A couple of you have asked me about the 12th of June incidents and its consequences. Or in other words, that I experienced my first ever emergency landing! It truly was such an event. Not that I want to experience it again, but it certainly makes for some tea-time story!
So everything was going well and smoothly in our EZY8577 flight to Barcelona. We had the usual Crying Toddler of Hell and a group of increassingly drunk ladies shouting abuse at each other at increasingly disturbing levels, insterspersed with love declarations and a lot of "LOCO!" shouting (I guess they meant "crazy! mental!" but didn't realise they were actually using a sustantive and not an adjective). All normal for Barcelona's terms, I guess.
We had just went over the Pyrenees and the captain said the magic "Cabin crew-thanks and prepare for landing" words. In the midst of the returning back to the seats, opening window blinds and fastening seatbelts confusion, I noticed that the plane wasn't taking its usual path. They normally approach Barcelona's airport in parallel with the coast, but this time the plane turned towards the sea. I wondered whether we were going to Mallorca or Ibiza :-) but no, in fact the plane did a little detour, like avoiding somewhere in front of the city, and returned back to its usual approach path... well, sort of. Because then we were flying quite close to the city's coast front and one could distinguish the famous places well: the Sagrada Familia, Agbar Tower, Las Ramblas... "That was odd", I thought. I certainly didn't recall having had so nice views of the city in previous flights!
But the oddities wouldn't stop there. Now the plane started to shake, at first intermittently, then a little bit stronger until it felt like rollercoasting the sky. People were laughing and making fun of the my-stomach-is-funny sensation at the beginning, but once the plane was violently shaking the fun was going away--people were getting scared!
I began to get scared when I noticed we were flying so dangerously close to the industrial area near the port, with all those huge gas and chemical deposits below us. I was thinking: "not here! not here! this isn't a proper place to crash! Crash somewhere with water if you really have to, but not here!"
And at the same time I was thinking: "Actually, I'd rather not crash. I have so many things to do...!"
We kept descending. And shaking. Or--well, being shaken!
All that while getting uncomfortably close to the land, so uncomfortably close that it looked like... it looked like... like it was taking off again?!?!
Yes, at the last very moment the engines whirred with gusto, we felt the pull and the oomph of the sudden motion upwards and I, for one, was damn glad we hadn't crashed!
But what were we going to do now? If the weather was so windy in Barcelona, was the captain going to dare attempting to land again? Or...? If he was going to do that, he was disguising it quite well, since we had gone a long way South already. We were probably over Sitges (which is around 35 km from Barcelona) at that point, and it didn't seem like we were stopping any time soon. I correctly guessed we were headed for the next airport, Reus, which happens to be in the Tarragona province, some 95 km away from Barcelona's airport.
The funny thing with emergency situations is that they push people out of their normal comfort zone, and behaviours that normally would seem odd just turn to look totally normal. For example: starting a conversation with the surrounding passengers and asking them where were we going! I could only speculate (though I turned to be right), but in desperate situations speculation is better than nothing, it seems.
At a certain point the plane started to go down again, but this time it was a proper smooth landing. People clapped, cheered and breathed, so relieved! Only it seemed like we had showed up at some ghost airport! There wasn't any sign saying "REUS" or anything. The lane was faded,and the surrounding greenery consisted in a few dry patches. Only two small aircrafts were in view. It looked more like a hobbyist aerodrome than a commercial airport, and it reminded me a lot to the lonely aerodrome we landed on when we flew an aerostatic globe, but that's for another story!
And we waited. The captain said we would maybe wait and see if weather conditions improved in Barcelona and then we would try to fly back. As you can guess, people weren't specially happy when listening that! If that wasn't possible, he didn't know "what was going to happen with us", as Reus is an small airport and they weren't expecting us, so there wasn't any staff for unloading the luggage and thus we couldn't leave the airport. At that point I was about to suggest that each one of us took his own suitcase from the hold! Ah, if all problems were that easy to solve!
We waited a little more. People kept visiting the toilet as the unexpected roller coaster action had had some effects over the digestive tracts... I was quite fine-happy to be able to tweet about all that!
