What’s ‘delayed indefinitely’ in plane English?

Charlie Adley
Charlie Adley

Double Vision with Charlie Adley

If you’re lucky enough to be flying away on holiday this year, I suggest you prepare yourself mentally for the airport. Between accidentally pulled plugs crashing computer systems, cabin staff working to rule and doubtless, that age old Pythonesque perennial – the French Air Traffic Controllers going on strike – you might have to spend a fair bit of time in the aptly-named Terminal.

Breathe out and rid yourself of all your expectations and desires. Give yourself up to the airport. They own you now and there is nothing you can do. Do not join a queue to board a plane that has not yet arrived. Do not sit and stare hour upon hour at the Departures/Arrivals screens. Do not believe that your gate will be announced at 16:05.

Most probably your journey will pass without a hitch, but should it go wrong, hopefully you’ll find comfort in knowing that however bad things seem, I had it worse in 1985.

Back then airports displayed flight information on ladders of plastic slats. When a plane left or landed, those slats flew around going:

kashunka – kashunka – kashunka – kashunka …

The whole effect was quite trippy and hypnotic, as the destination names and flight numbers appeared to flow upwards, like the waters of a river, as the sign updated itself.

32 years ago I was perched eagerly on the edge of a seat in Auckland airport, watching just such a sign. After sleeping in the airport to save money, I was waiting for my cheap flight to Sydney with an airline called UTA, the less well-known Pacific branch of Air France.

UTA insisted you fly to Australia via Noumea, or New Caledonia, as the imperialists called it. Despite the fact that the French treated the airline with the same contempt, neglect and disregard for health that they showed the indigenous people of their Pacific colonies, all the Polynesians and young travellers flew UTA in those days.

The locals joked that UTA stood for ‘Unknown Time of Arrival’, with flights invariably delayed, overbooked or cancelled. But boy, were they cheap!

To read Charlie’s column in full, please see this week’s Galway City Tribune.