Day minus 2?

This was supposed to be Day 0, but what with the British Airways computer failure and what-not we still have two more days of travel before we even get to St Jean. But, being nerdy sorts we must post the stats…

  • Steps: 17,045 (as measured by Steve’s Fitbit Alta HR)
  • Distance covered: about 15km
  • Distance covered in the right direction: hard to say, we’re in London and not in St Jean so maybe -1000km?

That said, we had a splendid evening wandering around Shoreditch, then down to St Paul’s and in a big arc via Tate Modern back to Shoreditch. London is about as far as you can get from the spirit of Camino simplicity but I am enjoying my enormous CitizenM hotel bed. It won’t be like this next week. I’ll enjoy it while I can…

Plan C

Steve: In John Brierley’s introduction to his ‘bible’ of the Camino, he ends the introduction with this statement.

Whichever route we take, our ultimate Destination is assured. The only choice we have is how long it takes us to arrive buen Camino.

I tried to internalise those noble words when, at 14:50, I got a text from British Airways to tell us that the Biarritz flight from Heathrow had been cancelled. Oh dear. We were racing through the English countryside on a really rather nice Virgin East Coast train to London Kings Cross, having committed ourselves wholeheartedly to Plan B.  Now we needed to come up with yet another plan, Plan C. Our options were

  • Just go to Heathrow and wait until we could get out somewhere close sometime soon.
  • Abandon BA and try some other airline.
  • Go to London, find a hotel and keep calling BA until we got through.

We decided on the latter. Worst case, BA would tell us to get on the next train back to Edinburgh and wait until next Sunday for another Biarritz flight (they only go twice a week). But 1000 miles on a train in one day, however lovely the train, to return to exactly where we started would be too sad to contemplate.

We sat in Pret at Kings X and war-dialled BA. After lots (50+?) of “We apologise, blah, blah, please try again later”, Hamish finally got into the queue. Excellent. Time to book a hotel that allowed cancellations. I went off to try a few and found – glory hallelujah- that we could stay in the excellent fun CitizenM hotel in Shoreditch for less than the Travelodge. The first good news of the day.

Well, this is supposed to be a walking holiday so off we walked from Kings X to Shoreditch. It rained, boy did it rain. We got soaked but didn’t care and considered it excellent training for the rain in Spain that falls mainly on the plain.

All this time Hamish was on hold with BA. Finally, as we crossed Hoxton Square (1 hour and 40 minutes on hold) a lady answered. 30 mins of patient assistance later she had us booked on the 6:40am flight from Gatwick to Bordeaux on Tuesday 30th. So, that’s Plan C.

A train will then take us from Bordeaux to St Jean by Tuesday evening and we should be walking properly on Wednesday.

At least, that’s the Plan….

Plan B

Steve: Someone at British Airways will be in deep deep trouble. It can’t be fun if you’re the person who did the thing, whatever it was, that caused the shutdown of all BA systems. Turning it off and on again doesn’t work at this level.

After a much more leisurely than expected beginning to the day – no 4am wake up call – we spent a couple of hours trying to figure out if Heathrow was working again. The BA website wasn’t much use and the telephone number given for rebooking was effectively non functioning – you called, you listened to an apology, you pressed ‘1’, you pressed ‘1’ again and got a further message informing you that there was a high number of calls (surprise!) and you need to call back later. Note to BA: after you’ve repeated the previous process 20 times you really truly don’t want to hear the apology and the nice music yet again. Why not offer an immediate ‘Press 1 for rebooking’? Would save many frustrating minutes.

St Jean Pied de Port is rather awkward to get to and our booked route of Biarritz tonight, then train to St Jean first thing tomorrow was the best. Finding an alternative was looking quite difficult. So by 10am we thought, what the heck, let’s just go to the airport and see what’s happening

What’s happening was a very long queue at the BA check in desks. The extremely polite and helpful BA staff (another note to BA – your staff are excellent…) were working hard with minimal information, handing out hastily photocopied bits of paper with details of how to get refunds, and doling out bottles of water.  A super helpful lady whose name I didn’t get (she was working at the end of the queue at around 11:15, note #3 to BA – give her a bonus) was checking to see if there were any spaces on any planes going to Heathrow that would allow us to get our 17:15 LHR-Biarritz flight. No, was the answer. All flights were already overbooked. But after a further few minutes of to and fro she told us that if we can get to Heathrow by 7pm we should be able to get the delayed Biarritz flight (now due to depart at 20:50). “Keep all your receipts!” she shouted at us as we raced towards the taxi rank to get to Edinburgh Waverley in time for the noon train to London.

Plan B is now: get to London by train ASAP, get to Heathrow by 7pm and resume a modified Plan A.

As of 1pm – so far, so good.

Flight Cancelled

Hamish: The first leg of our flight has been cancelled so we are still in Scotland, ready to go and trying to make a new plan!

Steve woke up at 04:30 to a message saying not to come to the airport, so we are all at least well rested. Our flight out to Biarritz is still ‘Scheduled’, so getting down to London may be our only issue! fingers crossed!

I’m keeping an eye on updates on the Heathrow page linked at the bottom, and following the british airways twitter account for updates on their service. So far not very much information has been released about their circumstances.

Other than that, all well here in sleepy Scotland, sheep are asleep in the field and birds are waking up for the day!