A couple of months ago, that most annoying of events cropped up in my calendar. Something I really, really wanted to attend – in a central London, starting at 9am. (To add yet more to the mix, the event was programmed to last for 11 hours and the next day I needed to be in Sweden. More on that another time). The options for a 9am start in London are few. The first train of the day is at 05:40, but doesn’t reach King’s Cross until 09:40 – no good for an event by Victoria! The sleeper is an option, and I sleep reasonably on board, but ahead of such a long day I really want to have slept in a proper bed – prices were also high. Hotel costs, at short notice, were also too high for me to travel the day before – while the option of staying with friends is ruled out by the likely late arrival the night before and early departure in the morning. That leaves air. There were a number of early departures from Edinburgh to choose from. In the end, I discounted Stansted and Luton (as ever), and was left with Heathrow, Gatwick or City. The Heathrow flights weren’t ideally timed, and it takes longer to get to Victoria from there. Gatwick and City are about equal in terms of time from the airport to Smith Square. The winner? EasyJet’s 06:10 departure to Gatwick. I prefer City, but in the winter, early morning flights are often affected by fog, and I wanted to avoid that risk.
Fast forward to the day of travel and I was up far too bright and early. A taxi booked for 04:30 arrived on time and got me over to the airport in the usual 25 minutes. As I was actually leaving for a 3-week trip, I had a bag to drop, but departures was fairly quiet. Similarly, I got through security in just a couple of minutes. This was a very pleasant outcome, meaning that I unexpectedly had time to pop into the No 1 Lounge for a hasty breakfast. The EasyJet standard, that the gate closes 30 minutes before departure, was my guiding principle. However, at 05:30, I saw that it had already gone to final call, so I made a fairly hasty move to the allotted gate where they were already gathering up the stragglers onto the final bus to the aircraft. Off to the aircraft we went, and it transpired that it was a far-from-full flight. This meant I had an empty middle seat shielding me from the aisle seat passenger.
The first officer noted that there were delays at Gatwick and that we would be late, but that they were attempting to negotiate for an earlier slot. Moments later, he returned to announce they had indeed secured that earlier slot and we very hurriedly commenced push back and safety demonstrations. We got away and made steady progress through the dark night. Incredibly, the flight arrived at Gatwick 30 minutes early – a first for me on a domestic sector with any airline! No complaints though, as this meant that I had time to retrieve by suitcase, drop it off at my airport hotel, and then dash to Gatwick station.
As I arrived at the station, I saw that a Gatwick Express I thought I had missed was 4 minutes late – just enough time to buy a ticket and get onto the platform to get on! (And to take the world’s quickest/poorest photo!) This was good, I even got a seat. Once we arrived at Victoria, it was just under 15 minutes’ walk to the venue, where I arrived at 08:55, ready for my 09:00 start.
I was fairly amazed I did make it in time for a 9am start, as I’ve had trouble making it to much later starts in central London when starting out from Edinburgh. I really did benefit from starting from home rather than incurring the time/financial cost of a night in a hotel beforehand, and would definitely give stronger consideration to trying this kind of itinerary again in future if an early start in London is on the cards. Clearly, it can’t be expected to work every time though – so for anything critical that overnight stay will still be necessary.