Archive for December 27th, 2008

All’s well that ends well!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Dyspozytor returns to Poland on Boxing Day.

Readers that have been following BTWT for some time will know that Dyspozytor is not a good air traveller. He has a fundamental aversion to the whole business, believing firmly that if man had been meant to fly he would have evolved with wings. Over the Christmas period there’s also the worry that the aircrew may have had one too many the previous night and that their blood alcohol levels may not yet have descended to a safe level. Finally, he finds the check in and security procedures intrinsically stressful and requires a composure and philosophical attitude which is far removed from his own.


Tram tunnel under taxiway. Photo

( Click to see photo on airport-technology website.)

My blood pressure started reaching dangerously high levels on the M25. Why is it on the one day in the year when half of Britain is travelling in order to visit loved ones and having as many drinks as possible, achievement of the second objective is frustrated – or made illegal – by the closure of the country’s entire railway network?

As the traffic on the M25 slowed down several times to a crawl, I had visions of not getting to the check in desk in time and reliving my earlier embarrassment at Lodz Airport. Traffic speeded up after Watford, and the northbound M1 flowed reasonably freely. The M1 – Luton Airport spur is being widened to a dual carriageway and here we were slowed down again. There’s a spare tunnel under the taxiway which was intended to take a tramway (why not full size rail link?) from the airport terminal to Luton Airport Parkway Station, but with the Department for Transport’s penchant for road building this seems now to be likely to be used by the final section of the spur road.

Heightened security procedures at the airport have moved the drop off point some 100 yards away from the terminal building. At the same time, the airport’s Spanish operating company have introduced a charge for the baggage trolleys that removed so much of the struggle with heavy luggage. Curiously enough, chargeable trolleys have also been introduced at Stansted Airport.

My comfortable walking boots, bought in Krakow a couple of years ago, attracted the attention of a security operative who ordered that I take them off. The same boots attracted no attention whatsoever at Stansted a month earlier. The Stansted security staff did confiscate a small bottle of fizzy mineral water, but allowed me to take half a pound of sugar onto the plane. I conclude that airport security procedures are pure theatre and are nothing to do with preventing explosives being carried on board and everything to do with maintaining the state of post 9/11 and 7/7 national paranoia.

Once through security, I wanted an orange juice. £3-00 from the café, but only £1-50 from W.H. Smiths. The bookshop won. The drink was a life saver. Luton is one of these airports which expects its travellers to maintain a state of Olympic fitness. The number of the gate is shown at the last possible minute and sprinting to it can take 20 minutes.

Wizzair have an unfortunate habit of cancelling their flights and leaving their passengers stranded. On the other hand, their Airbus A320s are newer and have more comfortable seats than Ryanair’s older Boeing 737s. You make your choice and pay your money. This time, the Wizzair flight was without incident and the crew were Polish and friendly.

Passport control at Poznan Airport was brisk and efficient, although I fail to understand why, when all aeroplane stands near the terminal were vacant, our plane was stopped 20 yards from the terminal building, but 100 yards from the terminal’s airside entrance. Perhaps the airport authorities just wanted to show off their new buses?

In side the terminal building there were no bus ticket machines and all the new kiosks selling tickets were closed. I needn’t have worried, the bus driver accepted my 100 zl note with a smile and gave me change for my 4.80 zl fare. Driving on practically deserted roads, we reached Poznan station in 15 minutes.

I spied my train just across the tracks from the bus stop. With just 5 minutes to spare, I didn’t bother about buying a ticket or using the subway. I sprinted across the tracks and told the guard that I needed a ticket. He directed me to the head of the train. Armed with the change provided by the bus driver there was no problem in buying it on board the train. The kierownik (train manager) konduktorka (female train conductor) and I exchanged gossip about the latest developments on PKP. After behaviour that would have seen me fined and arrested in the UK, I was safely back in Poland.