At Intelligent Dialogue, going the extra mile to deliver results for our clients is a belief we live by daily. But over the last few days, travelling any distance at all has been all the more challenging in the throws of Storm Ciara.
With a suitcase full of training materials and fingers heavily crossed, I headed for Bristol Airport on Sunday afternoon to travel to Scotland for a Customer Engagement course for one of our longest standing clients.
The journey to the airport itself was like a white-knuckle ride through a wind tunnel; fortunately, we passed through without incident but the same main road we travelled was later blocked by fallen trees that had succumbed to the gales. Thankfully, no-one was injured!
Checking the departures board in the middle the stormiest day of the year so far is rather like clutching a last-minute lottery ticket and hoping for the jackpot. My luck was in, the 1445 to Glasgow remained steadfast on the board and I set off optimistically to the appointed gate as the flight was called. Relief.
Or so I thought. Except, that at the gate itself, the view from the large glass panelled exit door was of one lonely set of aircraft stairs being lashed by horizontal jet streams of the heaviest rain I’ve ever witnessed, against an empty backdrop of a motionless runway with no plane in sight. I braced myself to walk up those soaking steps within the hour. Packing the North Face hat was definitely the right move.
While we waited (and waited), I checked and rechecked the waterproof wrapping I had earlier installed around a rather large cardboard tube, containing a rather important wall poster. Most of the training materials had fitted neatly into a carefully packed suitcase. But the poster, which plays a key role in the training, had defiantly refused to fit. As I tucked in a loose piece of packing, a nervous voice whispered, “Excuse me, have you flown before?”
The answer to that question is yes, I have flown, quite a few times as it happens. And I can spot a nervous flyer from 30 paces. “Your first time?” I enquired. “Only my fourth,” was the reply. My fellow passenger looked searchingly for some reassurance. Employing my finest calming tone of voice, I tried to convince her that the flight itself would be absolutely fine. “Of course, they wouldn’t fly at all if there is any risk whatsoever,“ I murmured. “Sure,” she said. We both looked out at the lonely set of aircraft steps rocking back and forward in the Force 10 gale. I clutched the poster tube a little tighter.
After an hour’s delay, a transfer bus had miraculously appeared and it was time to face the elements. Our plane, as yet unseen, had arrived but required us to travel to it rather than face the lonely steps at our gate. Instead, we faced the full blast of the storm as we dismounted the bus and attempted to climb the short set of steps from the rain soaked tarmac onto the plane.
Grabbing the nervous passenger in one hand, my precious poster in the other, and lugging my hand luggage somehow in between, we struggled to cling onto one another as we climbed the stairs and finally stepped onto the plane. The force of the wind nearly blew us back to the terminal building but with the support of the fantastic air crew, and the determination of our fellow passengers, everyone was safely boarded.
While the crew made the final checks to depart, the aircraft rocked to and fro on the tarmac, buffeted back and forward by the sheer force of the storm. I did momentarily wonder if my advice to the nervous passenger had been a little premature, but none of us needed worry. Shortly afterwards we departed.
Once we cleared the tumble dryer of the storm for the first few thousand feet, the journey north was a smooth one. There was even time for a quick recap of the training schedule and yes, I confess, a few rounds of solitaire. These proved to be immensely distracting when we commenced the “bumpy” descent into Glasgow.
As forecast, the storm really had engulfed the entire country. So windy was it in Glasgow, that despite the ground crew’s best efforts to fix the air bridge to the plane at our appointed gate, the gusts won the day and we had to strap ourselves back into our seats for another few minutes while the pilot reversed the plane and parked on the adjacent stand.
As we finally disembarked, a little late, and most definitely windblown, I was relieved to find the poster tube unblemished and all the luggage intact. More so, I was interminably grateful to the aircrew, the ground crew and the legions of unseen experts who battled through Storm Ciara to enable all of us to reach our destination. Hats off to Easyjet, Bristol International Airport and Glasgow International Airport for going those extra miles and helping us to deliver the same high quality, on time delivery to our customers.
Next stop, the return journey home. I hear Storm Dennis is on the way. Solitaire anyone?
Fiona Pandelus, 11 February 2020