(Saturday 8th October 2011, written Sunday 9th October)
Today started very early and finished very late. There was a bit of excitement in between, but “what does not kill me, makes me stronger”. By the end of the day I had experienced, survived and recovered from two of the hazards of air transport:
- I nearly missed a connecting flight, and
- I lost my luggage for a while.
I got up pretty early, at 04:00 am in the morning. The taxi was due to collect me at 05:00. My Landlady saw me to the taxi and we said our goodbyes. I would be pleased to meet her again. I had the same taxi-driver that collected me from the airport at the beginning of my trip. That seemed appropriate, a sort-of “closing of the circle”. I believe the school had arranged it like that. What was interesting to me was that this time I was able to engage in a simple conversation with him on the way to the airport. That was a satisfactory demonstration to me of the progress I had made.
The driver to took me to the airport and made sure that I was delivered to correct terminal. I hadn’t noticed, but Novosibirsk Tolemechevo Airport has two terminals: an International Terminal and a Domestic Terminal. I was going to the Domestic Terminal because I was flying to Moscow.
Check-in went without incident. They accepted my case without comment and checked it through to London and issued me with boarding cards for both the flights: Novosibirsk to Moscow and Moscow to London. More of that later.
The flight to Moscow was pleasant and uneventful. A little while before we landed I noticed that we were going to be about half and hour later than was indicated on my ticket. That gave me a little concern, but there was nothing to be done about it.
Once we had landed, and been disembarked by bus, I set off to find the departure gate. That had to be a priority. The departure area of Domededovo was a throng of people. When I had found my way to the correct departure area, the lady checking the boarding cards, said “time!” and for a short while I was afraid that I was not going to be allowed to board. Instead I was directed through “Business Class” and processed in double-quick time. I made it onto the aircraft and was in my seat barely 10 minutes before departure time. That is really far to tight and I was sweating from running and worry. I barely had time to send texts to England and Ireland, saying that I had made the flight, before the doors closed and I switched off my phone.
I’m still not sure exactly what happened with the flight connection. The connection was as specified by the carrier, but to me seemed far too tight. I’m not sure if the inbound flight was delayed. Maybe I missed an announcement. I would gladly have spent a few hours in Moscow and bought a few souvenirs.
The flight to London was uneventful. I like Transaero’s cabin service. I also like the 737-800 aircraft they are using on that route. I don’t know if Boeing have changed the fuselage in some way, but the plane seemed much more spacious than the aircraft (also a 737) I had just got off. One slightly strange thing, is that all their aircraft seem to be registered in Ireland.
Once in London (on schedule at 11:30), I found that my bag not made the flight! Baggage handling for Transaero in London is managed by BMI. The BMI staff were helpful, and located my bag quickly. It was in Moscow. So were the bags of two fellows from Middlesborough and two Russian ladies. I was actually able to help the Russians and the desk staff communicate sufficiently well to get their bags located as well. I filled in a claim form and was told that they expected go get my bag from Moscow at 16:00, and that they would deliver it to me, but given a number to call if the bag had not been delivered by 19:00.
I caught the bus to Ashford and was at Dave’s house, drinking tea at about 13:15, exactly the time I had estimated in one of my eMails to Dave.
By 19:00, my bag had still not arrived, and understandably I was getting a little twitchy. I phoned the number I had been given. Nobody answered. I tried a couple of times, and then gave up. Tomorrow would have to do. Dave said he needed to go out to get something from a shop. A few minutes later, there was a knocking at the door. I assumed that Dave had forgotten his keys. Wrong! It was a courier with my case! He had bumped into Dave in the street, and got directions for the difficult last few yards. A quick check and a signature later, and I had my bag back. It was a few hours late, but undamaged and I hadn’t had to lug it home on the bus!
I stayed up watching the TV with Dave, and eventually went to bed at 22:00. Apart from naps on the planes, I had been on the go for 24 hours!