Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Up in the air

The lengthy closure of Gatwick Airport last week due to drone activity made me think about the possible risks and glitches of air travel.

As other travellers do, no doubt, I ruminate on all the potential problems that might sabotage the two of us and leave our carefully-planned trips in ruins. Of course if we thought there was a serious chance of all these mishaps occurring, we wouldn't book the trips in the first place. But I remain a sunny optimist who assumes such hitches are most unlikely.

That assumption is borne out by experience. Although we've flown all over the place, including Australia, the USA and Canada, my baggage has never so far been lost. It went astray once returning to Belfast, but was found and delivered to me the next day.

I did once go down with food poisoning on a trip to Australia. A very unpleasant experience. But it wasn't due to the airline food. I just happened to be sitting next to the one other person on the plane with food poisoning, and we deduced that the culprit was an egg sandwich from Costa at Heathrow.

I've never been thrown off a plane because of technical problems. My flight has never been diverted to some far-flung airport. I've never been hijacked. I've never experienced an engine fire. I've never had a drunken pilot on board (as far as I know). I've never been caught in severe turbulence. Virtually all my flights have been remarkably uneventful and routine.

Hopefully that luck will continue. I have great confidence that my plane will stay safely 35,000 feet in the air and I can happily watch rubbishy movies or snooze without any sudden mid-air crisis to disturb me.

The fact is that planes are astonishingly safe. I'm 86 times more likely to die in a car than in a plane. So why worry?
.........................................................................................

I won't be blogging for a while. But don't worry, I'll be back in due course! In the meantime, talk among yourselves....

28 comments:

Rummuser said...

Till as recently as three years ago, I was travelling by airplanes regularly and during my working years, I was, on average, out of home for 21 nights a month, travelling all over India and the globe. Like you, I have never had any mishap except once when the airline did not book my luggage through to the UK and luckily for me, I was able to locate it and clear it at CDG in Paris thanks to the airport police there who found the unclaimed luggage and located me in the waiting lounge to catch a connecting flight to The East Midlands airport. I have eaten all kinds of food in all kinds of places and continue to do so even now and I am yet to get food poisoning. I was in one flight which had to return to the starting point due to some engine problem but it was all done with great elan by the crew and we returned safe and were put on another flight after a few hours. I however will not be travelling anywhere any more due to other reasons but, not due to drone scares/

the fly in the web said...

I'm obliged to fly to England regularly to see my mother and try to get a cheap flight which means some rather roundabout routes....
So far, no problems except for luggage going awol when flying via Madrid with a short lapse of time between flights. It turned up the next day, brought to the house by a man with a van who asked whatever I had in the luggage as it smelt so bad...it was the cheese, which had not appreciated the layover in the summer heat of Madrid.

nick said...

Ramana: That's a remarkable lack of mishaps considering how much flying you did. I'm always amazed that baggage turns up safe and sound when I arrive on the other side of the world.

Fly: I also had to travel regularly to England to see my elderly mum (she died a few months ago). I didn't bother with roundabout connections though, I just paid the going rate for a direct flight. Yes, cheese is a bit risky if there's any chance of your luggage being held up en route!

Bijoux said...

I've had some rough flights during storms and a canceled flight or two, but nothing all that bad. My son had the flight from hell a few summers ago, returning from Europe. The plane was losing cabin pressure and they did 3 u-turns over the Atlantic, finally returning to airport they left from. It's quite a story and I'm glad I didn't know about it until 4 days later.

Hope you have safe travels in 2019!

nick said...

Bijoux: Losing cabin pressure, that sounds a bit scary. I'm glad the pilot was able to land the plane safely. My mum refused to fly again after she was caught in very heavy turbulence near Nice. She said it was really frightening.

Jenny Woolf said...

What worries me is a niggling feeling that there was something odd about this drone scare. Even I had worked out that nobody in authority had presented any good reasons why an airport should shut down for a day at vast cost and huge disruption. No photos, no debris, no reliable sightings. Does this mean anyone can ring up and say they've seen a drone and any airport will grind to a halt for a day? I do wonder, really. What do you think?

