The courteous, cheerful, courtesy bus driver from the car park to Terminal 1 at London Heathrow Airport greeted me with: ‘Got your mobile phone safe, Sir ?’. Unfortunately, I was a little taken aback by this opening gambit and simply replied ‘Oh yes. I do. Thank you.’

Two minutes later, a better retort struck me ‘Yes. I left my flight tickets back in the office. I forgot to print the address of the hotel and my photographic means of identification is back at home but, yes, please rest assured my toy phone with its irritating ring tone is safely here in my pocket.’

It is dull, grey, wet and somewhat blustery in London and when I get to the ‘Fast Bag Drop’ desk, I am informed that my flight to Newcastle has been cancelled and I am unable to drop my bags here at any speed.

Instead, I am redirected to the BA ticket sales desk to (hopefully) get booked onto a later flight. When I reach the head of a very orderly, polite, silent, British queue, I am cheerfully greeted with ‘Do you know what is going on, Sir ?’ which is a very deep, meaningful, thought provoking and unexpected question.

Infuriatingly, I missed another gilt edged chance for a witty response and just said ‘It is raining and windy so I heard a few flights have been cancelled so I need to book onto a later flight to Newcastle’.

15 seconds later, I realised the optimal reply should have been ‘Nope. I haven’t got the foggiest clue what is going on. The realisation is slowly dawning on me that my manager, colleagues, friends (and my wife) have indeed been correct all these years. I simply do not have a clue. However, please, rest assured, that I do have my mobile phone safe and sound.’

But before I could spit the words out, the BA gentleman told me exactly what was going on. ‘Well, Sir. That is only partly correct. ATC (that is

  • Air Traffic Control) have limited the number of inbound and outbound flights to the airfield (I’m positive he called one of the busiest airports in Europe an ‘airfield’) due to inclement weather conditions. Consequently there are many cancellations and even the flights that are getting away are still subject to lengthy delays’.

And, in a very British way, I thanked him for these glad tidings.