It was rather disconcerting to notice that our bags were tagged with LHR (Heathrow) rather than LGW (Gatwick). They were thrown onto the conveyor belt and disappeared into the bowels of the airport before we could question this. At least they would probably get to the right city.
We were, however, not able to check in to London ourselves. This would be done in New York. This seemed not to be any problem: after all, our connection gave us ample time for checking in, purchasing duty-free goods, and generally looking round Kennedy airport.
This didn't seem quite such a joy when our aeroplane waited on the tarmac at Washington for over an hour, waiting for a slot to take off. The Pan Am staff went through the aircraft finding out which passengers had connecting flights. Unfortunately, when they heard that our connecting flight would not be to another Pan Am flight, they lost interest in us. Eventually we did take off, and wondered whether we would make the connection. So I recommend that if you have to travel via any North American gateway, always make reservations for the whole journey with the same carrier. The major advantages are that you won't have to change terminals, and the carrier will see that by some means you will reach the final destination. If this plan of action is not possible for you, then I suggest you fly direct to the nearest possible gateway city and complete your journey overland.
On arrival at Pan Am's terminal, the so-called Worldport, we tried for a few minutes to find out how to get to the terminal from which the B-Cal flights leave. This proved to be round the other side of the airport. Although only in the adjoining (or maybe next but one) terminal, we found out that the airport transit buses only go round the airport one way. This is, of course, not the way we wanted to go. It was a nerve- racking half hour of slow travel, wondering whether we would make it.
Fortunately, we did make it. We checked in and were given two seats not together, as all pairs of seats had long since been allocated. We ran down to the waiting airliner, ignoring such things as how pretty the airport was, what or how much the duty-free goods were, or even US immigration control.
We thought it might be a good idea to dispose of the white cards before our next visit to the States, however. Anyway, after running for the flight, we sat waiting for some considerable time for passengers who has checked in, but not appeared. After nearly an hour, two African gentlemen appeared, and shortly afterwards we were airborne.
With the compliments of British Caledonian, a free bar to compensate for the delay. As soft drinks were already free and alcoholic drinks should have been free in economy if they wanted to be a serious competitor to British Airways, and were already free in the premium cabins, this didn't seem an excessively generous offer, especially on an overnight flight.
Service was again just about adequate, no more, and for the only time in my air travel memory, my first choice of meal was not available by the time they got to me.
We soon slept, and were wakened with breakfast shortly before landing. No problems with disembarkation, immigration, customs, transfer to the domestic area or the homeward flight. The same cabin staff were looking after the Brymon flight as had been there the previous week. Their chief stewardess recognised us, and greeted us. Obviously they need a good memory for faces and a pleasant manner. This makes the difference, and is good for the carrier. I would be pleased to use the route many times, but only had one opportunity. Sadly, Brymon no longer operates the route.
Arrival at Birmingham was something of an anti-climax. We collected our baggage, and went home. The end of another journey to and from the United States, though rather less successful than the one before.
It was also a very short day, by Edinburgh standards. Normally I expect to be up at the crack of dawn and not back home till dead of night. This time, I was home in the late afternoon, if not sooner. I cannot honestly recall whether I travelled home on a flight at lunchtime, even. Certainly it wasn't the most arduous day I had ever spent, and I wonder whether it really justified the one hundred and fifty pounds invested in the flight, as well as my cost for a day. All the same, it was certainly money much better spent than all the previous farces, and by the end of it I felt had really achieved something useful.