The Unexpected Coach, featuring National Express
Indirect Travel Fun
- How much is it this time???
- Early Morning National Express, Mid Moring Terminal 3
- Elegantly Lounging around Terminal 3 (Cathay Pacific and American Airlines Lounges)
- American Airlines AA99 London Heathrow to Chicago (Main Cabin Extra)
- Into the USA, Crowne Plaza O’Hare
- Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- Airplane Art Extra: From the Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- Chicago Classics: Mannys Deli and Cafeteria
- Bench Test and First Impressions: Canon EOS R50
- Rebuilding a Legacy: Central Camera, Chicago
- Chicago Classics: Peaquod’s Pizza
- Back to O’Hare, Swissport Lounge Chicago T5
- Finnair AY10 Chicago O’Hare to Helsinki Vantaa
- A quick ground-side visit, and an even quicker stop at the Finnair Lounge
- Finnair AY1337 to Helsinki Vantaa to London Heathrow
- The Unexpected Coach Home
- Expect the Unexpected
Getting off the aircraft at Heathrow around 17:12, I had 50 minutes or so on the clock, if I wanted to take the 210 coach home.
This would mean a one-seat ride to Birmingham and not worrying about changing in London. I didn’t book this originally, because – and let me be honest – performances over the past few trips going through Heathrow have shown it an hour to get a bag from a European flight.
And that’s on a good day.
I made my way to the UK Border, dipping past the Automated Border Entry gates, and cleared the border manually – as the chip in my passport is long dead.
A few questions later, I was let through. Eight minutes from when I had got off the aircraft (taking us to 17:20).
From there, it was off to claim a trolly to put my stuff on. I also had a look at the performance stats… interesting to say the least.
I was fully expecting the full-hour wait for my bags. So you can imagine my shock when my bags popped out and everything was loaded on a trolly by 17:29.
That’s 17 minutes at that point. I was in the public area by 17:31, clearing customers and the final attempt at Heathrow Airport to sell me something.
19 minutes from the plane to the public area in Terminal 3, yet it takes BA an hour to do the same process for a short-haul flight.
What the hell is going on at this airport?
I had spent some time trying to figure out how to buy a ticket on the National Express app, but it was telling me to “ehhh.. Nahh”. That would mean I would have to deal with a person.
I thus began the great push back to the bus station.
Popping out at the Heathrow Central Bus Station, I headed to the queue to buy a ticket.
£52.80 later (£36.80 for the ticket, £15 for luggage and a £1 handling fee), I had a ticket on the delayed coach to Birmingham – with a 30-minute extra wait. I could deal with this at this point.
I took the time to repack my bags, as well as get a double espresso to go – as dealing with Coach 210 can be… whats the politest term… Annoying as hell, so being semi-awake (at least for the first few minutes of the coach home), would be an idea.
And yes. At this point, I had been travelling for many hours. Sleep was an easy default at this point, even with the caffeine in my system.
I manoeuvred past the lines for the lifts down the tunnels, and outside, primarily to cool a little too. I’m not calling it fresh air (with all the diesel particulates around, hardly fresh), but it was cooling – which was what was needed at that point.
30 minutes late, Coach 210 arrived at Heathrow. I lined up and had my bags taken off me and the barcode scanned.
With that all done, I headed aboard the coach back to the Midlands.
National Express 210 to Birmingham Digbeth
If you can guess, at this point I honestly didn’t expect to find myself on this coach – I had accounted for a hike to London, a taxi at peak, fighting through Euston or Marleybone, and finally fighting an Uber home.
All in all the price was… the same. This was just a two-seat ride home.
The coach would make a run from Heathrow across the M4, around the M25, up the M40 rat run, divert into Oxford to make two stops and then back to Birmingham Airport and finally Digbeth -with a driver change near the Birmingham airport/International train station.
The coach was medium loaded – to say some people were sitting together, but I was able to get two seats to myself for the ride back to Birmingham.
At this point in the game, I could live with that. There was also power at the seat – which for the poor phone was a welcome thing too.
The coach was caught in the last of the peak hour traffic, which thinned out when it hit the M40. There were some moans that there were delays, especially at Oxford, but the drivers brushed it off.
They did however get horn-happy between Oxford and Birmingham Airport as they tried to make up for time… well as much as you can when you’re limited by law to 60mph.
We made good time, however, arriving at Birmingham Airport to drop off people just after 9 pm, where our driver change happened. Rather than taking tens of minutes, it was a very quick swap.
From there, it seemed that there was a coach driver with a brain, who decided to skip the M42 and M6 to Birmingham City Centre and take the A38 Coventry Road to the City Centre – a quicker route at this time of day.
30 minutes later we pulled into Digbeth Coach station – and the end of this part of the journey.
It took a few minutes for me to get off the coach, but I stumbled off and grabbed my bags.
Bullying them into some sort of control for a short roll, I hailed an Uber for the drive home. After dealing with Black Cab drivers who don’t seem to want to go North of the City Centre, having a driver who just follows a map sometimes is welcome.
Getting out of the Uber, I wheeled my trash to my front door – ending this trip.
Although I wasn’t in the mood for deep-dish pizza. Seven days after I departed, I found myself at the supermarket at 11 pm.
Some things never change.
Expect the Unexpected.
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