In praise of Easyjet staff on a very bad flight home

I know it isn’t often that you read something in praise of an airline after a particularly difficult journey. However, yesterday I thought that Easyjet did pretty well with a horribly fraught journey from Alicante to Glasgow.

I was travelling back from a retreat at a Jesuit retreat house in Spain which I try to go on every second year. It should have been a straightforward trip – an hour by car to the airport, hanging about for the usual check-in stuff and then a three hour flight to Glasgow.

What happened was this…

Firstly it became apparent that because of a dispute by the French Air Traffic Control people (who are deeply wicked and naughty) things were not going to go terribly smoothly. The flight was initially shown as being delayed for an hour but it was a full hour and a half after the normal boarding time that we were able to get on the plane. We were then told that we would be held on the tarmac until there was permission from France to fly. This was something of a surprise as we had believed we were on our way. Expected delay was 2 hours. However after 2 hours nothing had happened in a hot, sticky and very cramped way and the captain appeared in the cabin to announce that unless we got going smartish he wasn’t going to be able to fly us to Glasgow anyway as he didn’t have enough working flying hours in the day to take us there.

During this time, most of the passengers were grumpy but content that all was being done for them that could be done. All except one, who had an outburst at the flight crew saying that he was being messed about and blaming them for what was going on. Clearly, the staff wanted to get home as much as the rest of us.

Anyway, the prospect was opening up before us of having to get off the plane and spend a night in some hotel in Alicante (or Benidorm?) before coming back the next day early to fly. This was not an entertaining idea. Fortunately though another plan was devised. We would take off and whilst in the air, Easyjet would arrange for us to land somewhere or other (Luton? Gatwick?) where a new pilot and crew would join us and fly us on up to Glasgow.

This was met with a round of applause by the passengers who clearly didn’t want another night in Spain.

So, off we went and all was well (though significantly delayed) until we landed at Luton for a change of drivers. The crew distributed what food was on board. (I think the failure to take more food on board a flight that was clearly headed for long delays is the only real error I can see in the whole proceedings). I ended up eating a pot meal of cous-cous and lentils which tasted as bad as it sounds.

Anyway, we got to Luton and were told that the new crew were walking towards the aircraft ready to take us on to Glasgow. The retiring captain got a cheer for his efforts so far and disappeared.

Then Mr Angry Passenger decided to grab his hand luggage and make a run for it, fighting his way through the people stretching their legs and heading for the open door and steps which had been put next to the plane.

Now, getting off a plane without permission and wandering around an airport is a bad idea. So, one of the cabin crew tried to head him off, telling him he would be arrested if he stepped onto the tarmac before making a call for police and security to attend the plane.

The result of this was Mr Angry halfway down the steps shouting, Mrs Angry and one of their unfortunate children at the top of the steps and two further children at the top of the steps at the other end of the plane. Meanwhile, we had crew at the top of the steps trying to remonstrate with Mr A and get him back on board along with pilots and security people at the bottom of the steps trying to sort it out.

It was clear that the plane wasn’t going anywhere soon – although the rest of the passengers were in no danger, we had effectively been hijacked.

Now, this being a Glasgow flight, of course, we all believed we were all involved and that his business was our business. Several burly passengers were offering to go down the steps and get Mr A back onto the plane forcibly whilst several others were of the view that their muscle might be helpful in making sure that he never got on the plane again.

This phase of the journey was concluded when Mr Angry was joined by Mrs Angry and the poor Junior Angrys and led away. (Personally, I hope he was arrested and that Easyjet try to recover the costs of all this from him).

In all of all that was happening, the Easyjet staff behaved brilliantly, chatting with passengers and doing all possible to calm down what had become rather tricky and with the potential to get worse.

Sadly, the departure of the five recalcitrant passengers did not end our troubles. Security proceedures meant that their hold baggage had to be removed from the plane. Furthermore, we then discovered that it also meant all the luggage had to be removed from the plane and remanifested. So, ground crew had to be procured to remove all our luggage for checking. Not only that, but the cabin crew had to go through all the cabin lockers removing everything in them and asking passengers to identify what was theirs.

Eventually, we had accounted for everything and got under way with the new crew (who had believed they were going to Palma last night) expertly getting us to Glasgow where we landed at 2230. The flight should have arrived at 1610 – so it was 5 hours and 20 mins late. I’d spent 8 and a half hours in the cabin and I’ve never been more pleased to see the lights of Glasgow airport. Total journey time door to door was 13 hours.

And despite that, I couldn’t praise the crew more highly. They dealt with everything brilliantly, professionally and calmly. Full marks to Easyjet.

In other news, I had a fantastic retreat.