The next morning over another excellent breakfast on the terrace a rumour started percolating through that an incoming Easyjet flight had been cancelled so obviously wouldn’t be going back to the UK either. Doris thought it might be the Gatwick flight but she wasn’t entirely certain so we started to think about what we might do if it was our flight to Stansted.
We left the hotel and abandoned a planned short detour for a panoramic view of Dubrovnik and went directly to the airport in case there was going to be any trouble. After returning the car and signing the rental papers we walked to airport departures and sure enough there was a problem and passengers were wandering about trying to make alternative plans. Thankfully the flight information screen confirmed it was the Gatwick flight but as you can never be absolutely sure about the reliability of Easyjet I refused to stop worrying completely.
Easyjet are one of the worst airlines for last minute cancellations and changes to the flight itineraries and we have been the victims of this before. In September 2006 a four hour delay from Athens because somewhere in the day the plane had to squeeze in an extra flight, in 2007 again from Athens an unexplained two hour delay and in 2010 a three hour delay from Bilbao again because of last minute rescheduling.
Easyjet seem to think that this is acceptable and that passengers can be treated like cattle (but actually cattle probably get more consideration than Easyjet passengers!). Although everyone likes to hate Ryanair I have never experienced major flight delays or arrogance and contempt at which Easyjet excel and would always use them when I can in preference to Easyjet simply because I have more confidence in them to get me where I am going more or less on time.
Anyway, the reason for this morning’s last minute cancellation was apparently because the pilot had phoned in sick. Now I don’t know how many Easyjet flights there are every day or how many pilots they must have on the books but that excuse seems a bit lame to me because surely someone must have been on standby or there was a spare floating around the system somewhere. When a refuse truck driver doesn’t turn up for work the council doesn’t cancel the day’s collections they find someone to take his place so that service isn’t interrupted. Surely Easyjet can do the same, I know they operate on narrow margins but flight disruption because a pilot has got a bit of a headache is ridiculous.
Naturally there was a lot of confusion and long queues as the Gatwick passengers tried to get information and make alternative arrangements. To be fair to Easyjet they promised a replacement flight the following evening, all expense paid overnight accommodation and an extra day in Croatia and if I had been on the flight I would have taken that offer and had another day in the sun but this didn’t seem to suit many of the grounded passengers and most were queuing to arrange transfers.
The lucky ones who were there first had managed to get a seat on our Stansted flight but the next batch were transferred to Liverpool. Now, I’m not convinced that a lot of these people from Surrey really knew where Liverpool is because after a four hour wait at Dubrovnik Airport they were going to land two hundred and fifty miles away from their preferred destination, they wouldn’t be able to understand the language and then they would have a tortuous journey to Gatwick.
By road Liverpool to Gatwick would be a nightmare down the M6, the M42, the M40 and finally the M25 and that is probably the last thing anybody would really want after a relaxing break in the sun. Alternatively they could go by train but this takes at least three and a half hours and the cheapest single ticket is over £70 each.
The decision to transfer to Liverpool just didn’t make sense to me, some explained that they had to get back to work the next day but they couldn’t have been thinking straight. Even if they managed to get back in time to go to work they were going to feel awful and would probably have to phone in sick anyway.
Luckily our flight wasn’t affected but as usual it was over half an hour late taking off and all of this simply confirmed for me that I really do prefer Ryanair.
Also worth a mention: