- Photo Essays
It’s a traveller’s worst nightmare. Well, one of them at least.
Those huge red, flashing letters next to the departure time of your next flight have the power to rattle even the most frequent of flyers: CANCELLED. A delay is frustrating enough but you see ‘cancelled’ and your heart just sinks.
It was two days before Christmas and I’d just finished a five-week hike across Spain along the Camino de Santiago. Winter was well and truly leaving its trace in the northern hemisphere as a ‘big freeze’ encompassed much of Europe.
The winter storms had already caused over eighty deaths across Europe. The weather, and hence, the airports were in chaos.
Flights had been grounded en masse and many travelers stranded in airports across the continent waited and waited while their Christmas holiday plans disintegrated before them.
After nearly eight weeks on the road I was about to travel to Scotland to spend a white Christmas with close friends in Edinburgh. As the flight from Santiago touched down in London I knew we were incredibly lucky to have made it even this far. One down, one to go…You know where this is going, right?
But as we stood in front of the departure board at Stansted Airport to check our flight status, there it was: those dreaded flashing red letters. Seriously, do they really need to flash like that?
There seemed to be more cancelled flights that scheduled ones, so we were not alone in the crowd of disappointed faces.
I was at a loss. In twelve years of travel, miraculously this had never happened. Delays, yes – many, many delays – but never a cancellation.
And with only two days until Christmas we knew we would never get another flight in time.
The airline staff were dismissive at best. Your flight is cancelled. Bad luck. Merry Christmas….next please?
But angry travellers can be strangely terrifying. Maybe it was fear combined with a rather half-assed Christmas spirit, but the airline staff finally agreed to transport us to Edinburgh….by bus. Did I mention there was a blizzard?
Our trip to London and original one-hour flight descended into a six-hour wait at the airport followed by a treacherous twelve-hour bus ride through a blizzard. I could’ve flown back to Australia in that time.
But we made it. Just in time for Christmas Eve.
Many travellers didn’t make it to their Christmas dinner plans that year. We were certainly amongst the fortunate ones who did.
And what a Christmas it was. I had been craving a white Christmas for as long as I can remember. Our Southern Hemisphere Christmases in Australia are usually enjoyed with the air conditioner jammed into overdrive and the barbeque sizzling, and although I had spent several Christmas seasons abroad, none of them had been white.
This one was as white as they come! It was all about the snow.
That was two years ago…
This year, it will be a hot summer Christmas day again with temperatures forecast in the low thirties (Celsius).
Instead of snow, there will be sunshine. Instead of a hot roast dinner, there will shrimp on the ‘barbie’.
But most importantly…I don’t have to fly anywhere.