The world was changing faster than anything I could have imagined, in my eight-hour flight from the Philippines to Muscat, nearly every country in the world had closed its border. Fortunately for me Boris Johnson was behind the curve and had left the UK border wide open, this was going to cause chaos in the future, but for me, now, this was a Godsend.
Touchdown in Muscat I only had one plan, get on the earlier flight to London. My connection was officially fifteen hours, but after that night in Manila Terminal 1, I was determined not to spend another night in an airport.
I raced off the plane, went through transit security with lightning efficiency, then hurriedly rushed along to the flight connection counter. I’d managed to get a couple of hours kip on my flight from Manila to Muscat, but to be honest, I was still in a half-zombie state.
With the delay in the arrival of my flight from Manila, I now only had 60 minutes to change my flight and make my new connection. The London flight was already boarding as I made my way down the escalator to the flight connection counter. My heart dropped. The worst possible thing had happened! There was a queue!
There was no way I was going to make the flight… The man on the counter was working as slow and humanly possible. Desperate times called for desperate measures and I decided now was not the time for decorum, I was going to just go straight to the front of the queue. This was an emergency!
“Excuse me — ”
A plump middle-aged woman, like a cross between Hyacinth Bucket and the Queen, turned around the great me. I saw she was holding a boarding pass in her hand and half recognised her from the Manila flight. I made an educated guess…
“You trying to get on the earlier flight?”
Her husband, a large, beer bellied middle-aged man who I hazard a guess enjoyed domino’s pizza a little bit too much, turned around —
“It’s been a disaster, when we booked it, it said it was a two-hour connection, but when it went through…’
“Ah did you also book yours sitting by a sewer outside Clark Airport, yesterday morning?’
I believed I’d found a fellow traveller.
“No. Our concierge booked it for us from the comfort of our five-star suite.”
“Fifteen hours in an airport, it’s inhumane.” She interjected.
The penny dropped, there was no way I was going to get on this flight. There was no way around it. I was going to spend fifteen hours at another airport. The flight connection man announced to the queue that the earlier flight was full and there was nothing he could do.
The woman was not going to stand for that. You already know the type, self-important, arrogant and believes she’s always right. Usually, I would cross the street to avoid these types, but now, in this situation, she was just what I needed.
She explained, in that posh British accent, which combines an air sophistication with an increasingly condescending tone, that it was not her fault she was going to be stuck here for the next fifteen hours and he needed to do something about it. She was angling for a hotel room, he was angling for free lounge access, I think mainly because that would come with an unlimited supply of booze.
She would not take no for an answer. I just watched on, sticking close to her, knowing that she would win something, that if the flight connections worker wanted her to shut up and go away, he was going to have to give her something. Finally, he relented and offered meal vouchers, she conferred with her husband, he muttered something about free booze, she decided to ignore him and accepted.
As he wrote up the vouchers, I sensed my opportunity, if I am going to be trapped in an airport for fifteen hours, I am going to get something from it. So, as he finished writing up her vouchers I leaned across, smiled and said —
‘So, these vouchers then…’
Fearful I might call the lady back, he quickly wrote me up two food vouchers, one for lunch, the other for dinner. I smiled, took them out of his hand and headed off to claim my prize. He probably returned home that night, cursing the fact he lived in a dry country.
So now, I had my belly sorted, I waved off the flight to London and settled down for a fifteen-hour wait. In all my rushing around I hadn’t had time to properly explore Muscat Airport. First impressions were fantastic though — it was nothing like Manila Terminal 1, whose name still makes me shudder to this day.
There were open, free waiting lounges spread out across the airport, with super-comfy seats, long couches you could sleep on, plugs everywhere and superfast WIFI. It was also big enough and quiet enough to really stretch my legs. I reckoned it was two thousand steps from one side of the concourse to the other.
So once I’d done that once, checked out the duty-free section, bought an overpriced Cadburys chocolate bar from WHSmith, I just had another fourteen hours and twenty-one minutes to go…