Archive for April 11th, 2009

Thursday before Palm Sunday. We have allowed plenty of time to get to Torp airport, two hours drive south of Oslo. We booked our tickets in January, the passports are valid, we look forward to an oval weekend in England. Our youngest is a Manchester United supporter, the oldest has been promised a spending spree at the Forbidden Planet SF and comics shop. The weather is not the brightest as we approach the airport, but why worry about low clouds in this age of technological wizardry?

Torp Airport

Torp Airport

The check in goes smoothly – a machine scans my passport and retrieves our booking details. I drop off our bags at the counter, and we go through security. The plane is not scheduled to leave until 22:30, and there are occasional delays, so both my wife and I go for coffee and nothing stronger. The beer range and the prices makes it sensible to wait as well.

Our flight is with Ryanair to Birmingham, where we have booked a room at an airport hotel for the first night before continuing by train to Manchester.  Ryanair has very cheap tickets, but there is a scramble to get on board first, as they don’t have seat reservations. When you travel with children, it is preferable to be able to sit next to them.

The Non-Schengen departure hall at Torp is rather small, and soon after the go to gate announcement is made on the screen at about 21:40, it is packed with passengers. There is a plane to London half an hour later, so there are about 600 of us squeezed inside behind the passport control. The queue does not move at all. We crane our necks to see what is happening up front, but, apart from some families with small children being let through the tickets inspection and into the pre-boarding space, nothing happens.

Then a voice over the loudspeaker. We regret to announce that Ryanairs flight  to Birmingham is cancelled due to fog at the airport. Would all passengers please return to the departure lounge and contact the service desk…

We run for the stairs and I am number four or so in the queue. I overhear a lady behind the counter say there are a few seats left for Liverpool the next day, but apart from that, nothing. I await my turn, and ask if we could be booked for the Liverpool flight. Yes, says the lady behind the counter. There are four seats available. Just a moment, I’ll have to make some photocopies of these forms.

While she is busy doing paperwork, the other lady behind the counter seats two other passengers on the Liverpool flight, so there are only two seats left. We are almost bursting with anger, but there is nothing to be done. No other flights to England or Scotland have any spare capacity, as the holidays start the next day. I grap a stamped and signed conformation form, we grab our baggagne and return to the parking lot.

Airlines like Ryanair do not cooperate with any other carriers, so they do not book you on any competitors, which is routine if you use companies like SAS or Lufthansa.

We start driving north towards Oslo again, as there are no other flights from Torp that’s of any use to us. The ticket offices are closed, and we don’t have any laptop with mobile Internet, either. It’s approaching midnight. The atmosphere in the car, particularly in the back, is gloomy. We have hotel bookings in England that can’t be cancelled, we have seriously expensive tickets at Old Traffort that are non-refundable. I assume that the London flight has the same problems. There will be 600 stranded passengers scrambling for whatever seats are available, so we cannot wait until we can log on at home in two hours. For now, most of these people are still in front of the desk at the airport, but not for long.

I decide to call my father. My wife drives, while I do the talking. My father is 76, but very computer literate, and when I explains our situation, he logs on right away and looks for seats.

Nothing on SAS. Nothing on British Airways. An opening on Sunday evening or Monday, but far too late. The Wideroe web site searches directly into the Amadeus reservation system, but it only comes up with Business class options like Finnair via Helsinki, 2400 Euros, or Brussels Airlines, 1800 Euros for the four of us. He wants to try some other web sites, and he’ll call us back if he finds something.

Almost midnight. A flash of inspiration. I call my father again. Check if there are any flights to Brussels in the morning, please!

A minute or two.

Sure, there is a SAS flight at 08:15. From Gardermoen, the main airport, to the north of Oslo. Not cheap, but sensibly priced.

Great, take it! We’ll find our way from there somehow. Book us in and text me the reservation number.

My wife and I discuss the situation. Should we go home and then get up for a train at six? Nope. I call directory enquiries and get the number for an airport hotel.

Do you have a family room? Sure, come along, no need for any reservation at this time of the night. We arrive some time after one. A room with bunk beds, but there are fresh, cool sheets and about four hours to get some sleep before the next leg of the journey.

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