On the way home.
The alarm went off at 5.15 a.m. Truly ungodly, but Colin had managed to get a buffet breakfast organised even at that hour. Rude not to participate, even if it was rather sketchy.
The bus departed bang on time at 6.15 a.m. and made good progress, stopping on the way for a break.
Colin had warned us that Malaga Airport was likely to be chaotic.
How right he was.
Antonio, our driver, bless him, managed to manoeuvre the coach into Position A for the terminal, but there were people, cars and tour buses everywhere. We managed to extricate our suitcases and joined the VERY long check-in queue. At this stage, we were in plenty of time for our flight.
All of a sudden, the queue in front of us moved lock, stock and barrel to another check-in gate. I have no idea who or what precipitated this, but we all followed like sheep. Not a feeling I enjoy.
The check-in desk information was incredibly confusing. Nobody knew whether we were in the queue for business class or cattle class (I hadn’t managed to get an upgrade, regrettably).
Then some jobsworth announced that we were in the wrong queue – again! So once again we all moved to another check-in desk, but this time we managed to get a position further ahead in the queue.
To our bafflement, they had two desks open for club class, but only one for us mere mortals, and that appeared to be personned by a trainee. She was incredibly slow, but there just seemed to be no urgency whatsoever. She had families with young kids, pushchairs and mountains of luggage to check in and the queue was static for what seemed like hours. Colin, who was on the flight with us, was going mental in Spanish, but it made no difference – there was much muttering and complaining going on. Utter shambles, with other airline check-in desks also having problems dealing with the huge numbers of people.
We inched forward agonisingly slowly. At last, one of the club class desks deigned to check the cattle in, and that sped things up. Once we got to the desk, we were through in a jiffy, but there were large numbers of our party still to come through with the plane due to depart in half an hour.
There was still Security to get through, another hated part of flying. For once, although it was incredibly busy, we managed to get through without being stopped for something. It still took around 15 minutes, though.
Then passport control. Another massive queue. Fortunately no hold-ups here.
10 minutes before the gate was due to close, and Malaga is a huge airport now. Off we dashed, to find another non-moving queue at the gate with only one very harassed woman having to deal with club and cattle class all on her own, with some very irate passengers. Tempers were running high at this time.
Finally, finally, we managed to get to our seats on the plane. Standard cattle class seats, Jean on the window side, me in the middle.
The aisle seat to my right remained empty for ages, and at one stage I hoped I could move into it. About three-quarters of an hour later, though, three passengers were let onto the plane, one of them, to my chagrin, taking his seat alongside me. Almost immediately, the plane moved off the stand and took off, 40 minutes late.
So there I was, stuck in the middle with my usual long leg problem more or less jamming me in. So passed an uncomfortable two and a half hours before landing at Heathrow Terminal 5.
The flight, though, was uneventful and at least it was full British Airways personnel, unlike on the way out. Service was good and professional, although we had to pay for everything.
Going through passport control was a nightmare. For the umpteenth time, my battered old passport wouldn’t let me through the automatic gate, so I had to “seek assistance”. That meant having to queue for ages behind families with children and those from other countries. At one point, three gates turned into one as two passengers were led away, presumably to be questioned more closely. So, so frustrating. Jean, with her newer passport, sailed through, but had to wait for me to get through.
Off to baggage collection. Our bags appeared on the carousel remarkably quickly and we were out of there in a flash.
In the arrivals hall, it took us a while to find our driver to take us home. However, once done, he took us – and it was just the two of us – to a very large minibus where we reposed in perfect comfort. Splendid.
Traffic was a bit thick in the usual places, but about an hour later we were back indoors.
So, unpacking, washing and getting back into the old routine now faced us after a most enjoyable holiday.
Last post in this blog will be a summary of our experiences of our first Saga trip. Mostly positive, but there were a few things that could be improved.
For those who’ve stuck with me on this really interesting trip, thanks for your company.
Next blog will be about a trip we’ve got booked in the Italian lakes in September with another provider, Riviera Travel. Hopefully, you’ll join us for that.
In the meantime, adios, amigos!