Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Escaping Scottish Weather on Ryanair, with Russian Bits

Entry for 23 November 23, 2006:

Ryanair, one of the new European budget airlines, flies relatively inexpensive direct flights from Glasgow Prestwick airport to Rome, so we thought it would be interesting to try out Glasgow’s other airport. The first thing we discovered is that this airline is not quite so inexpensive as it appears, because they tack on various additional fees for ticketing and mandatory insurance. Also, I knew from prior experience with them tat they have fairly draconian weight limits and overcharges. (The last time I flew on them my overweight charges greatly exceeded the ticket price.) Still, the attraction of the direct flight and low cost convinced us.

Prestwick is about 40 miles southwest of Glasgow, requiring us to walk to the Anniesland train station in the rain dragging our suitcases behind us, then catch the local train to Glasgow Central Station, where we got on the local train to Ayr, which stops at the airport after a 40-min journey. This trip turned out to be real deal – 2.80 gbp – because of special deal for air travelers. Of course we had to walk about a quarter of a mile down platform 11 to get to platform 11a, where the train was waiting in the rain. The train went through Paisley and then down the west coast. We noticed that the weather was even worse here than in Glasgow, wind whipping the waves into whitecaps, drenching the golf courses that line this part of the west coast.

Conveniently, the Prestwick airport station is right next to the airport. As we walked over the motorway on the enclosed bridge, the wind was howling. We began to feel a bit nervous about flying under these conditions.

We checked in, cleared security, bought a UK-to-Europe adaptor, and commenced to wait in the departure lounge, listening to the howling wind, while various flights were cancelled or delayed. Finally, they announced that we would try to let us board the flight. A Russian family with two small children were in front of us in line. I discovered that it is a lot easier to understand Russian being spoken sternly and clearly to small children than normal Russian. We were warned to hang on firmly to our carry out luggage, as there was no jetway. I had a vision of small children being blown away.

The gate felt increasingly like a windtunnel as we came through the tunnel. We looked out into the blinding rain sheeting down, and ran for it, only to have to wait at the foot of the portable stairs leading up to the plane. The family, whom we had passed in the windtunnel, came up behind us. Finally, I got to use another one of my 38-year-old Russian catchphrases, as I yelled, to the children, gesturing with my arm, “zuchadeetsya!, zuchadeetsya!” (“Come in!, Come in”). “Spasyibah!” the parents yelled back.

Inside the airplane, we could see out through the open door, where the rain continued to pour down, while the airplane shook from the buffeting wind.

In spite of the nasty weather and high wind, we did take off, safely, although there were many nervous looking people around us, including one person across the aisle who appeared to be having a mild panic attack. Then, a steep climb, and we quickly reached calm air. Apparently this had been a relatively low-lying nasty Scottish weather, as if the place were coated in a thin layer of wind, rain, and gloom, just to make the inhabitants feel at home.

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