The Anonymous Widower

When Airlines Knew What Service Meant – 3

This is a third tale from about 1985 and again it concerns British Airways, but I suspect in those days any good airline did their utmost for their passengers, as it was cheap positive publicity.

A friend, his wife and another couple had gone for a weekend in somewhere like Malaga.  They had worried about actually getting there, as the French air traffic controllers were having one of their periodic bouts of industrial action.

They werent’t particularly bothered, as if they didn’t get back on Monday, Tuesday would do.

On the Monday, various tour reps arrived at the hotel and said that everybody would get home, but it would be a bit late and they would be picked up from the hotel at the expected time.  But the British Airways rep told her charges to wait in the hotel and they’d be picked up three hours before the flight was to leave.

So about nine, they all trooped onto the coach for the airport, where chaos reigned, as no flights were going back to the UK, due to the French. At midnight, they were called to the departure lounge and pretty soon were on their plane.

They’d been expecting a 737, but the plane was a wide-bodied Tri-Star, which BA filled with other passengers caught up from the Sunday or at the chaos at other airports.

Once airborne, the pilot explained the Tri-Star by saying that the French weren’t allowing any planes through their airspace, so they’d used the longer-range Tri-Star and filed a flight-plan on the way out to Bermuda, with Malaga as the alternate. Then halfway across the Atlantic, they’d declared  a minor emergency and as they were just north of Spain, requested they go to the alternate. He said the flight home would be a bit longer, as they were totally avoiding French air-space.

It must have used a lot more fuel, but there were lots of contented passengers.


February 6, 2012 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,


  1. If it don’t sound snobbish, airlines have been brought to their present pass by passengers who want to travel for tuppence but expect 10-guinea service.. Look at the cost of fares. 1985? probably twice the price of today and in real terms probably six-fold.
    How I love to hear “Turn left,” when I get on a plane, or if it’s Virgin Atlantic, “turn right and up the stairs please.”

    Comment by peter hoskins | February 6, 2012 | Reply

    • If you want to experience service, come back from Hong Kong in a wheelchair in Club. Admittedly, I had to go through a stroke which hopefully I’m almost over, but I did get excellent service. At Heathrow, I was wheeled all the way through Terminal 3 to the ambulance without any hindrance.

      Comment by AnonW | February 6, 2012 | Reply

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