Two weeks ago on a whim, I decided I would book a short trip away from the ‘Deen, to London. The plan was simple — fly out on Friday night after work, catch up with a few friends, particularly S, and then head back on Sunday night, with no one the wiser at work. At such short notice, British Airways to Heathrow was a non-starter, as was Flybe to London City. This left EasyJet to Luton or Gatwick as the only viable options. In the end, I settled for Luton, the weekend of the 10th of June being the best fit with friends and family. On the day, having packed my go to travel bag and done work, I hopped on to the 727 from the bus station next to work, arriving just past 6.00pm for what was meant to be a 7.35pm flight.
The first sign of trouble was the continued absence of a boarding gate on the departures display against my flight. The details blur in my mind but I suspect it wasn’t until after 8.00pm that a gate was displayed- gate 1. Between then and 9.30pm when I left the airport, we managed to get in line for boarding before being stood down and then get asked to return to the front desk for further information. A ‘recovery’ flight was announced, departing at 9.00am the next morning- key because anything later than noon would have made the trip no longer worthwhile for me.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the flight the next day was also delayed, eventually leaving at 10.46am. S, thankfully, had re-jigged her plans to accommodate the delays, otherwise I might have been in a spot of bother.
The mood overall wasn’t particularly great, a couple of people seemed to have been affected multiple times in the recent past by similar events as these
Once in London, I briefly flirted with the idea of booking a quick return via BA. I however convinced myself that the bother with the inbound flight was a one off. Surely thunder couldn’t strike twice. My faith would prove misplaced, in even more spectacular fashion than the in bound flight.
Arriving at the airport just before 6.30pm, I managed to get through security in six or so minutes, not shabby given how things have panned out differently in the past. A long wait ensued, punctuated with a call to proceed to Gate 10 at about 9.30pm. Whilst waiting at Gate 10, it turned out the air craft we were meant to fly on had arrived but not one of the ground staff seemed to know its whereabouts. A further call to go to Gate 2 raised hopes briefly, before we were stood down at about 10.20pm with reports of the flight being cancelled and a request to return to the front desk.
All outward EasyJet flights from Luton were cancelled that night — Aberdeen, Belfast, Berlin and Glasgow all getting the chop. That led predictably to bedlam, worsened by the lack of relevant information flowing. There must have been 300+ people thronging the EasyJet customer service desk at departures, waiting to be advised of new flight details and hotel accommodation (in the end the advise was to book one off the mobile app and keep the receipts to be reimbursed afterwards). Amongst the mix, I spotted a number of fellow travellers on the cancelled and then recovered in bound flight from Aberdeen.
All told, it took me till 1.20am to get my cancelled flight rescheduled to a Glasgow one (as there was no Aberdeen flight till Tuesday) and a hotel sorted.
Predictably, the flight the next morning was also delayed; from 10.55am to 12.15am which meant I had to miss work as well as hop on a bus at 2.10pm, only arriving in Aberdeen at 5.00pm; almost 24 hours after I should have.
I suppose EasyJet and Luton airport cannot legislate for the impact of acts beyond their control. It turned out the Aberdeen to Luton flight was delayed due to a damaged nose tire which needed replacing, whilst the Luton to Aberdeen leg was cancelled due to the knock on effect of Gatwick flights being diverted to Luton following runway closures.
A few things could have been handled much better to ease the impact on stranded and confused travellers such as me and avoid the comedy of errors which ensued:
- Better Communication: One of the more frustrating elements of the ordeal was the near total black out on information on what was happening. Getting information to passengers earlier might have allowed me make alternative travel arrangements, or at least reassured me that everything was in hand. Trying to make inferences from the mobile app was hardly the most efficient way of trying to keep us informed.
- Better planning: That one of the reasons for delays on both legs of the trip had to do with crews going over their hours is surely unacceptable. I would imagine it is someone’s jobs to track crew hours, and having realised that hours would be exceeded by the delays, a decision to cancel the flights should have been taken earlier than after almost four hours.
