Finally heading home

So after 495 days at Flight Training Europe, I am finally heading permanently back to the UK.  I had decided to fly Malaga-Gatwick with BA for a few reasons, the main one being that FTE could not commit to a finishing date and therefore I would have to book with a few days to go, this would make the flight from Jerez via Madrid cost an absolute fortune.  I also did not want to be carrying my heavy hand luggage across Barajas Airport so this was immediately struck off the list.  My next option was Gibraltar-Heathrow but I decided against this too because the car-rental drop off is in Spain which means crossing the Gibraltar border 4 times in order to drop off my luggage and drop off the car, also Allie would have to come to Heathrow and pick me up where the jobs-worth traffic wardens now prevent you from picking anyone up outside the airport and you get charged something like £1 a second in the short-stay carpark, this would be a nightmare with all my luggage at the Heathrow end.  So even though the drive to Malaga is horrid, it was the cheapest and easiest, Gatwick is easy to pick up from and there are 5 flights a day from Malaga so this would keep the price as low as possible when booking late (at least that is what I was hoping!).

It has been a bit of a desperate struggle getting everything into my bags.  I purposely brought the two largest empty suitcases we have back to Spain with me on my last trip home and they started to fill quicker than I thought.  The biggest problem was probably my motorbike leathers because they were taking up so much room.  I had asked my course mate to carry my pillows home because I knew I couldn’t get them in and I had sold off a host of larger stuff that I would not be able to get home like my double bed.

I wasn’t too worried about the weight I would be carrying in each case because BA allow me 32kg per bag, there is also the bonus that they allow 2 pieces of hang luggage and both of my bags were right on the size limit and filled with heavy items to take full advantage of the 23kg allowed.  Every time I thought each bag was full I would manage to let it settle for a few hours and then be able to cram something else into it. 

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I had ordered an S-Max which meant that I would not have to be faffing around trying to get my bike box and all my bags into and out of the car.  So at 6am I fought into the car a huge red bag, and large blue hard case, my bike box (which I had filled any space possible), my flight bag, my wheelie bag and my helmet box.

On my way to Malaga I decided it was going to be too much chaos trying to fit everything onto the one single trolley, the real pain with Malaga Airport is that the car rental drop off is miles from the terminal.  Instead I would make two journeys into the airport from the car park.  I arrived at the airport after the 2.5hr very early morning journey and quickly filled the tank with fuel, fortunately for me I had quite a few euros left because the petrol station was cash only! 

I parked the car in the underground car park and picked out the two large cases and my bike and wrestled them onto the trolley and up to the terminal.  One of the annoying things with airports these days is that they have put up loads of bollards everywhere which makes carrying a bike box on a trolley a nightmare, then when you have to mega heavy cases it makes it even worse.  Malaga was chaos, it was like the village of the damned, full of people having no idea where to go… half of them carrying golf clubs around the airport, badly.  I eventually fought my way to the check-in desk after getting past all the morons not looking where they were going and bumping into me and my trolley of bags.  I put the first case onto the weighing scale at the Club Europe desk, it flashed up 31.5kg, this was very lucky and is possibly the heaviest case I have ever checked in.  The guy had to check with his supervisor that this was ok, and then I plonked on the next case and this was 29kg.  Again, the guy asked his supervisor to check if 2 bags weighing this much was ok.  I then got the baggage tag for the bike box and had to take it to oversized luggage where I joined a miserable queue of idiots in chinos dragging golf club bags to the oversized baggage scanner.  About 9 years later I was making my way back to the car park to pick up my hand luggage, it was that heavy I had to put it all on a baggage trolley.

Carrying the luggage through security was a pain, the escalator packed in and I had to walk up the stairs with everything and then when I got to security I needed another pair of hands to take my belt off, carry my laptop and kindle in the tray, and show my boarding pass.  Malaga have the most stupid system ever where they make you put everything in a tray, and then walk for about 20m before you get to the scanner, there was no thought what so ever gone into how people would carry their bags across this gap.  My wheelie bag was that heavy that it was overbalanced and kept falling over instead of standing up, so I ended up leaving both bags on the floor and kicking them towards the scanner.

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Nearly an hour after arriving at the airport, I finally made it to the lounge where I could chill out for a bit.  It was a 3rd party lounge but was quite pleasant, I actually wanted a Burger King but would be suffering the same problem that I had at security – lack of hands to carry items.  So instead I settled for a late breakfast and reading the paper while I waited for the flight to be called.

Eventually it was time to head to the aircraft for boarding, I was not a happy bunny at all when I saw where my bike was on the luggage trolley, I took a photo knowing full well that the box was going to be damaged and therefore a high chance of something inside being damaged too.  I do find it annoying when lazy baggage handlers totally ignore the labels placed on the side of a box, it clearly has standard “fragile” labels and “this way up” labels point for the box to be stood on end.  So what did the idiots do?  Yes, lay it on its side and lob some bags on top just for good measure…

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Flight was fine and landed on time.  There were quite a few of the guys from the Garmin Slipstream pro team on the flight and we were all stood at the baggage carousel waiting for our bikes and golf clubs and suitcases to come out.  My bags took for ever and eventually my bike box came onto the carousel and it had been forced open “oh great, something has been nicked” was the first thing that went through my head. 

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It had been forced open at the bottom which made it a real pain now to get everything onto a single baggage trolley, I didn’t have the option of coming back for stuff a bit at a time this time because you can’t leave your luggage and you can’t come back to the baggage collection either, so I headed to the BA Baggage and filled out some forms for the box damage and then fought my way through where my wife was waiting for me.  Some awkward negotiating of the even smaller gaps between bollards and some tactical packing of the car, and I was finally on my way home permanently… well, sort of…

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~ by globalste on March 18, 2012.

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