Ms Scarlet said...

I'm with Jenny. I think this drone thing was very peculiar indeed.
Meanwhile, I don't fly. I've only ever flown 4 times in my life [there and back, twice] and I didn't like it. I don't like the lack of control. Anyhow, when I'm a little sloppy with my recycling I reassure myself that I have instead helped the environment by keeping my feet on terra firma!
Sx

nick said...

Jenny: Funny you should say that. My Jenny also thinks the drone business doesn't really add up. Her theory is that it was a cover-up for a terrorist incident the airport didn't want to publicise. As you say, where are the photos and the debris? And yes, how to shut down an airport the easy way....

nick said...

Scarlet: It was certainly very odd. Almost 70 sightings of a drone? Where is the evidence?

If you've only flown four times, you're definitely doing your bit for the environment!

As for that poor couple who were roundly vilified by the media and then found to be entirely innocent....

tammy j said...

I no longer fly either. but I used to fly quite often.
I don't think I ever flew into Chicago that we didn't have to circle for at least half an hour! it kind of became traditional!
I don't miss flying. and I think I'm in agreement with you and your Jenny and the other Jenny here. it seemed or seems a little fishy to me. the marine and I just saw the movie Vice over the weekend. and what (we the people) never know is frightening.

nick said...

Tammy: I'm sure there's a hell of a lot going on behind the scenes that we never know about. And the stuff we do know about is alarming enough! The politicians' rule of thumb is to tell us what they think we'll approve of and conceal everything else.

Wisewebwoman said...

OK. Overshot runways twice. Vancouver and Gander. Nightmare turbulent flight to New York with 2 small kids and our breakfasts hitting the ceiling and everyone screaming and me pretending it was all fun fun fun as my heart stopped.

The agony of air travel, the huge distances between terminals, one bad, bad incident in Newark which I wrote about here: https://wisewebwoman.blogspot.com/2011/04/huddled-mass.html.

I never travelled to the USA again after that. Lost luggage a few times but apart from once, promptly delivered. One time it took a week and they compensated me for my wardrobe emergency shopping - Mexico City.

Many good fun flights but mainly in the old days when playpens were provided for the kids with free meals (on china) and no security horrors. Le sigh.

XO
WWW

nick said...

www: My plane has never overshot the runway, though once or twice coming into Belfast City Airport it had to abort the landing and try again as the runway is quite short!

Sounds like you were very unlucky at Newark. Jenny has two passports (Irish and British) but she's never had that sort of hassle. In fact our trips to the States have been pretty hassle-free. Our longest wait to get through customs was actually in Melbourne.

I'm quite cool about the various drawbacks and red tape of air travel and just take it as it comes. It's all worth it when you reach your destination!

kylie said...

I haven't flown a whole lot, a handful of trips to Malaysia and one to the US. We did arrive ini KL one time to find that a wheel had been broken off our stroller and while strollers are unheard of over there I didn't quite know how to manage a baby without it. Kent crafted a repair from sheel aluminium and we had a mag wheel for a long time!
I think the rest has been smooth sailing and i never worry about air travel, i'm lucky like that, rarely worrying about much at all though when i do it is crippling

nick said...

Kylie: That reminds me that Jenny once reclaimed her suitcase to find the collapsible handle no longer worked properly, and once she was home she had to buy a new suitcase. Your improvised repair to the stroller was clever.

I never worry about air travel either. As I said, it's a very safe form of travel.

Liz Hinds said...

We did once get onto a plane and have to sit there for three hours while they sorted out a technical glitch. It wasn't very pleasant as I hadn't flown for years and was quite nervous but better on the ground than discover it in mid-air.

Have you seen Rhod Gilbert do a very funny rant about travel on a budget airline and his suitcase? Or rather the handle, which I think was all he got back.

nick said...

