Where to begin? I had quite a smooth journey yesterday. My layover in Chicago was endless, but I used the time well, people watching, writing in my journal, and familiarizing myself with my British coins.
Unfortunately, my layover in London was not nearly so cushy. We had to circle the area a few times before landing, so it was five past eight by the time I got off the plane. My flight to Belfast was at 9:30 am, and I didn’t yet have a boarding pass! Needless to say, I was a bit nervous about missing my flight.
Luckily, the staff of London Heathrow are generally extremely friendly and helpful. I spoke to an agent sitting at the desk near where you catch buses for various terminals (not sure what else to call it) and she said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get your boarding pass at the gate. You’ll be fine!” Okay, great. I got on the bus for Terminal 1, which hosts Aer Lingus, the airline transporting me to Belfast.
Once in Terminal 1, I breezed through customs. The friendly, helpful customs agent said, “Are you studying here, then?” “Yes, I am!” I answered happily. “May I see your college letter?” he asked politely in his delightful British accent. “Yes, you may!” I handed him my magical, fairytale-granting letter from Queen’s, he stamped my passport, and I was good to go! After having my picture made and going through security, I found my way to the Aer Lingus check-in desk.
“Uh oh, that flight is closed,” said the agent, “I can’t give you a boarding pass. You should go quickly to customer service and see if they can get you in. It’s all the way down the end, at Gate 77.”
At this point, it was 8:48 am, and I was thinking “Umm okaaay…OH NO, WHAT DO I DO?!” I was also running toward Gate 77, but not feeling encouraged by the digital signs that said something like, “Please allow 20 MINUTES to walk to Gates 76-84.”
For your future reference, it only takes about six minutes running, and I was soon talking to the Aer Lingus customer service agent, otherwise known as My New Best Friend Forever. She said she could put me on the flight if they had put my checked bag on the plane already.
“Hello, I have a lady here who needs to get on the flight to Belfast. She landed an hour ago. Passenger White. Yes, do you have her bag?” she said into the phone. They did not yet have it. “Let’s wait five minutes,” she recommended kindly. In that five minutes, she called the Belfast flight gate to notify them I was coming, checked me into the flight and printed my boarding pass. Then she called back.
“Yes, it’s me again. Have you got Passenger White’s bag? Oh, beautiful. Thank you very much.” She hung up and smiled at me. “They’ve got it! Here is your boarding pass. They are still boarding, and it’s just at Gate 78. Right over that way,” she pointed me in the right direction, “It’s a five minute walk.”
“Thank you so much! I really appreciate your help!” I exclaimed as I hurried off to Gate 78. I ran down the corridor, turned right and ran down another. “Belfast?” asked an agent, opening a glass door for me as though she already knew. “Yes! Thank you!” I breathed. On the other side of the door, a man held out his hands to indicate that I did not actually need to run, but I continued to do so until I reached the gate.
“I was telling you to slow down, not to run faster!” the man chuckled, “You should run the marathon next week!”
“Haha, I don’t think so!” I panted, “I’m studying abroad, so I just want to make sure I get there!”
“Well, you can go on,” he said, grinning and waving me to the left. Another gate agent checked my ticket and passport and I walked down the corridor and onto…the flight to Belfast! A red-haired flight attendant clad in bright green uniform (really!) greeted me, in a beautiful Irish accent, “Mornin. How you doing?”
I was doing SO WELL. I was almost there!
More about my welcome to Belfast and start of Queen’s orientation in the next post!