“How you doing, there?” asked the genial young man in a yellow fluorescent tabard at Heathrow Airport. This (after “No problems!”) is one of the great non-phrases of our time. “If only we were THERE,” I wanted to say, “and not HERE!” But I resisted: he meant well, he was doing his bit to help keep up Brit morale in difficult times…
And, as it happened, it wasn’t such an ordeal - certainly not on the level of those who had attempted to travel over the past few days. Keeping everyone corralled outside the terminal until the flights were called made for a luxuriously un-crowded concourse and an amazing swift check-in.
Security was evidently more efficient, experienced or just less punctilious and the only real complication was the announcement this morning that the ban on hand-baggage had been relaxed.
I was amused in watching early morning TV before setting off for the airport to hear a reporter at Heathrow say: “So, see-thru plastic bags for carry-on are a thing of the past…” The past? It had only been in operation for four days!
The authorities were clear that the relaxation of the ban on carry-on bags was ‘partial’, although that seemed to have by-passed many travellers who were turning up as they normally do with enough cabin luggage to reasonably require a sizeable team of native bearers to handle.
‘Partial relaxation’ actually meant the introduction of a new maximum-size for bags that is several inches smaller than the previous one. The crates into which you are supposed to be able to fit your carry-on luggage before attempting to carry-it-on have all been re-lined with a metal box with a smaller slot. This is a fascinating development: clearly permanent, not temporary, and also - if you think about it - clearly nothing whatever to do with security.
Any terrorist worth his salt would not be daunted by the restraints of a smaller piece of hand-baggage in which to carry-on essential explosives. No, this is the airlines seizing the opportunity to limit the amount of in-cabin luggage carried in planes and which is self-evidently the bane of every air-stewardess’ daily life and also - and more crucially, necessitates the use of extra, costly fuel…
Who knows, there may also be some sticky backhanders being passed between the BAA, the airlines and the manufacturers of bags and baggage since we had to purchase a new computer carrying-case as the existing one was 5mm too large!
Anyway, after days of stress and anxiety, we took off and a little less than three hours later landed in Athens at the swanky new airport built for the last Olympic Games.
We are staying overnight at the Sofitel Hotel, which must be one of the few hotels than can legitimately boast: “30 seconds from the airport”! Nice room; superb food; elegant décor --- it’s just a pity, for such a new hotel, that the statuary in the lobby has already been vandalised!