Sunday, 10th July – Day 1 (Heathrow to Seattle)

Rather fitful night’s sleep – strange, though comfortable, bed and still a rather stuffy room. Only one night, though….

Down for a very expensive breakfast and checked out with a hefty charge to my credit card. We won’t be returning here in a hurry…..

Walked the 20 minutes or so to Terminal 3, negotiating several escalators with some difficulty with our humungous baggage. As we are booked into Business Class, we were able to join a small queue to check in. The group in front of us managed to get their bags away with no trouble, but then….

I put my bag on the belt and handed my passport over as usual. The gent on the other side faffed about for ages – I suspect he was a new recruit – and I had to provide chapter and verse on where we were staying in Seattle and the phone number. He filled in this on his monitor, then wanted the details again, I was then asked for a personal phone number, which again I was asked for twice.

Then – disaster struck. The conveyor belt completely stopped working with my suitcase stuck in limbo. Subsequent enquiries elicited the fact that the whole delivery system in the terminal had shut down! It was a really hot day, and I could feel the perspiration trickling down the back of my neck, which didn’t exactly enhance my mood.

Finally, after about 25 minutes of waiting, the belt started moving again. We got Jean’s bag despatched to the nether regions of the baggage system with relatively little problem, then retrieved our passports and boarding passes with apologies from the check-in clerk. Not his fault, but, if he’d been a bit more efficient at processing my info, we could have been through and gone 25 minutes earlier.

Worse was to come, unfortunately. Our earlier recce meant we knew we had to go upstairs to Security. Nope. Escalator and staircase both closed off. We were indicated outside of the terminal and instructed to turn left. To our horror, it transpired that we had to join the most colossal queue. And I mean colossal. It snaked around the outside of the terminal in blazing weather. There must have been at least 500 people ahead of us just to get through Security.

All of these people are in the queue…
This is Fast Track!

Thank God we’d left plenty of time for our flight. There must have been hundreds of passengers who must have been sweating, literally and figuratively, that they would get through Security in time for their flights.

The queue, at least, moved reasonably quickly and the Fast Track queue, whilst very long, was far shorter than that in the normal queue.

Finally, finally, got to the actual security zone. Got through that with, blessedly, relatively little trouble and found the lounge, where we collapsed in a heap. The whole process had taken over an hour, although it seemed a lot longer.

We couldn’t find anybody who would tell us what caused the delay. The best hypothesis was that it was simply passenger numbers backing up after the failure of the conveyor belts, but that didn’t explain why the usual routes to Security were blocked off. I suspect some other cause, but we’ll probably never know, although my sister-in-law did report a possible bomb scare. It’s obvious, anyway, that the widely reported staff shortages are taking a very heavy toll on the delivery of so many services at the moment.

The kind waitress in the lounge took pity on us and delivered a soul-reviving glass of champagne within minutes.

Most welcome after very stressful check-in

Fortunately, after that, the world regained its axis and settled down into something resembling normality, but it was obvious more trouble was brewing after an announcement that the incoming flight was delayed, which guaranteed that our flight would also be delayed.

And it was. By 2 hours. A helluva lot of standing around at the departure gate in sweltering temperatures with tempers fraying. As Business Class passengers, we at least got onto the plane relatively quickly and settled down into a very congenial setup. Although this was a Virgin Atlantic flight, it was operated by Delta Airlines, and the whole shooting-match was Delta all the way. Despite its reputation, it was a good experience.

The plane landed in Seattle only an hour behind schedule, so time was made up on the way over. It’s a really nice airport, and it was a lovely day.

Collected our bags with the minimum of fuss and entered Passport Control. Fortunately, the queue for us aliens was relatively short. I got through in less than 5 minutes. Jean was less lucky as she went to another desk. He quizzed her about the itinerary and she didn’t have the details to hand, so I was called over. His questions were answered to his satisfaction and we then headed out of the airport to find a cab to take us to the hotel booked for us in downtown Seattle.

This was perhaps the first time that the legendary Trailfinders planning let us down a bit. It would have made more sense to have booked a hotel much nearer the airport, as we were only planning to be here for one night. Instead we spent 45 bucks on a cab journey to, admittedly, a really nice hotel, but it was pretty late and we were knackered after a 32-hour day. Moreover, we have to get up early tomorrow morning to get a cab back to the airport in time for the flight to Anchorage. By the time we realised this, it would have cost us too much for cancellation fees and booking another hotel, so we stuck with the original plan.

We really only had time for a (horrendously expensive – over $40!! 😱G&T at the bar before we had to get our heads down. No chance to look round Seattle, much to Jean’s disgust.

Art deco in the hotel
View down from hotel window
And up….

Tomorrow we fly to Anchorage, where we need to get this wretched Covid test done. Bear with us in this next stage of the journey!

6 responses to “Sunday, 10th July – Day 1 (Heathrow to Seattle)”

  1. Glad you made it in the end. Looks like we’re in for a similarly daunting terminal experience when we travel πŸ˜”

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  2. Thanks, Steve. Hopefully will be less traumatic for you.

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    1. Adele Gardner avatar
      Adele Gardner

      oh my god what a nightmare of a journey still at least you managed to squueze in a glass of champnge at the airport i hope you managed to see some tennis on the aeroplane it was a good match anyway im sure you will have a few g and ts on the plane look forward to your next blog

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  3. We did OK G&T-wise, thanks, Adele! I did get to see some of the tennis, but Djokovic dominated the last three sets. Good, but not great, game of tennis.

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  4. The worst when entering an airport nowadays is you don’t know anything – is the security line long, are there a lot of people or not, will I be allowed to travel with just a cabin bag, will it meet the max weight etc etc. Yesterday going to Madrid we were at the airport almost three hours in advance which they recommend – and we had no queing at all! πŸ˜‚

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    1. Yes, it’s all part of the lottery of international travel these days!

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