had to book hotels, (you were very lucky if you could get one and places like the Holiday Inn were jacking their prices up to take advantage of people’s desperation) and buy food, drinks and other necessities at the airport. Even people who had tickets for food from their airline weren’t getting their tickets honoured at Marks and Spencers and were forced to pay for their meals, even though they had no choice, but to buy food at one of the food stores in the airport.
Heathrow is taking serious risks with the lives and well being of its users. People could easily have been crushed, especially small children or elderly people. Infections can easily spread in those circumstances especially with so many people so close together from so many different countries. I have to say that at least numerous bathroom facilities were available and kept at a high standard of hygiene. The rest of the airport though, looked absolutely trashed, with used food wrappers and spilled food in all the place people weren’t taking up.
This really shouldn’t have happened in a modern world city like London, of all places. Heathrow and the city government should be seriously ashamed.
By Adira Rotstein