09 June 2014

Yawn

Today I got up at 5.15am to get a morning flight to Stockholm. I hate Monday morning flights, I hate the M25 on a Monday morning, so I got up early enough, to arrive at the airport in good time and check-in.

However, for this trip, I elected for Norwegian Air, whilst a ‘budget’ airline, the size of the operation and also reviews seemed to not be so bad, plus over £100 cheaper than a BA flight. We also had a bunch of stuff to carry, so before checking in, had to shuffle around stuff in bags (hand luggage only, you see)

Oh, Hi Gatwick

Whilst my other two colleages had managed to check in, I went last, and also couldn’t figure the correct airline ticket code to put in (there’s two 6 letter codes on the receipt, and I’m used to things just appearing in the BA app). Anyhow, whilst I was putting in my details, I noticed other passengers around me were experiencing issues with their ticket details.

Hmm. Something must be broken I guess, computers and all that…I’ll go join the queue for Customer Services as advised.

At this point my two colleagues proceeded to the security part of the trip, which is always fun.

I queued, the queue was moving fast. This is good I thought, until murmurings went through the queue that we were being dispatched to another queue. In the distance I saw a slow moving queue.

This didn’t look good

Honey, I’ve Shrunk The Plane

I got to the front of the queue (after 30 mins of waiting), and heard the news I already heard from others - the plane had shrunk.

Or more accurately, the Boeing 787 planned for the journey had a fault, so they were putting us on a Boeing 737. No Dreamliner for me. No seat for me.

Off to the other queue then.

Enjoy the silence?

I did. For the whole of the queueing experience to be told to go to another queue, there was absolutely no communiccation from either Norwegian or Gatwick Airport to inform passengers what had happened.

Seriously, how is this acceptable?

Armed with the information I could’ve called my two colleagues back and made sure they were carrying all the stuff needed for the trip, rather than me holding 1/3rd of it.

90 minutes

Long enough for that thing called football.

That’s how long it took to get to the front of the other queue, to be told there’s no more flights and I’d have to wait until 0640 the next morning. Totally useless to me, since we had a day long meeting planned for the Tuesday.

At this point, after several calls back to the office I got a BA flight from Heathrow booked in for the afternoon - luckily I drove, so Heathrow was an easy M25 trip. If either of my colleagues were unlucky enough to have been ejected from the plane their alternative trip wouldn’t have been so easy.

I know more than you’re telling

I did know more. I have my iPhone, it has apps, I’m a geek, I’m a plane geek ;)

In the queue I was monitoring the Kayak app for the number of seats available for all combinations of flights that would get me to Stockholm to arrive at some point on the Monday. At the start of the queue there were a handful of options. By the time we neared the front of the queue this had greatly diminished. There was no way I could get there from Gatwick today.

I got talking to a lovely elderly couple who were about to embark on a cruise from Stockholm. Understandably they were concerned they wouldn’t make the flight, I looked through various options, with a few flights available from Heathrow, a coach or taxi-ride away if needed (they had LOADS of luggage). It turns out they got offered an overnight hotel, and the first flight out on Tuesday. I hope they made it. I linked them to the MoneySavingExpert Flight delay form - they deserve that compensation - though the service desk also informed us of this, a first I think!

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Simple. That’s all that Norwegian Air needed to do. Communicate.

First, in the queue to say there’s absolutely no chance of getting on the plane.

Second, to tell us the options. Planes have finite seats, I knew which planes we could get onto by using Kayak - which links into ticketing systems anyway. It’s a free website.

Third, on that final queue, count up the options, and talk informally (without making an alternative offer) about the options. I’m pretty sure that as passengers booked alternative flights whilst we were waiting to get to the front of the queue, prices sky-rocketed

There was absolutely no point for me queueing if they told me they wouldn’t put me on another carrier. I knew Norwegian had nothing to offer me on their airline. I didn’t even need to formally cancel, since, by definition of being denied boarding, my flight was cancelled.

Next time

No more budget airlines for me. I’ll stick to BA wherever possible, I’m still BA Silver and will be next year, when I check into a flight, I have that seat, I have that flight, or I’m bumped upwards. Silver privileges will get me better options for alternatives, plus BA have enough infrastructure to be able to provide different planes or different carriers. And worst case, I can just shuffle off to the lounge and wait there with free wifi, good wine, acceptable food. AND CRISPS ;) and I can bring a friend.

No more Budget airlines for me, not for work, not for personal, unless there’s absolutely no other way to do it. I’m done with Budget.

What now?

Well, since you’re seeing this, I must’ve landed in Stockholm, and got to the hotel.

A few days of meetings ahead (condensing our Monday afternoon ones into Tuesday), so I might be a little quiet.

But that’s what you were hoping for, right?

Postscript

I wrote all of the above whilst on the approach into Stockholm airport…as you may have seen on Twitter, as we got close to the runway the Captain aborted and pulled us up sharply to 5000ft since he wasn’t happy with the landing (unexpected rain shower and the plane didn’t seem level).

Pretty traumatic for many on the plane, and I was so glad when the plane took it’s second approach and landed.

My thanks to the Captain and co-pilot of BA flight 780 for a textbook manoeuvre - I’ve only ever seen that on The Krypton Factor as a child ;)

Ah well, time for a beer then and planning for how we’ll reschedule stuff tomorrow.

At least I’m here.



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Southeastern Railway Action Group
Dartford Rail Travellers' Association
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Dartford Rail Travellers Association (Twitter)