Friday, 15 January 2010

Travel chaos (Part 5)

Day 5 and another early start to get to Ponta Delgada airport for a flight to Horta (via Terceira - nice to see that airport again) whence we will get another flight to Flores. We hope.

We arrive at Horta in good order but it's becoming clear that the Azores have been affected by their own variety of travel chaos in the shape of very strong winds. I've mentioned before that the runway at Flores is vulnerable to adverse cross-winds and a number of flights seem to have been cancelled in recent days. So much so that this morning there's an extra flight to Flores to clear the backlog of stranded passengers.

Half an hour before departure of the flight from Horta to Flores, there's an announcement on the tannoy - both flights to Flores delayed due to weather at destination, more information in half an hour. A night in a hotel in Horta beckons (now armed with clean socks and pants at BA's expense, I could begin to get used to hotel life) but the next announcement was boarding now through Gate A.

The approach to Flores was, er, "lively". Carol reported it as being worse than the approach to Flores which she had hitherto described as her worst ever landing on an aeroplane (I was watching that one from the ground and the plane was certainly bouncing about quite dramatically). My reaction to this approach was that, if I were a trainee pilot on my first outing with fare paying passengers, I'd have been turning to the grizzled old captain saying "We're not actually going to go through with this and try to land are we?"

But land we did and our luggage even turned up three days later as well! Game over at last!


Suze said...

Nothing like making the most of your annual trip! Suspect you might not feel the need to leave the island for a bit.

Kathie said...

Glad to learn you finally got home safe and sound, if frazzled.

I had that same cross-wind experience trying to get off Flores in mid-June 2002. Flights in/out of the island were (wisely) canceled for three successive days thanks to 50+ knot gales -- not that I'd have wanted to have been in an airplane in that weather, had they decided to risk flying. By the time the winds subsided sufficiently that planes could fly safely, there was such an accumulation of passengers on Flores who'd missed their flights, as well as those scheduled to depart that day, that SATA had to bring in three large aircraft to accomodate us all (I was on the second flight out).

Alas, by then I'd missed my connecting flight home to the States in Ponta Delgada, so wound up being rerouted to Terceira, with two nights at my own expense till the next flight from Lajes to Boston. On the bright side, I got to spend two additional days in Angra do Heroísmo (my favorite little city in the world!), and while waiting at the airport for my flight made friends with some nice teachers at the American school at Lajes AFB who were headed stateside for summer vacation at home.

Incidentally, I later wound up housesitting for one of the couples I met at the airport, i.e., getting free accomodations on my next Terceira visit in return for holding down the fort for a couple of weeks during Sanjoaninas (when accomodations are at their priciest in Angra), so even in adversity things turned out well, or at least less badly!

I must say, though, that next time I plan to visit Flores I'll make it an early stop on my trip, so I can have some flexibility in my itinerary if need be.

Marisa said...

I wouldn't have liked to be on that plane, nop, nop, nop.When i land in bad weather conditions, it's a sweatting..., my hands turn in to water. And i really don't like the new planes, i like the old ATP's, the new ones "dance" a lot with the wind, just like a leaf or a paper sheet in the wind. Kathie that is wisely, specialy when we are talking about Flores. My cousins come from Canada every year (João an Antónia Amorim, they live in Fontinha Fajã-Grande) and they always stay for to days in PD when returning home, in case they don't leave Flores in time.

Kathie said...

Yeah Marisa, ever since then, each time I've flown home from the Azores I've always arranged to spend AT LEAST one night in Ponta Delgada or Angra do Heroísmo before my scheduled flight (depending, obviously, on whether I was flying out of PDL or Lajes). Such stress I don't need!

Neil King said...

Marisa - the approach I described was on an ATP. Haven't had a bad approach on one of the new DH2's yet.