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Stuck in Heathrow

Alright, folks, let’s talk about airport savvy.

Now, you all know I travel quite a bit for work, if you keep up with my posts from the road. And, as a result, I like to think I’m a pretty savvy air traveler.

Right before the holidays, I decided to make a stop-over to England to visit some friends on the way home from my Southeast Asia Tour and ended up being one of the thousands of travelers stuck in Heathrow due to “inclement weather” (as a Canadian, I scoff, however hard I try to be sympathetic to the fact that Europe does not see nearly as much snow as my home country does). Seriously, it was pathetic how that single airport reacted to the situation, leaving many of us flightless for days. Especially angering considering how every other airport in London was able to fly out the next day, some, even hours after the storm ended.

Now, I love England. I quite enjoy London. I’ve had some really positive experiences flying through Heathrow, so when I ended up being locked in the airport for 24 hrs without food I was a bit shocked. I was even more shocked by the behaviour of the Air Canada employees who refused to give their names, help us stranded folks with re-booking our canceled flights, and provided us with a BOGUS phone number to call, leaving us as stranded as the airport.

It was a pretty tense and scary situation to be in: a gentleman had an epileptic seizure and nobody came to his aid; people were angry and rioting, and I was caught in the middle of it. I managed to meet up with some amazing folks; shout outs to Mike, Meghan, Mo, Peter and several other Canadians, with whom I banded together and built a shanty-town. We named it the Peoples Republic of Canuckistan. And, in true Canadian socialist fashion, we created a safe haven for people to sleep, get water and food and stay happy. Mike came up with a brilliant idea to host a fashion show out of the lame silver tin blankets we were given (well, along with the kick in the teeth by the airlines..) and we spent the evening making people laugh and creating a positive environment. And hey, we even made a nativity scene!

Citizens of Canuckistan and the Annexed British stuck in Heathrow

Our Nativity Scene, Special Thanks to Peter Jones for the photo!

Later on in the evening, when people got even more exhausted and patience was running thin, an angry man approached us, asking us to stop laughing and making noises. He was super agro, as people get in tense situations when they simply cannot grasp the idea of having no control over the situation. The way I see it is, the super-agro-angry-man had two options and the choice was his: either you can get angry and miserable, or, you can laugh. We chose to laugh because, really, there’s nothing else to do! And personally, I’d rather laugh and have fun than stew in anger!

The next morning, we were left hanging by Air Canada with four phones, an out-of-service phone number, and employees who IGNORED us as hundreds of people tried to rebook their flights. Eventually, we all turned to our laptops and other flight carriers. I, however, was screwed. I’m a street performer. I couldn’t get a credit card if I tried in my country and I was unable to book online. But, the spirit of Christmas lives on through a wonderful gentleman by the name of Shailen Patel, who lent me his credit card so I could book a flight through Thomas Cook airlines, which helped me to get the hell out of Dodge in time for the holidays.

So I made it home. Eventually. I made some new friends, too, along the way. Shout out to Mike Poole who, not only played along with the shanty-town and made the BBC news with me, but, for helping to maintain an air of positivity. To Meghan and Mo, I hope you got home safe. To Peter, thanks so much for the photos and the kind email. To Gerry and Ben for letting me crash at their place for a couple more days and giving me the opportunity to share in their Christmas activities. And of course, to Shailen for making my trip home possible. Right now, I’m currently fighting through administration to get my refund for the flight. Air Canada responded to the situation horribly at the time, and they are continuing to give me the run-around. I hope I get some closure to this situation soon. Nothing makes me angrier than being out financially, and being put under that kind of emotional stress and I expect my compensation for it.

But for now, I will continue making phone calls and try to enjoy the rest of my holidays. After all, I’m home. But, remember folks: if you get stuck in an airport, use it as an opportunity to make new friends and laugh a little. It won’t hurt you and it’s definitely better than getting angry and aggressive!

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