- Enhanced mobile app capabilities: The mobile app, good as it is, fell apart significantly for me, when I tried to get on to a Glasgow or Inverness flight. All the app allowed me do — once the cancellation had been updated — was attempt to book another Aberdeen flight. Tuesday was most certainly not an option, which was how I ended up in Glasgow.
- Locked down amenities: On the best of days, Luton is not the greatest airport for a long wait — seating being at a premium, and the wi-fi being restricted to a free 30 minute access. Perhaps more could have been done to grant extended access to us stranded folk, particularly as the instruction was to get on the mobile app and get accommodation booked.
Perhaps these are the compromises we make when we go for no frills, budget flights, ones in which the schedules and timelines are so finely tuned that all it takes is one anomaly to unravel everything. On the basis of this weekend’s debacle and what is bound to be a slew of demands for compensation from EasyJet, it seems to me that their scheduling model projects a false economy. It is also a false economy for me too as a traveller; missing a day of work, the stress and strain I went through to sort out the journey and get home surely have costs, monetary or not.
It is difficult to think of any scenarios in which I’ll fly EasyJet again, or through Luton for that matter. I just like the certainty of knowing I’ll arrive on time, given my usually tight schedules.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom. S was an absolute delight to hang out with as always; her sharp, sarcastic tongue, allied to her controlled excitement the highlight of what would have been an otherwise ruined weekend.
Something about shared adversity sometimes brings out the best in us. Watching people rally around each to help with crying, antsy babies, managing to have civil conversations and staying in line for the main part gave me renewed faith in humanity.
Politicians and the weather get people talking in good old Blighty. Waiting in line on Monday morning whilst the shenanigans around my Glasgow flight unfolded, I ended up in conversation with a gentleman on his way back home. His distaste for the SNP and their particular brand of lip service and blame shifting resonated with me as did his views on the Brexit referendum. I still haven’t made up my mind on that one. Not much time left on that one.
Credit too must go to the staff who manned the customer care desk at Luton into the small hours of the morning, until we stranded customers had gotten rearranged flights.
As my bus made the final approach into the bus station, my relief at finally making it home was unquantifiable. Never did the sight of Union Square feel so welcome to me as it did that Monday.
E may be for EasyJet, in this case it definitely stands for error-strewn and perhaps excruciating..
On the 4th ring, someone answers the phone. The voice is distant, seemingly attenuated by all the miles of cabling and ether between me and the recipient. There is a certain sleepy quality to the voice too, as though I have woken them up from the depths of an afternoon nap. Its late afternoon in that part of the world, that time of day when the oppressive heat and the lack of activity on a Sunday afternoon combine to lull one into a dreamy haze.
Father answers the phone. He and I have not exactly seen eye to eye for a few years now. Not since that September morning in 2008 when I packed my bags, quit my job at a Fortune 500 company and headed back to full time studies. Thankfully time’s attrition has worn the walls we’d built up between ourselves down but the reticence between us is still there – sometimes seething, sometimes manifesting in monosyllabic exchanges that give the lie to our semblance of civil conversation.
Today is one of those days for the monosyllables. I want it over with as soon as possible.
Things about some women I still don’t understand…..
- How they manage to go from hag to wag in twenty short minutes on bus 23: Each day I get on the bus, I am treated to a minor miracle. The ladies – and they are the same ‘offenders’ in the main – unfailingly whip out their boxes and mirrors and get to work. Within the space of a short bus ride, the transformation is complete. Several brushes, colours and peeks in the mirror later, they are virtually unrecognizable. Just why that couldn’t be achieved at home before hopping on the bus beats me hollow though.
