Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Low cost travel can damage your sanity

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the disproportionate difficulties I experienced taking short Jet 2 domestic flights to and from Leeds.

It now strikes me that perhaps Jet 2 is a bastion of professionalism, competence and convenience in comparison to their direct rivals for the Belfast to Leeds market, FlyBE.

On Friday afternoon I elected to check-in online for that evening’s 6.50pm flight to Leeds – Bradford. I made my way to the airport directly from work, and my first delay came at Holywood railway halt where I had to wait 15 extra minutes for the NIR service originating not 10 minutes away in Bangor. Having eventually arrived at the Sydenham halt I was subjected to a further 25 minutes in the cold, waiting for a supposedly “instant” courtesy bus alleged to link train passengers with the George Best City Airport terminal.

Imagine my delight when I eventually arrived, and immediately discovered that the Leeds flight had been delayed to 8pm. Taking an uncharacteristically sanguine approach, I passed through security, ready to have a number of pints to kill the unexpected (when will I learn?) hold-up.

Suffice to say 6 pints and several hours later an announcement was given that the plane was “extremely unlikely” to fly due to adverse weather conditions in Leeds and suggesting that passengers make alternative arrangements. Those who were already in Leeds were slightly bemused by this when I made the relevant calls, given that the weather was according to them a fairly mild and standard mizzle. I’d also stress that Manchester seemed not to be suffering these inclement conditions as 25 miles across the Penines two flights were destined to touch down and left Belfast during my interminable wait.

Having left the airport and returned home I secured more alcohol and before long had added a bottle of wine (minus one glass for Kerry) and several beers to my consumption. There then followed a brief debate over the vexed issue of my drunkenness (or lack of). My contention that I was perfectly sober, was countered by the allegation that I could no longer speak properly and that I was walking in an unsteady fashion (in her subjective judgment).

This debate was inconclusively adjourned and there followed a brief discussion as to whether I could bring a bottle of beer to bed. I was quite adamant that I should be accompanied by the beverage, Kerry was equally adamant that there was no purpose in bringing it. Finally the decree was made that I could either sit and drink the beer or I could come to bed, but the two disparate interests could not meet.

Bed must have won out because I awoke the next morning with no bottle by my side.

I subsequently rang FlyBE who informed me that they wouldn’t be rescheduling my flight that day, nor would they furnish me with a refund, because the plane had eventually left within a statutory limit of 5 hours, at 11pm that night. Presumably if this was the truth the plane had departed completely empty of passengers.

Many happy returns by the way to Roger, whose birthday celebrations I should have been participating in on Saturday.

Those of you wishing a denouement - I have learnt nothing and have booked Easyjet flights to Rome only yesterday.

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