My ID: 7:07am, Thursday, 30 May 2002: London Heathrow Immigration
United Airlines flight UA956 from New York-Kennedy
Unfortunately, my Initial Descent to the UK wasn’t the greatest. As my first foray overseas, I knew nothing about immigration, customs, or the world’s busiest international airport. As such, I booked a ticket from London’s Gatwick Airport to Dublin, Ireland, for about three hours after my scheduled arrival into Heathrow. I had calculated that the time to get between the two was about an hour, so that would be plenty. What I failed to account for, however, was the full hour it took me simply to clear immigration at Heathrow’s Terminal 3. With most North & South American flights, as well as many European flights and even some Asian flights, arriving in the morning, I learned first-hand that Heathrow can be very congested during these times.
By the time I finally cleared customs and made my way to Gatwick, my flight was long gone. I had to purchase another ticket…only to be informed that it was a bank holiday weekend and everything was full (this was also my first introduction to the terminology of “Bank Holiday”). Fortunately, I was able to purchase the last seat on the last flight available that day to Ireland, but into Belfast instead of my intended destination of Dublin. I took it, and ended up meeting the couple on the flight that I ended up staying with when I returned to London a month later—funny how things always seem to work themselves out.