- Why odd coloured shoes make it into the aso-ebi list: Last April, I was hounded well nigh to death by purple shoes. Thing was a good friend of mine had to keep up appearances attend some function – the specifics of which escape me. The clothes were done and dusted – only problem was that purple shoes were required. It just so happened that purple shoes were out of stock in all the shops she knew to check, and yours truly was called upon to devise a solution. Needless to say I failed woefully – not through lack of effort as I even went the distance of setting up a conference call just for them shoes – but due to the sheer absurdity of the choice of colour. My theory is that the first women who had aso-ebi’s had major shares in a shoe manufacturer and chose odd colours so that the shoes could not be re-used thereby guaranteeing increased revenues!
- Why some people think lime-green eyeliner works on their ebony-black face: Whilst quickly looking through lounging on amebobook the other day, I stumbled on a picture of some random chic with lime-green eyeliner. You know how a friend of a friend comments on a picture and amebobook somehow manages to put them onto your news feed in all their gory glory – that was it. Granted it was in the spirit of the Nigerian Independence celebrations, and people had to pretend to be patriotic by wearing green-ish stuff, but surely there were mirrors at home… and in the rare event of there not being mirrors, friends and family could have alerted said chic to the incongruity of the eye-liner?
- How they manage to still feign surprise over stuff they knew would happen anyways: The ladies at MO Corp have banded themselves into some sort of fraternity. Ladies-only lunches, baby club discussions (at my desk no less), and the ‘official’ baby shower for the pregged ladies on their last day of work. Its all well and good to have baby showers – great pizza, us blokes get to leave a wee bit early on a Friday and all, but I never can quite get over the false sense of surprise them ladies seem to muster. I mean, its standard practice that you’ll get a baby shower. Expect it, and spare us the excessive oohs ahhhs, and the drama! arghhh…
- Why you wear ‘six’ inch heels to church and then take them off midway through the service: I am an ‘apostle’ of functionality which is why them ladies who wear six inch heels and then take them off midway leave me worried. Surely, the shoes can’t be so uncomfortable that they can’t stay on for two and a half hours only?
- Why you manage to tear up ever so freely in church: Every time I get the misfortune of being sat next to a particular young lady in church, I groan inwardly. Problem is not that she’s got a massive dose of BO, but that she manages to contort her face in so many twists and turns that I’m left wondering if I am safe. 90% of the time, she’ll cry during the worship – often times that is the precise moment I am discreetly reviewing my twitter timeline, an indicator of just how bored with the whole experience I am. It really is just the worship right?I have a sneaky feeling, that it might be more than just the worship, perhaps she is remembering what Bro Okon did the night before…
PS: No hard feelings.. To the friends I have called out.. I owe each of you a purple shoe…. In the year 2150.. 🙂
Thankfully this week is over, finally. Its been a maelstrom of activity – two client work sites, hand overs, reviews and piles of stuff to catch up with. The worst bits had to be the getting set up bits – setting up remote access to my company email and network, new log on IDs and network access at the new place and all – plus there’s a first review in five weeks of stuff I was never involved in.
The week started off normally, with only a hint of the turmoil that was about to erupt. Monday was typically laid back – completed a review of the old project and got a list of action items for closure and jumped on them. By Wednesday things went ballistic – a meeting with a client turned into a firm commitment and a start date, and by Friday I was in place, getting orientations, building a transition plan with the bloke I’m replacing and all. Throw in lunch with a visiting friend on Thursday afternoon, the Technical Authority heading off on vacation for two weeks, me forgetting elMadre’s birthday, and having to review some documentation for a friend in the evenings, and it was a recipe for maxed out tiredness. Plus side though is I can get to laze around this weekend, and play Football Manager.. 🙂
I hate that you are always on my mind. I tell myself I really don’t mind that we do not talk any more. The brutal truth is that I mind! And worse, that it hurts – like a deeply seated wound that no salve can reach. Only a few months ago, it seemed the world was at our feet and that the sun would shine forever. A part of me wants to believe that you still care, that you still remember – I’m not sure it matters either way. We are done.