Then a woman from the airport staff entered the plane, dressed with a high-vis jacket that was way larger than her (it was really visible!), and told us that we wouldn't be flying again but instead would disembark now, wait a little longer than usual, and get on a bus to Barcelona airport. It would be slow because there were two more airplanes that had been diverted, so there was a lot of luggage to unload, but it would be done. She then urged us to follow her, and shortly after we were going down the steps of the plane, following the phosphorescent woman, while happily trotting over the faded asphalt, donning sunglasses and admiring Port Aventura's distant sight. Wasn't life GREAT?!!?
When we arrived at the door of the terminal's building, the phosphorescent woman explained to EACH passenger what the process was going to be and answered any possible doubts that arised, before the passenger went through passport control. She did that with the most incredible patience ever, even smiling! It was brilliant!
After the control, a sort of long wait while some belts started running with a couple of suitcases and then closed, then the next belt did the same, all quite randomly. In the meantime some people started planning the way to Barcelona. That's when I met my new friend for the rest of the afternoon and evening: Mary, a grandmother of four that had come to visit their family!
She was also interested in knowing about alternative arrangements too, and she overheard part of my conversation with the tourist info guy, but couldn't quite make sense of all of it. Imagine not being really fluent in a language and then trying to listen to someone who speaks fast normally, but even more so when she's nervous! Well so that's what I guess Mary experienced. I explained to her what we could do -and what I was going to do, which was waiting for the replacement bus that had to arrive at some point, since the other options were either taking a super expensive taxi to Barcelona, or trying to get the last regional train from a station which doesn't even have personnel to sell tickets.
"But wait!", the guy told me, "I forgot to tell you there's also a fire and the highway is closed, so buses will arrive quite late here, I'm afraid!"
"About 22. Or it could be 23."
It was 19.30 at that point. I thought it would be a long evening, but not so! I happened to stumble upon Mary again at the bar, where people were already buying beers by the pint. I decided to go for a humbler Coke and something to eat. Surprisingly my stomach wasn't upset at all, and I was actually quite hungry! Thankfully Mary reminded me that I was forgotting my suitcase! I told her I needed a new brain at that point. Too many emotions for one day!
A girl which had been sitting behind me in the plane was now having a yoghourt in the bar... and a coke, "to get her sugar levels up again", she said. She also joined the conversation, and we started talking about our landing experiences. As each of us was sitting in a different place in the plane, we had seen different angles of it. Sadly I don't know why, but this time I had unconsciously chosen to sit over the wing, so I hadn't been able to see the sea when we were about to land. But Mary -who was sitting on the front- told me that she seen something akin to a tornado hovering over the sea and beach. The funny thing is I have found a news story which details how there was a sudden sandstorm at Barcelona's beach at around the time we were going to land! Another story details that wind speeds at the airport were around 40 km/h. Apparently the phenomenon that caused the storm is somehow unpredictable. So this makes sense now!
Hours passed quickly while we chatted about quintaessentially British things such as the Jubilee celebrations (and how puzzled was I when I saw them), and when the clock was approaching 22h, a fleet of buses turned up at the bus station, under the supervision of another airport worker which promised me she would be make sure everyone would get into a bus and reach their original airport, again with a smile and lots of patience. It was certainly reassuring, and quite impressive considering that she didn't work for easyJet but for Iberia, so we weren't her problem. Even so, she was there doing her best!
We showed our boarding passes to her, and boarded the bus. An hour and a half later we were FINALLY at the airport. Although in the meantime we witnessed another accident, this time in the highway: two big trucks seemed to have crashed there. Not pretty. I just couldn't stop remembering the old Spanish saying: "En martes, ni te cases ni te embarques", which roughly translates to "Don't get married or travel on a Tuesday". I hoped nothing else would happen.
There were plenty of taxis! I took that as a good sign that our fate was going to change for the best! (I really hoped so!) We therefore shared the taxi to Barcelona. It was funny--we were going to pretty much the same area!
And finally, I was home! Past midnight! But I was home!!
There is nothing much to say about the rest of that night. Except that, obviously, I couldn't sleep too well. First I couldn't fall asleep, and then I kept waking up all the time. It definitely wasn't a good rest, but at least I was safe :-)