The follow-up family call came last night so this morning I’m at Heathrow waiting for my flight to Huntsville, Alabama via Washington DC. (In case you ever wondered, there are no direct flights from London – or anywhere international – to Hunstville. I can travel to San Francisco in half the time, despite Huntsville being 1,100 miles nearer.)
One useful thing about not being able to have a job at the moment is that, when a family emergency occurs, I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to take off at a moment’s notice – and I have no concerns about missed meetings, deadlines or budget targets.
My partner Peter dropped me off earlier in plenty of time so I’m twiddling my thumbs in the Departure Lounge, and pleased to discover that Heathrow now offers free (albeit limited) wifi airport-wide. You have access to 45 minutes straight off the bat or, if you hand over your email address and join the “Heathrow Rewards” programme, your free time is extended to 90 minutes.
Similar to store loyalty programmes, with Heathrow Rewards you can collect points – when you buy at one of the airport shops, use one of the currency exchange bureaux or book on Heathrow Express – which can then be exchanged for shopping vouchers. If you fly in and out of Heathrow regularly, it could save you a few pounds. But the free wifi is the real winner.
It’s a minor perk compared with the VIP treatment received in the private airline lounges – travelling with my friend James Seabright last year, I had my first experience of Virgin’s club lounge and could have easily missed our flight to receive more free massages and other luxuries – but it’s better than the airport wifi charges I’ve been stung with in journeys past.
While twiddling my thumbs pre-flight, I also raided the shelves at W H Smith of two tomes in Pearson’s “Brilliant” business book series – on the fine arts of social media and selling – which I look forward to thumbing through on the plane. I appreciate being able to get online for a last email check before boarding, but I sincerely hope that wifi is never free on airplanes themselves. It’s one of the few enforced off-the-grid opportunities still available in the modern world and I relish it.