I have our stuff in a pile, the mementoes – title pages of books with my name inscribed in your unique cursive, the plaque from your work in Uganda, the emails printed out – the lot. Some day, when I find the courage to let go, and ignite the bonfire, I’ll set them alight. For now, maybe another swig at the bottle might help for once!
Dear Lawwd! Matters came to a head today over SpiriChic. Thing is Mother and I have spent the past few months locked in a mental war – losing it is inconceivable for me, because it would constitue such a loss of face that I couldn’t possibly put my foot down on any thing with her in future.
SpiriChic, one of two young ladies I ever seriously dated, is a certain un-official ex from a few years ago now, whose existence was leaked by a parroting sibling in a moment of crass indiscretion. Said ex and Mother got to meet and hit if off instantly, which should have raised red flags in my mind at the time. My assumption has always been though, that as long as I hadn’t told the parents anything, whatever mother assumes is just that, an assumption.
Fast forward to today, when the subject of my future plans came up, especially with the relocation thingy. Mother proceeded to exhort, cajole and even downright threaten (not quite, but exert a fair bit of pressure anyways) all to ensure that yours truly restarts the broken connection with said ex, who in her eyes is a perfect fit!
I understand her dilemma – she is scared that her son might be captured by a white woman…. Oh well, that’s not in the plan yet!
I had an eccentric- if morbid- pastime whilst growing up; fantasizing about dying; and that for as long as I can remember. This was not a simple hit-by-a-car death, but a major drawn out event complete with ambulances, flashing lights, weeping family, and heart broken friends. The object of those fantasies was to convince myself I was that important to all of them; and assuage my battered ego after being blasted to bits by my mum. I would imagine Mother crying; eyes puffed up, hair flying in the wind, scarf wrapped around her waist, totally inconsolable, attempting to throw herself into the ditch, mourning her great loss – ME. Often I would have Di in the background, bawling like a chicken deprived of her entire brood in a sweeping attack by hawks – only a slightly more dignified version of mum.
Lately though, a different twist to this has developed – I find myself pondering what my life will be remembered for. Typically we ‘die after a brief illness’, are ‘ survived by x, y and z’, and will be ‘fondly remembered by a, b, c’ – not exactly exiting the earth in a blaze of glory, but keeping things simple and ticking. In all my typically detailed plans – elaborate exercises in wishful thinking, hopefully scrutinized through the lenses of pragmatism, complete with contingency plans B to D and a fail safe option – I have had grandiose targets. I have found out in the last year though, that life isn’t as defined as I would think it is, and in reality fail safe options only exist in the pristine world of strategy games and to a lesser extent Chem E classes and Process Design software. The precociously talented Carlang says Life’s a gamble and I have the empirical evidence to agree. I am have been forced into rewriting the infamous 5 year plan – and for the first time in nearly 9 years the under-girding assumptions are not 100% in my control.
One thing is clear though – Life doesn’t roll over and offer easy pickings. Life is a no-holds barred, toe to toe contest, and I need to take life by the scruff of the neck; there are some gambles I need to make, major changes that I need to ring and I can already sense the flak flying in my direction, but the key question burning a hole at the back of my mind is the same one Jim Malone (played by Sean Connery) asked of Elliot Ness (played by Kevin Costner) in the film The Untouchables.
What are you prepared to do?
I think I have done a 180 degree turn, when I review the way the past year to a year and a half has gone. From wanting to resign my job and quit Nigeria in the light of the politics surrounding my last job, to deciding an MSc would afford me the time to sort out the issues, then trying to return to my last role and then finally deciding staying away was the correct thing to do, I think Life has pulled me through several undulations.
Somehow though, I think this time I am headed in the right direction.. Hopefully it is, and I don’t get to waste another few years of my life.
Perhaps Nigeria has it ‘too good’. Sudan in the midst of sanctions is building a home grown airplane, Nigeria with 10 years of democracy has a burgeoning insurgency in the Niger-Delta.