Apart from a minor blip a couple of weeks earlier when we discovered that eldest daughter’s passport had expired and we had to get her a temporary document, there were no hold ups in the airport and we almost sat in our allocation of chosen seats. All was going rather smoothly until 30 minutes before landing when that awful thought crossed my mind – how would we get off the plane at midnight our time, with 2 sleeping 3 year olds and 5 pieces of hand-luggage and a selection of sweaters and coats.For me this is the absolute worst part of travelling and my blood begins to boil just at the total inconvenience of navigating airports with toddlers. And true to form Manchester airport didn’t disappoint. The Jet2 hostesses could help us manoeuvre ourselves only to the steps leading down to the tarmac and into the rain. Through the door of the terminal building there was no one further to assist, just a security guard who was in charge of closing and locking the door.
Picture us – 2 adults holding one large sleeping toddler each plus a bag, eldest daughter pulling 2 wheelie suitcases and boy in the middle determined to help like a ‘man’ pulling the remaining 2 wheelie bags down the corridor. We could have managed this arrangement until we turned a corner and were greeted by a flight of steps. My evening was getting better by the second!We climbed the stairs, by this point we no longer had two sleeping toddlers but two crying toddlers, and at the top of the flight we headed down another narrow corridor. At the end of the corridor I saw a way out of this misery as I spotted 2 airport wheelchairs at the side.
I did hesitate for a small moment but as I couldn’t really walk any further I casually strolled over towards the chairs, checked no-one else around seemed to be coming to use them and I put A and E side by side rather unhappily in the chair. Finally DH could assist eldest daughter and boy in the middle with all the suitcases and I could push the girls through the airport.
We navigated two more escalators and each time retrieved the wheelchair and after a few minutes A and E stopped crying and began to enjoy their journey down the endless corridors. As we felt we must be nearing passport control we turned into a large hall and it was as if people were queuing for a ride in Disneyworld. Up and down through the narrow weaving filing system bleary eyed tired passengers were shuffling with their luggage. My heart sank at the thought of the 30 minute queue in front of us, until a jolly security guard in charge of the queue took one glance at us and shouted “Wheelchairs – that way”. I immediately went ‘that way’ whilst DH started stumbling and questioning the idea and muttering nonsensical questions I quickly dragged him with us. Straight to the front of the passport control queue within 5 minutes we were through to the other side and as we got to the luggage carousel we were reunited immediately with our stroller. We casually replaced the wheelchair with the stroller and pushed the wheelchair nonchalantly to the side.As I explained to friends during our trip, it wasn’t so much that I stole a wheelchair, as relocated it through the airport.
Two weeks later as we flew home and we were waiting in a holding bay in Luton to board the Easyjet flight I was chatting to a sympathetic Easyjet crew member and relaying my story from Manchester airport. She proceeded to tell me how a tragedy had just occurred in Alicante when a baby had fallen onto the luggage carousel as the Mummy was trying to retrieve the stroller and died. I have never understood why the airlines/baggage handlers/airports cannot provide the strollers on leaving the aircraft. Why do they make you struggle with babies/toddlers through vast distances in airports when they could just make it much safer and more pleasant for everyone?There is only one place that I have ever flown to where this happens and I was so happy to see my double stroller waiting for me at the exit of the plane as we landed back home in Israel. Well done Ben Gurion airport – finally an airport with a heart.