Bulgaria - Fog in London, by Mike Lewin (1976)

Image: bea

All the European overseas managers had been summoned to London for a presentation on a new hotel alliance. These summons used to come from time to time, although nobody in London took much account of the difficulties of getting there from the furthest corners of Eastern Europe.

However, as luck would have it, this presentation was on a Monday and I was able to catch the Balkan Bulgarian airlines flight via Brussels. However, London was fogbound, and when eventually we took off, we landed in Gatwick instead of Heathrow, and had to make our way through Victoria and out to the hotel near Heathrow at which the presentation was being held.

I arrived, along with a colleague from Yugoslavia and another from Poland, both of who had struggled for about five or six hours to get there, only to be told that the people in our headquarters at Bealine House had decided that the fog was too thick and they couldn’t make it, and so the whole event was called off!

The next flight back to Bulgaria was the following morning, Tuesday, a BEA flight. I stayed overnight, went out to the airport but the fog still persisted. Terminal 1 was in chaos, as it usually was on foggy mornings, and despite various flight announcements, I heard nothing about our flight.

I went to the check-in supervisor only to be told, “We don’t know what to do about this one, and there are no alternatives.” I told him, “I’m going to Sofia myself, so while you try to think of something, I’ll take the passengers, give them a cup of coffee and try to calm them down while you sort things out.” We sat there for about 20 minutes having a cup of coffee, then ordered a meal; still nothing happened.

In the end the station superintendent said, “The only way is to take the Pan Am flight to Frankfurt tomorrow morning and then Lufthansa to Sofia.” Fortunately I was able to pull a few strings and get those passengers who still wanted to go to Sofia, about 15 of them, put up for the night in a hotel near Heathrow. Two of the passengers were the ambassador’s teenage daughters returning for their Christmas holiday.

The next morning we repaired to Terminal 1 and were transported over to Terminal 3 to get on the Pan Am flight – which was then delayed. We arrived in Frankfurt just in time to see the Lufthansa flight to Sofia taking off at the other end of the runway. I knew the station manager in Frankfurt and persuaded him to stretch his budget and put us up in Frankfurt for the night.

By this time we were all getting to know each other quite well, so went for the evening to the Frankfurt Christmas market. There was a sprinkling of snow, the stalls looked stunningly beautiful and we had a delightful evening. The next day we rebooked with Austrian Airlines to Sofia.

We got the flight all right, on time, arrived overhead Vienna, and were told there was a snowstorm and we were likely to be delayed in landing. We circled for two hours, and were the last plane to arrive in Vienna, with nothing else going in or out. Once again, a little more social capital was used up, resulting in a nice hotel in Vienna and an evening in the wine bars of Grinzing. We eventually arrived in Sofia on Friday, at the same time as the BA direct service from London, three days after we had set out!

Everybody was glad to get home and to get a change of clothes. I delivered the Ambassador’s daughters to the embassy and went home. In the evening a call came through from the embassy, - “The Ambassador’s wife would like to speak to you.”

I thought she would be calling to thank me for getting her daughters there safely and with an invitation. However instead I received quite an earful, because the daughters were bringing out a turkey for the Christmas dinner, which had now gone off, and the embassy’s celebrations had been ruined! I’m glad to say that good relations were restored the next day with a more amicable telephone conversation.

BEA Trident1b

Image: trident

Other pages:

This is the text-only version of this page. Click here to see this page with graphics.
Edit this page | Manage website
Make Your Own Website: 2-Minute-Website.com