Friday, 19 December 2008

Welcome to Britain

A disturbing vignette in the baggage hall at Gatwick Airport. An elderly Albanian couple, he clutching a traditional stringed instrument, she in peasant garb, are wandering bewildered.

British tourists try to help but the Albanians speak no English. A mixture of signs and words in other languages makes it clear they have failed to locate their luggage.

A British traveller approaches two customs officers, standing doing nothing, to ask whether there has been a flight from Albania and what the couple might do. I do not hear their exact reply but it's clearly not very helpful. The British traveller returns, incandescent at their attitude. Then one strolls across and tells her: "If you're so interested they can collect their bags at Carousel Six".

But while a British Airways service from Tirana has arrived recently, the luggage from that flight has long gone and its carousel number is no longer indicated on the information display.

Eventually the Albanians, via the BA inquiry desk, are reunited with their suitcase and are met by a friend.

A resolution which owes nothing, it seems, to Her Majesty's customs men.

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