Following on from the previous posting, here is some more observations of travelling with a first time air traveller.
The Return Journey
As we had been using the trains whilst in Copenhagen, using then should not have been a problem, however although we were going to Kastrup (Copenhagen Airport), most trains carry on into Sweden, to Malmo and beyond. If you do not know this, it can take some time to work out which platform the train goes from if you have missed the appropriate page on the screen as it scrolls past. Possession of the timetable and knowing the departure times helped.
Arrival at the airport was relatively painless, until we looked for were to check-in. The screens said desks 31, 32 and 34, but they were for Economy passengers and we were travelling business class. Ask an SAS member of staff – desk 42 was the answer. Check-in was accomplished by presenting our passports to the check-in clerk. No need for the e-ticket printout.
Checked in and our bags left in the tender care of the baggage handlers, next was find our way to the SAS lounge and ultimately the gate. Security clearance was via the SAS fast-track. The security personnel checked our boarding cards to allow us into the security clearance area, however it was anything but fast track as two passengers travelling to Canada with a considerable amount of cabin baggage were finding that they had not packed their liquids correctly, and had a souvenir liquor bottle – albeit empty – that the staff took exception to. Ultimately we cleared security, however getting out is not clear until you approach an unlabelled frosted glass wall, part of which slides open. Immediately to the left is the SAS lounge.
Now in front and to the left and right are signs, but if you are looking for is W.H. Smith (for some peppermints) then these signs are missed. The wait in the SAS lounge was pleasant, however when it was time to go to the gate – D103 – it was a case of where to go. The D100 gates were signed in front of the lounge, but they require the presentation of your passport to Danish Immigration. To the uninitiated, gate D103 infers there is over 100 gates – potentially a long walk, however it is the passport cleared side of Gate D3. One other point of the passport checkpoint. There are signs saying the trolleys can be taken through, so why was there a large number abandoned in front of the desks (being added to constantly) partially blocking the access. At Gate D103 there is next to no seating until past the boarding pass checkpoint and back down the stairs to the holding lounge. Once again SAS are incapable of controlling their boarding process. This started by checking the boarding card to allow admittance to the holding lounge without an announcement, around ten minutes into the process there was an irate PA announcement asking for passports to be presented open at the picture page. Why could they not have made that announcement first? As with the outbound trip form Heathrow the start of boarding was heralded by the door to the airbridge being opened without any announcement.
Towards the end of the flight the Flight Attendants went through the aircraft asking if anyone wanted a landing card. No guidance as to who needs a landing card though. Nothing in the SAS magazine. Another issue to confuse the unwary traveller. As we were travelling on UK passports into the UK we did not need to complete a landing card. Apart of this the flight back was uneventful, including the expected 15 minutes circling to the east of London wait for the slot to land. Heathrow arrival was interesting. Up the airbridge and then up the escalator to the arrivals corridor. I let my travelling companion lead to see how obvious the exit route was – it was not. Not until the sliding door open was the way to go apparent, expecting to go straight on, and not to the left through the glass wall.
Immigration in Terminal 3 was new to me as I would previously head for Flight Connections in Terminal 1. Here I picked up landing card to show my companion. Interesting there are no guidance notes on it. If you have filled in an I-94W entering the USA or a Canada declaration card (entering Canada) there are notes which make the completion easier. Lining up at the desk, again I let my companion lead, however unusually the Immigration Officer called me forward as well. Past experience in entering the UK is individuals approach the desk one at a time. Leaving the desk again was not obvious – no signs, do you go left or right? The answer is right however the signs to baggage reclaim are hidden.
Bags were on belt 4 – and being Heathrow took an age to arrive, not helped by an Emirates A380 having arrived just in front of us. All the belts are marked with a yellow line for waiting passengers to stand behind. It does help, however as soon as the bags started to arrive everyone crowded the belt and bags were clattered into other passengers who were in the way.
Once we picked up our bags I looked to the Blue channel (travellers within the EU), however it was hidden and it was not until I was on top of the Green channel did I see it. So we went through the Blue Channel. Again the question – why? After a short piece of partition wall, it combined with the Green channel.
Out of the Customs Hall, now to find our way back to the Underground. There are separate subways for arrivals and departures under the terminal. As expected there were several meters/greeters coming towards us, however what was more surprising was number of departing passengers dragging their suitcases along that particular subway.
Back on the Piccadilly Line and the Underground back to North London.
The conclusion – signage in airports is not always logical and the processes may seem obvious to those who use it on a regular basis, however for those who are not familiar it is no wonder that they can get lost or do the wrong thing.