Liz: Three hours is a long time to sort out a technical glitch. They must have been working at a snail's pace!

I've never heard of Rhod Gilbert. Will investigate.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I've had my luggage mis-directed three times, each time taking many days to get to me. And the usual flight delays that seem to happen all the time now. No serious problems otherwise, but one near miss: An hour after we'd walked through baggage claim at Fort Lauderdale airport (en route to Cuba), a man opened fire with a gun he'd checked in his luggage. It still makes me cringe to think how close we came to being there when it happened.

nick said...

Agent: Wow, that incident at Fort Lauderdale must have been frightening. Very lucky you weren't there at the time. And yes, flight delays seem to be very common now. Not many planes actually take off at the scheduled time. There are too many of us zooming through the skies!

Joared said...

My husband took me night flying on our first date. Subsequently we occasionally flew privately for a few years including a trip from our Great Lakes State to over New York City following the Hudson Rivef to Boston, Mass. I’ve loved flying until,recent years and find commercial airlines have degenerated into a most unenjoyable experience. The shortest U.S. trip I ever took when I flew up the Calif. coast to a convention, they missent my clearly marked luggage I finally got the next day. Another trip from west coast to Midwest my luggage delayed a day. Became ill on an airline coast to coast trip the steardesses were neglectful in aiding me the last hour of flight. Flights delayed multiple times due to repairs ended, other unknown delays just a few years ago. Seating is miserable for leg room and being squashed together. Food on long flights not as satisfactory as once was. When I was younger many of these matters wouldn’t have bothered me as much.

Years ago a flight was delayed a day but had been forewarned this could occur when flying that South American country’s airline and frequently did, plus they sometimes made unscheduled stops in other countries on the route, which they did on my flight but no hardship for me. Other amenities were present then.

Joared said...

I meant to add, I’m really concerned about the drones and not only for commercial and private airircraft as there have been some issues at LAX. Police helicopters and TV station’s news helicopters are at risk, too. A few years ago the main freeway (I15) up to Las Vegas had a vehicle pileup. Emergency aircraft with fire suppression capability was delayed 20 mins attacking truck fire due to drone in area. Result was some cars burned that could have been saved though their owners had safely all exited far in advance. I recall an interview with a man who had brought his family on vacation from Michigan whose auto and belongings were incinerated but could have been saved if not for thatt drone flitting about. He was so distraught he swore he’d never come to Calif. again.

Sackerson said...

I've only ever flown twice in sixty years (well, two return trips) . The first time I really didn't like it. The second time reminded me how I felt about it. Probably won't ever do it again. I can't say I feel I miss out not doing it. Despite the statistics, I do drive a lot and really like going on boats.

Ms Scarlet said...

Have you given up blogging, Nick?!
Hope all is okay.
Sx

John Gray said...

Where are you?

nick said...

Joared: All those problems you refer to do seem to be getting worse. Luckily I've never had any serious problems myself other than a flight cancelled because of snow and fog, but departure delays do seem to be more frequent. I booked Premium Economy for our trip to New Zealand (see next post!) to get the extra legroom (I'm six foot, 1.82 meters). And yes, the food is generally awful, especially for vegetarians like me and Jenny, who end up with some weird selection of overcooked vegetables.

nick said...

Joared: I hadn't thought about the risk to police and news helicopters. As you say, if emergency planes can't tackle a problem straightaway, the threat to property and people is greatly increased. None of the authorities seem able to get the drone activity under control. Apart from LA, I know Newark, Heathrow and Gatwick airports have all been adversely affected recently.

nick said...

Sackerson: I would certainly avoid long-haul flights if I could, but if you want to go to some far-flung place, unfortunately there's no practical alternative. Short-haul flights of two or three hours aren't a problem, except of course for all the tedious security procedures and departure delays.

nick said...

Ms Scarlet: No such luck, ha ha. All will be revealed in my next post, when I get round to writing it in the next day or two.

John: I was in New Zealand and Sydney. A new post is in preparation as we speak!