A Comedy of Errors


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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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..

Stuff I will not miss about NCT..

  • Broken lifts – gave me free exercise but thirteen flights of steps went a wee bit too far…
  • Empty bottles, spilled liquids and much more in the lifts when they actually worked….
  • Extra rowdy football crowds – if only they actually won something…..
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses proselytizing – oh and they offered to come back…
  • Mr Landlord – who smoked in the house, once decided to remodel the bath on a Monday morning and was generally a pain in the nether regions….
  • Attempted murder just across the road and in broad daylight too…
  • A notorious park within the neighborhood…
  • Hate messages scrawled on freshly painted walls, and scratched on lift doors….
  • Raised eyebrows when I give my post code at the GP…
  • Regular police fliers in the mail requesting information on crimes committed in the neighborhood……

Ten months after making the move up north – and opting to go the cheap route to stay in the vicinity of a council flat – I’m finally moving houses…  Its good to be moving on…. If I can only get the heating and the internet  to work.. ..

The Life of a Lost Son…

Edit: This is me venting… Nothing personal.. Just vexed by the way certain things have panned out..
I fear that soon all I will have as memories of my Africa will be the melancholic bits interspersed with a few shards here and there of a nostalgic past – growing up, friends, family, schools, holidays and times spent in wanton play – occasional successes mired in a morass of resounding failure. I wrote in my journal when I turned 21, that I felt my future was inextricably linked to Africa and that whatever I did, I would always have her at the back of my mind. Nine years on, I fear I may have made a volte face; one not altogether of my own volition.

The harsh reality is that the Africa I grew up eulogizing; enshrined in the words of Diop’s Africa my Africa, Clarke’s Call of The River Nun, and in the exquisite prose of Achebe and co; lauded in the legends of great empires now extinct and brought to life by the tales with which my grandmother nursed me to sleep; has taken on a whole new life – entombed in the murky waters of bare faced deception, brazen theft, gross inequality, sycophancy and all such things – a myriad of false dawns and a future far removed from the brilliant ideals the likes of Tom Mboya, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkruma and others of their ilk tried to espouse.

Today, I officially joined the ever swelling ranks of ‘Africans in the Diaspora’; and true to type I will be an arm chair politician; spewing meaningless rhetoric from the safety of an uncensored IP address, hiding behind the nameless, faceless facade that is a blog and its associated moniker. I will sign all the on-line petitions, use the right hash-tags and send the occasional token to the charity back home. I will order home made music by the ‘ghana must go’ whenever someone travels back to Africa, to assuage my conscience that I am indeed African at heart and remind the kids, conveniently given non-African monikers, that they are truly African at heart. I shall ensure we visit at least once a year, as long as it doesn’t jeopardise my chances of getting a second passport. And then when I am old and grey, when senility slithers in and death brazenly appears to demand its recompense, I will conveniently be buried back in Africa, the land of my fathers. Ah, the life of a lost son.

Sudden Clarity

Damn – I KNOW what the problem with my life is – discipline to do what I need to do, when I need to. My time management issues all flow from and into the discipline thing! I have very clear plans on direction, and goals – I NEED to start planning my day and acting on it ASAP, leaving procrastination behind.