Oh, No! Not Gatwick Again!!

Originally posted at 1:00 am, March 19th 2011.

We’ve just got back from Guernsey where our son and daughter-in-law live with our adorable grandchildren. Each time we visit them we take what looks like a rather roundabout route. First we cross from our home in France to the UK. The Channel Tunnel terminal near Calais is an easy and comfortable hour’s drive from our home. We usually have only 20 – 30 minutes of waiting for our shuttle, then we’re whisked through the tunnel in just 35 minutes. Unfortunately our arrival at Folkestone heralds another 75 minutes or so of driving on busy British motorways to Gatwick Airport (otherwise known as Hell-On-Earth).

And that’s where the worst part of our journey starts. Here we endure a couple of hours of waiting, among crowds of other anxious but hopeful travellers, before boarding a Flybe no-frills flight to Guernsey. After 10 minutes or so of sitting on the plane waiting for the ready signal, we enjoy a 10 minute trundle across the airport tarmac before bracing ourselves for take-off. We’re usually in the air for only about 50 minutes, so there’s hardly time for the staff to wheel the coffee trolley the length of the aisle before the landing. There’s a 3 minute walk from the plane across the tarmac into the airport building, a mere 5 minutes wait for our baggage and finally, at last, a pleasant 10 minute car ride to our destination.

So, after a long 7 hours of travelling we have arrived at our destination – just 200 miles, as the crow flies, from the place we started from.

Dinard Airport - the Islander aircraft boards for Guernsey

The only reason we take this route is because the alternative is an almost 5 hour drive – albeit on wonderfully quiet and unobstructed French roads – to St Malo where a rather unreliable and spasmodic ferry service operates to Guernsey. It doesn’t run in fog or other sorts of bad weather, and they sometimes cancel scheduled crossings if there aren’t a lot of passengers booked.

True, there are flights from Dinard airport. It’s only 15 minutes or so more driving time than the ferry terminal at St Malo, but unfortunately the tiny Islander aircraft operated by the Channel Islands Aurigny airline, are just as weather dependent as the ferry, perhaps even more so.

So, to be sure of a relatively reliable journey, mostly unaffected by fog or strong wind, we are obliged every couple of months to brave the horrors of Gatwick airport, where families queue sometimes for 15 minutes just for the opportunity to remove their shoes, belts and any metallic contents from their pockets before being frisked by someone they’ve never met before. Many of them will undergo the indignity of having their hand-luggage unpacked and searched in full view of all, and everyone has an unnecessarily long wait in a shopping centre so that the airport can make a profit on shop and restaurant rents.

Fortunately for most Sandboys customers, getting here from UK usually involves no more than taking a ferry or the channel tunnel for a quick, comfortable, reliable and relatively cheap start to their holidays.

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