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Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist

Held up over hounslow


“Round and round in circles,” said my client as she described her wait in the air above Heathrow. “As if I didn’t feel guilty enough about flying in the first place, let alone waste all that extra fuel while we waited for a landing slot.”


I sympathised with her and pointed out there were other issues, as well as the obvious environmental ones, at stake.


After all, while you’re unexpectedly flying over west London for hours, your connecting coach, train or flight might well have left without you.


All of which reminded me of my recent flight back from Dubai. Just as scheduled, we arrived at Heathrow at 7.10pm.


‘Arrived’ though, is different from ‘landed’. Yes, we too circled overhead like a giant buzzard with obsessive compulsive disorder, stacked with other, similarly afflicted metal birds making the same patterns in the sky until we were eventually given permission to land an hour later at 8.10pm.


Needless to say, many passengers, including myself, had missed connections and it was with a heavy heart that I descended the steps.


I followed signs for the bus station where I was supposed to catch my coach, but with renovations underway at Heathrow and loads of boards and scaffolding around, it wasn’t easy to follow.


By the time I’d made it, my foot was bleeding where my shoes had rubbed (will I ever learn) and I was tired and emotional. Fortunately, I had some flip-flops to hand which I whipped out of my shoulder bag and put on.


Okay, so they didn’t remotely go with what I was wearing, and it was a cool 5C, so hardly flip-flop conditions, but what the heck, the blisters were freed.


Along with a gaggle of bewildered foreign visitors and English people in furry boots, I joined the queue to buy a new ticket to catch the bus to Woking where I would hop on a train to Salisbury.


A very helpful member of staff escorted me to the bus. This is what happens when you are an older lady in flip-flops carrying lots of bags…


Once on the coach I felt more relaxed. I was even able to forget I was wearing flip-flops and looked certifiably mad. The chap sitting in front of me had overheard me mention Salisbury and told me he was also travelling there and the next train to connect with the coach was at 21.55.


We set off for Woking on time but made a diversion to Terminal 4 where the driver got off, returning again some minutes later.


I glanced at my watch but decided I’d be very unlucky indeed to miss two connections.


It seems I was very unlucky indeed. I arrived at Woking just as my train was pulling out of the station. I would have tried to run for it, but for those damned flip-flops.


Call me old fashioned, but what with this obsession for joined-up thinking you’d have thought the coaches would talk to the trains, the trains to the people who fly the aircraft and so on. Isn’t that what having a modern public transport infrastructure is all about.


I just can’t wait for the Olympics to come to London in 2012. Well, they might be coming to London, whether they actually manage to land in London is another matter.


Reducing your BMI?


Last week, I told you about Andy Tomlinson, head of commercial at Harvey World Travel who, along with a dozen of the 40 head-office staff, set themselves a challenge to lose a few pounds in aid of a charity for terminally ill children.


Every Friday morning, the 12 slimmers line up for their weigh-in, removing shoes, belts and anything else that might add an ounce or two, before donating their £1 to the charity and stepping on the scales.


However, I’m beginning to think Andy, who has already lost two stones, may be suffering from spells of light-headedness. A colleague who asked him what his BMI had gone down to was struck dumb by the outburst that followed in which Andy complained about general commission cuts throughout the trade.


“I meant Body Mass Index,” his colleague gently pointed out.


The end is in sight for Andy though. His goal is to reach May 7, when he and the others will join the Run for Dreams in Wolverhampton. Waiting to greet them will be the local press who, together with supermarket Morrisons, have organised for 240 packets of lard to be stacked close by, to represent the total loss of body fat for the slimmers. And that’s a lorra lorra lard.


We are not a library…


I don’t know what it’s like in your neck of the woods, but it’s not exactly buzzing in ours at the moment. Every booking counts and I’m prepared to pull out all the stops when business is slow.


So when a young man came in asking for Thomson brochures, we went into selling mode asking where he was thinking of holidaying and when, and offering our widest-ever smiles.


The chap was insistent he was only interested in Thomson publications and did we have A la Carte, Small and Friendly, Greece and Summer Sun?


“There are lots of other operators,” I said. “Don’t feel you have to limit yourself.” And I threw in talk of independent agents for good measure, explaining how varied and distinct the products we offer can be.


He blushed and confessed he wouldn’t be booking, explaining he’d been recruited as a Thomson rep and just wanted to look through the brochures.


If only I could have laid hands on a Thomson Summer Sun – that’s the heaviest, isn’t it?

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