Posted by: Richard | April 17, 2010

Chaos at Heathrow: Air Canada from Calgary the last flight down at Heathrow?

As we prepared to take off on Wednesday evening, I was lamenting that I was on the 19.20 AirCanada service to London, and not the later (21.00) BA service.  I like the later service as I can get a bit more sleep.

Settling into my seat, I realized the flight was full and that they were bumping people to other flights.  I was happy to be heading back to London and was not interested in a free voucher to stay another day.  This was a great decision, I was soon to realize.

At about 19.20, the captain came on the PA and said “The UK has closed all of their airspace because of a volcano eruption in Iceland.  We are going to have to wait a minute while we find a new route into London.  This could be a few minutes or a lot longer”.

At this point, I didn’t know what volcanic ash could do and thought maybe it was due to visibility.  While many others got angry at the airline (which is unfair, they cannot land if they are not allowed to enter UK airspace), I got tucked into a movie and a bag of dill pickle chips.  Not a bad way to spend some time.

About 20.30 our flight finally got approval to head to London, but with a different route that bypassed going over Iceland.

The flight was a bumpy one, with 4 air sickness bag in the seats adjacent to me (my row and directly in front and behind).  Even I felt sick during the flight, and refused the meal when they came out much later to offer food.

I awoke as we came close to London.  As we descended, the pilot said that as of 12 noon, Heathrow was shut down and no connecting flights would be leaving.  As it was, we were lucky to be allowed to land, one of the last flights to land at 12.02.  Later that night I would realize how lucky.

There was chaos in the terminal as people were frantically trying to find how to get home or on vacation.  I lugged my suitcase and my bike box around and made my way home.  I thought everything would be fixed by evening.

Later that night, while reading the news I read that the later BA flight from Calgary to London had been forced to turn back.  It was scheduled to leave 30 or so minutes after we actually departed.  I felt very lucky.

Now here I am 3+ days later, and I am really happy and lucky I was on the Air Canada flight.  There is chaos in London and many colleagues are on holiday and unable to make it back to London for Monday.


  1. HI Richard

    I was on that flight as well, god we were so lucky to get into the airport.
    And all the people that are stuck around the world you have to feel sorry for them.

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