Yep, I had the misfortune of trying to catch a flight out of heathrow on Friday morning. Hoped I could get out before the snow came and flight was booked a couple of weeks ago and I was staying at an airport hotel.
Arrived at 8.15 am for a 10. 25 flight. And yes, did the delayed, boarded de boarded dance, then the fun started...
Announcement,,,Flight cancelled, please collect your luggage and recheck in for 6 pm flight. So as i am waiting for luggage I book a Eurostar ticket to Brussels. I will just leave and catch the train.
Wait for an hour for bags, then it's announced, sorry, baggage is still on plane, flight not cancelled, flight delayed, we've cancelled the 6pm one instead and our flight goes in that slot.
I ask can I get my luggage, answer no way, go up stairs get a new boarding pass. I do it as I don't want to lose my luggage., we are all queuing at ticket desk, then moved over to a check in desk, another announcement,,sorry, the luggage is actually off the plane. What?, ok, how do I get back down and collect my luggage? We will take you down. Another announcement,, Wait, sorry, that's wrong. Luggage still on plane. At this point, we have been there for seven hours, passengers go nuts.,why all the miscommunication? One guy threatens to punch a member of staff, they don't know if the luggage is on or off and have made 4 different luggage announcements. People are confused and tired.
Several of us ask for our luggage, I want to get the heck out of dodge and get the train. It's a mess at heathrow. no coordination and masses of people. They announce they are definitely taking the luggage off now, so 90 people have checked bags, and we all have to be escorted back to the baggage centre in an,hour to collect. Those who wish to travel at 6 pm have to recheck in their bags. Passengers go nuts again, they have,just rechecked in, now they have to get their bags and do it again. Supervisor announces, trying to divert anger "the reason you all have to collect your bags is because of this woman and others like her,,who want their bags" and points at me. Stunned silence ensues. No one can quite believe she has just publicly blamed a passenger and they all look at me, Fortunately no one took umbrage with me. I had probably been the only one who was never rude or demanding. I asked her to keep it pleasant and not blame me for the situation. Her response was,," well I also said and people like you madam". Again we are all stunned and she realises passenger anger is not diverted away from her. She is making it worse.
She asks the staff for volunteers to take us down to baggage. None of the staff wish to do it, she asks again, the conversation ensues in front of the passengers..." Well one of you has to do it". At this point I step up and say I'll do it if they give me a pass and directions. I'll take the passengers, i mean they have been arguing for ten minutes now in front of us. This stops them and two staff are allocated.
So, we all go downstairs, I book again, this time on the 19. 34 Eurostar, collect ,y bag and leave heathrow, one other woman comes with me. Everyone else stays, no one is sure, staff giving out reassurances the flight will go.
Flight did not go, or the next one, they did not get their bags, they slept at the airport as hotels full. No assistance offered.
I got home in brussels a full 16 hours after arriving at heathrow. But I got home.
I've experienced many screw ups at airports, but I can honestly say, the mess on Friday at terminal 1 was nothing short of appalling. The snow, the cancellations and the delays, were not the issue. People expect that, The issue was the total lack of co ordination, the miscommunications and the total inability of the staff to cope and yes, trying to divert blame to passengers.
Heathrow may have spent money on their winter program, but what they don't have is internal cross departmental processes in place, that allows them to deal with many cancellations and displaced passengers at once.