Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Divide and conquer

When we return to the city, we go to find out more about the poster we noticed at the tram stop. It turns out to be advertising a book, which I decide to buy. We check back into the Sapphire hotel, and pay in advance since we've decided to set off early for the airport in case we can get on the earlier flight. Then we meet the Walters at the Grup restaurant near the hippodrome - we've decided that we'll continue to eat here every night until we escape from Istanbul, Groundhog Day-style.

When we get back to hotel, we check the BA site and to our dismay our flight tomorrow is cancelled. This is particularly frustrating since the BBC is reporting that airspace is beginning to open up. We take stock and review our options. We think that we might get back quicker if we split up, since single seats might be easier to find. We also decide to return to the airport in time for the first flight out in the morning - if it is reinstated, we might be able to get a standby place.  This means getting up at 5 am. We're feeling pretty despondent at this point, and decide a bottle of wine is the answer. Perhaps not the best preparation for an early start!

Via Facebook, we ask Tash to call BA in the UK for us and try to book us on an earlier flight than Saturday, and she manages to get me on the afternoon flight tomorrow, but there is only one seat. While we're doing this, Lord Adonis (what kind of name is that?) announces that all UK airspace is being opened from 2200 UK time - right about now. But BA still shows the morning and lunchtime flights to Heathrow as cancelled. We decide to check again at 5am, but by the time we go to bed it's midnight.

I can't sleep, so at 4.30 I get up and check the flight status - the two earlier flights are still cancelled, but mine is operating. There seems little point going to the airport to stand by for a cancelled flight, so I switch off the alarm and finally get some sleep. It's 8.30 when we wake up and Simon tries to get through on the Turkish BA number but it won't connect. Then Sophie calls from the airport, where she has managed to book them on to a KLM flight via Amsterdam on Thursday, and offers to book Simon on, too. We accept this gratefully. She also tells us that my flight is apparently overbooked and recommends I get to the airport early.

After some deliberation, we decide that I'll take the suitcase and leave Simon with a small rucksack, and he will try to get on standby - with hand luggage only this should be easier. We set off for the airport by tram, and are waved off by the shopkeeper who sold me the book yesterday. On the tram, a man called Mustapha engages me in conversation, endearingly keen to practise his English.

The airport is a little busier today, and the small queue at the BA desk a little less calm. They confirm that my seat is secure, but that the flight is full. They have a standby list but the sick, elderly and families with babies will have priority. It's three hours before my flight is due to start check in, so we pay an extortionate TL11.50 for a latte and feel justified in occupying the comfy chairs in the cafe until check in begins. Simon checks the KLM situation and decides he has a better chance on standby there - the flight is due to leave just before mine.

Check in is uneventful and with a boarding pass in my hand I begin to have faith that I might actually get home. I leave Simon to go through passport control, but 20 minutes later he finds me in the departure lounge having secured a standby seat on the KLM flight. As I wait to leave the gate, I watch his flight taxi and take off. My flight is uneventful, and I am met by Leigh who has kindly agreed to pick me up - this will get me home quicker than the Rail Air bus, and I can't wait to see Tash and Alex. In fact, I don't have to wait long as she's brought them with her!

The only disappointment is that Simon was unable to get a connecting flight and has to spend the night in Amsterdam. But our colleague there has found him a hotel and I'm confident that he'll make it home tomorrow.

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