First, just a quick re-cap on O R Tambo airport in Johannesburg. Last year I witnessed the new lavish, spacious departure lounge for the first time. It’s very nice and a vast improvement on the cramped and disorganised departure lounge of the past. Unfortunately check-in, security and passport control are still an utter nightmare.

Speaking of nightmares, let’s move on to Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Yesterday I noticed that BAA’s Chief Executive Colin Matthews had stated “BAA fully recognises that the inauguration of Terminal 5 has not been as smooth as we and BA would have wished”. No, really?

So, here’s my guided tour of the T5 arrival experience:

  • Disembark the plane – delayed three minutes because of something
  • Walk a fair distance (although some of it is covered by moving walk-ways)
  • Go down three flights of stairs
  • Wait for a little shuttle train which isn’t big enough for a 747-size load of passengers
  • Get off the little train and go up double escalators (which aren’t big enough to comfortably handle a 747-size load of passengers)
  • Go up another set of escalators, past the unfinished walls – anyone over six foot should duck to avoid the sharp metal frame hanging down over said escalators
  • Go through passport control
  • Go down the escalators to baggage reclaim
  • Hunt for the right baggage carousel because the announcement board wasn’t working

At this point, after many changes in altitude (down, up, down again), I was ready to pick up my suitcase and be on my way. I arrived at this point at 06:50, about half an hour after the airplane had landed. At about 07:00 an announcement stated that they apologised for the late arrival of baggage from Joburg and they were doing everything possible to get it to the carousel quickly. At 07:25 (over an hour after landing) some suitcases appeared. And after a while a few more arrived. I picked mine up at 07:40 – after fifty minutes of waiting.

Now here comes my ‘favourite’ bit. I had to go upstairs to departures to meet the minicab (that’s their arrangement, and it is less busy up there so a good idea really). So how do you get upstairs? Easy, take an escalator. Which is what I did… I went up the first one, did a u-turn to go up the next one… and found that it was coming down. Yep, the first up escalator was met by a down escalator. A member of staff was standing nearby, and I asked about the logic of this and how I was supposed to get upstairs. He pointed to a nearby lift. It’s a shame ‘One Foot In The Grave’ has finished, because they could do a one-hour special with Victor Meldrew arriving back at T5 from holiday. The scary thing is that the script would write itself.

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