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9:51am on Saturday, 28th October, 2006:



I got up at 4:30 this morning. A taxi arrived at 5:00 to take me to Colchester North Station, where I caught the 5:30 to London Liverpool Street. A train ride, an underground ride and another train ride (on the Heathrow Express) later and I was at Terminal 3, Heathrow. It was 7:30 when I joined the queue for the American Airlines check-in desk. 30 minutes later, I reached the front and checked in for my 10:20 flight.

I've no idea why it took 30 minutes to check in, other than the fact there were a couple of hundred other people in front of me. The bag-scan and passport check I had to go through to reach the departure area only took 5 minutes. I realise that Al Qaida's insistence on new security measures for all means there's going to be something of a delay, but why at check-in? And if you want to disrupt air travel, close an airport and kill hundreds of people, isn't it easier to blow up a tidy line of 200 people waiting to check in than it is to bring down an airliner or take one over and fly it into a city?

A good number of the people who work at Heathrow seem to be immigrants. This includes officers on passport control, on the X-ray machines and doing the frisking of people who failed at the metal detector. On one hand, this seems a risky idea — having immigrants decide who gets to be an immigrant — but on the other it's fine because our terrorists are all home-grown. It does tell me something about the way security is managed in the UK, though: the wages paid are low.

My flight today goes to New York, where I pick up another one to Washington. The Washington flight leaves 3 hours after I arrive. Even in happier times for air travel, it once took me 2 hours to get through passport control upon arrival in the USA; I therefore suspect it may be touch and go as to whether I make the Washington flight or not.

My return flight on Monday is number AA100. That looks like it has "prestige terrorist target" potential, so I'm expecting big delays on the way back, too.

Air travel used to be glamorous.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).