Leaving Europe

After fairly painless and hassle-free experiences across a number of airports during my trip, luck finally ran out at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. It may not have been the chaos that plagued British Airways’ T5 opening earlier this year, but thanks to the inconsideration and incompetence of their staff, my experience (as well as that of others’) came very close.

As they say, “rules is them rules”, and most will understand that, but being charged 25 quid (AUD$62) for exceeding the baggage limit by just one kilo struck me as being a bit on the extortionate side. Surely there’s a “grace” weight range, say from 1-3 kilos, that’s forgiven – I pleaded. Nope, no can do, this determined BA check-in rep insisted. I must absolutely have to pay and to do that I must make myself available in Zone E.

Not wanting to get into a heated argument in my holiday’s finale, I agree to pay the price, march off to Zone E, but still determined to avoid paying if I can.

Here’s the next problem. Over in Zone E was a short but slow queue. Waiting time before I’d see anyone was about 30 minutes. Then, something weird happened. One of the BA staff, a fat English woman with a walking stick and in her late 40’s, suddenly anounced that the last three people in my queue should move over to counter 25 in order to be served. So off we went to counter 25. On arrival, there was no one there!

We turned to the fat Engliswoman and asked what’s happening. “Oh, she’s gone to a meeting”, she said, “I didn’t know. Sorry”. With that she just shrugged her shoulders and walked off. Stupid woman. We stood there for a second like stunned mullets with no choice but to return to our original queue.

After a long wait, it was finally my turn. My customer service rep, also a another older woman of about late 40’s, appeared to be more sympathetic. So I sweet talked.

“You seem like a nice lady”, I said to her with a smile. “And you know, it’s only like one kilo. It’s my last day in Europe”. All spoken with a sort of innocence ala Oliver!

As if like an understanding mother who only wants to calm her distraught little baby, she answered, “C’mon, let’s have a look.” She checks the bag, punches in a few keys, prints the labels and with all that done, “OK, that’s it!”

“That’s it?” I asked. She confirms. No fee, no nothing! I got let off. My luck hadn’t ran out yet, after all.

With 25 quid safely still in the wallet, how else to finish off my European tour but lunch in Gordon Ramsay’s “Plane Food” restaurant in Terminal 5. It was the first place I spotted right after passing through the x-ray machines.

Despite the name behind the restaurant, nothing can change the fact that this joint happens to be right smack in an airport. The decor is about as cold and ordinary as gate A18 where I boarded my plane bound for LAX. However, they compensate by employing a bunch of the friendliest waiting staff that I observed in my 2-month holiday. On walking in one is immediately assisted by an attractive young English lass who will helpfully asked what time your boarding will be. I tell her that’s in 40 minutes. That was plenty of time, she assured, and that she’ll also inform the waiter appropriately.

I opt to keep it simple and affordable, ordering a crab and misso salad (13.50 GBP) with a glass of OJ and bread. The salad was ridiculous. It’s exactly as it says – crab meat, with some sort of beans, and cabbage. But, it’s nothing special. Near tasteless, in fact. The crab must have been AWOL. I kept thinking that this was yet another specimen of an overpriced, overstylised food foisted by an equally overrated celebrity chef, a foul-mouthed one no less, and consumed mostly by people who really haven’t got a clue about what good food actually is!

Still, I walked away at least happy that now I can say that I’ve eaten at Gordon’s joint. That was good enough for me.

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