Saturday, August 20, 2005

1 Aug 2005: At the airport

Since I feel awake to go to dreamland, I reckon I shall try to do something productive, that is, to share with you about my UK trip.

Even though the most productive and reasonable thing to do at this hour is to rest. But I have slept till 9 a.m. the day before and I slept 3 hours in the afternoon of the day before that I don't think my body felt like it needed any more sleep.

I have tried to keep a tour journal with me, so that I could log into it my experiences throughout the trip. I shall quote wholesale from the journal where appropriate. But pardon me, due to busy schedules and tiring times, I usually ended up logging into the logbook only about several days after the event has occurred. In fact I have only wrote up till 15 Aug 2005 noon, and my trip lasted till 18 Aug 2005. I shall try my best to ensure that my accounts and recollections are as accurate as I could remember.

If I do make my accounts too vivid at the expense of possibly hurting anyone, this would have been most unintentional.

1 Aug 2005 and I am technically still in Singapore. We were told to be at the airport at 7.30 p.m., I remember. But actually, my flight was only due to depart at 0035 on 2 Aug 2005. I was told to arrive at the airport early because most of the rest of the orchestra members would be travelling on a earlier flight that leaves at about 10.40 p.m.

One of my younger brothers was nice and he rented a car to drive mom and myself to the airport. He helped me with the luggage too. Mom did too. I shall learn to better appreciate my family members' way of expressing their love. After seeing that things are fine on my side at the airport, they left for my grandma's place. My maternal grandma had wanted to send me off but she was having a flu and could not do so.

At the airport, the orchestra members participating in the festival met and reported. Not all smooth sailing I suppose? I heard that a few people got themselves stuck in the expressways on the way to the airport. Even though that was a Monday, I suppose the roads are crowded, awfully perhaps. As such, several came much later than the official reporting time.

Dear Emily was nice and kind to help bring the four flight cases from the university to the airport with YY. I think YYY was there with them too? I heard the vehicles that they were taking were caught in the traffic jams. Good thing that while they were later than expected, they came in time to catch the flight.

I was asked to be in-charge to make sure that all the folks who were travelling on British Airways and Qantas were around and had their passports given to me so that the travel agent would later collect those from me and to help check-in everyone taking the British Airways and Qantas. I got to realise that none of us who were taking the British Airways and Qantas flights were NUS undergraduates. We were either graduates or guest players. But I shall highlight that it was no exercise of discrimination. I requested to travel on Qantas and British Airways for this trip so that I could stop by London without having to incur extra charges of booking an additional domestic fligh from Aberdeen to London.

Most of the other orchestra members were taking KLM airlines which departs at an earlier time. Their flight would stopover at Amsterdam (Holland) before reaching Aberdeen.

In the end, after much careful checks by the airlines' staff, it ended up that all members who wanted their instruments and bows to be carried up the plane as hand-carry could do so. The idea of the special safety container just does not seem enticing. Instruments are personal and of great sentimental value. If I were rich, I would have bought my dear instrument (be it "my husband" or "my boyfriend") a business class seat at least and have it on the cabin with me. Somehow it doesn't feel safe to have it in flight cases, and flight cases are heavy.

I should say that someone could consider making a business out of manufacturing and selling flight cases that are sturdy and protective, yet light-weight. It will be a needed service. At about 9 p.m plus, as best as I could recall, the travel agent who was with me and the rest of the people taking the British Airways and Qantas flights received a call from one of the university's representative staff members who was to go with the orchestra for the Aberdeen International Youth Festival.

It was said to the best of my recall that the rest of the orchestra travelling on KLM airlines had excess baggage due to the heavy four flight cases, and it was asked if one of the flight cases could be put on the Qantas flight that nine of us were on. It turns out the flight case was at least 65 kg. I was told most of this weight is that of the weight of the case itself. The instruments inside it took up no more than a third of the total weight.

We should be thankful that after weighing the flight case with its contents, the group of us on the Quantas flight have sufficient weight allowance to have that flight case with us without having to bear any excess baggage penalty charges. However, the dimensions of the flight case was an issue. It was an unexpected move to have the flight case on the Qantas flight. The airlines has not been given prior notice to expect a flight case of that dimension. As such the airlines was not quite prepared to take the flight case. Safety is of top paramount and the containers that the flight uses to store the checked-in luggages are not intended to store such a dimension of the flight-case upright. Experts have to be called in to see if it would be safe to carry the flight-case as a check-in baggage. We were advised that in worst scenario, it may have to go by cargo.

I went for a quick meal at Popeyes while the travel agent waited for the airlines' expert to come to view the flight case. It was a sweet gesture and I appreciate her helping to wait. She knew that I felt a little hungry.

When the experts arrived, the agent gave me a call on my mobile upon my request. It just doesn't seem nice to leave everything all to the agent when one is a member of the orchestra and the issue is that concerning the travelling orchestra. (I took a break from my meal and my accompanying dinner-mates were very nice to save enough food for me when I was back. Thanks.)

In the end, after much checks by the experts, the flight case finally got clearance. The experts have to absolutely ensure that it would be safe. I respect that safety has to be of top priority. The suggestion is that the flight-case would be kept in one of those containers not upright, but a little tilted. I shall be thankful that the flight case is sturdy enough to protect the instruments even while being left tilted.

I shall be thankful that we have a travel agent who was patient enough and responsible enough to see us through this entire flight case issue. I could also see that the airlines ground staff were trying their best to assist, while safety will still be their top concern.

There was much a relief when Qantas ascertain it was safe to carry the flight case on the flight. A few of the folks due to board the KLM flight had not boarded their plane as they needed to see to this matter. Thank goodness all went well, even though it felt a little last-minute.

Lessons learnt: More may need to be taken into considerations on the weight and dimensions issues when travelling with a large orchestra with so many large instruments. For the first time, I realise how very expensive it can be to be charged for excess baggage. The rate of the penalty charges goes exponential.

So technically, on 1 Aug 2005, I was still in Singapore.

But I shall forward time a little ahead to the time that I took this picture below on the plane. I took this on the plane, about a few hours prior to my arrival at London's Heathrow Airport. I was due to arrive Heathrow Airport at about 0715 London's time on 2 Aug 2005.

I shall not hold myself to delay writing about the picture below, for I can't bring myself to delay sharing it with you. I shall dedicate this to Mistipurple for I think she might like it. I know she might prefer sunsets more than sunrises, but for a change, I hope it would still delight her to see how the skies would look like during a sunrise.


If you like my writings so far, please stay tuned for more.

1 comment:

mistipurple said...

thank you pei yun! i absolutely love this sunrise. and yes, i am staying tuned for more of your writings! :)