How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The good thing about social media is that you don't have to suffer in silence. I spent an evening of irritation at Gatwick Airport yesterday and its the kind of annoyance that just keeps on giving (quite apart from the fact that my plans for the festive period were royally stuffed). Still, at least I got a blog entry out of it.

It started out OK - we got through security in record time, having been diverted via the spare suite on the upper level. It was when the gate for our flight to Edinburgh was due to open that the trouble started. At around 6.30pm, the information available for flight EZY713 went from Gate opens at 18:25 to Please wait. At this stage I wasn't that bothered - I was assuming that this was just the prelude to Boarding at Gate 6. After all, I reasoned, surely at around half an hour before take off they'd know (and pass on the information) if it was going to be delayed or even cancelled.

Please wait

Take off time came and went. At this point I was starting to get worried. By any reasonable definition of the word the flight was now delayed. Couldn't they let us know? Even if they weren't sure, they must have been capable of plucking a rough figure out of the air. A simple "delayed until at least 20:00" would have been more helpful and informative that what we did get.

Please wait.

The flight began to move up the screen into the company of other shamefaced flights embarrassed by how late they were. Most of the flight codes seemed to bear the EZY prefix; for some reason flights with other prefixes seemed to be making it into Gate closing mode and then disappearing from the board all together. Surely if this was due to Act of Snow it should affect all airlines equally?

Please wait.

And then one of the other Please wait EZY flights which had been due to depart at around 5pm surreptitiously switched to Cancelled as if it was hoping that no-one would notice. There were no announcements. What were people supposed to do, how would they get out of the departure lounge? There were no Easyjet staff on hand.

Please wait.

Eventually there was a general announcement. Apparently if your flight was cancelled you should go home and arrange a reschedule or refund online as there were insufficient facilities at the airport. Fair enough, but the question remained... how were we supposed to get back out again? I hoped that it wouldn't come to that and that sooner or later our gate would be announced.

Please wait.

A passenger by the name of what sounded like Jennifer Angst was paged over the tannoy. I went to the toilet in the vain hope that in the absence of my attention my flight's details on the departures board would change. It didn't work of course. I sat back down again. Further announcements over the tannoy gave details of how passengers on delayed and cancelled flights on other airlines could obtain meal vouchers.


I blinked. Somehow the details for our flight had changed whilst somehow managing to give the impression that they'd read Cancelled all along. It was now around 9.00pm, two hours after we were due to depart. No announcements were forthcoming or Easyjet staff available. I attempted to go backwards through security but they weren't having any of it. I had to ask at the information desk at the centre of the concourse.


The man at the information desk said there should be an announcement and that a representative of our airline would be along shortly to escort us back through immigration. Ridiculous. For a start we hadn't been anywhere yet and furthermore this was a domestic flight. When pressed, the man at the desk said that if we wanted to risk jumping the queue we should go to gate eleven where people were gathering.

At gate eleven a doorway into a dingy, poorly-decorated holding pen was being held open by a bad tempered security guard who kept telling people that this wasn't his job. Eventually we started moving - I'm still not sure whether there was anyone from the airline there or simply that everyone was acting on herd initiative. We found our way into arrivals.

This is the point at which insult was added to injury. We had to wait in a queue for our passports to be checked. It was as slow as ever if not slower; no allowance being made for the fact that we'd already been severely messed about and as I said before hadn't even been anywhere.

Eventually we were allowed out through customs and into arrivals past the hordes of people holding up cards; at this stage it wouldn't have surprised me if they'd read "Ha ha!"

So, an entire evening wasted and, more importantly, holiday plans completely scuppered. I didn't hold out any hope for rescheduling and even if we'd been promised a place on a flight the following day, who's to say the experience wouldn't have been repeated? I'm no Yulophile, for me it's just nice to have some time off work and see the family, but I know how much it means to some people. It's no wonder, as was reported in the Guardian, one woman in a Santa hat started screaming.

One thing I can't understand is why they can't let people know flights are cancelled sooner? If it's inevitable I'm sure Easyjet would generate a lot less bad will if they cut their losses and cancelled as soon as possible rather than hanging on and hanging on in the vain hope that somehow they might be able to put the flight on. If nothing else it would give people a little more time to make alternative arrangements or at least get home at a reasonable hour.

And why did the delays seem to be affecting mostly Easyjet flights?

The ordeal wasn't over. The following day they added insolence to the insult and injury as I attempted to get a refund online (as suggested in about the only useful tannoy announcement I'd heard). It was uphill work. I logged in, browsed to My Easyjet and as suggested clicked on the link for customer services. I was told:

Permission denied - this answer is no longer available.

It didn't even make sense. What answer? I just wanted to speak to Customer Services. Apparently this wasn't allowed. One thing the website made abundantly clear was that on no account was I to phone or email them.

Eventually I found my way into the refund procedure. Once I'd given my details for some reason the site said I had to create a new account - despite the fact that I was already logged in. When I attempted to do so I was told my email address was already associated with an account. Well, duh! That's me! Why can't I use my account? Luckily my surfeit of email addresses meant I was able to create an extra one simply for the purposes of the refund (despite the fact that the flights for which I was claiming the refund were booked with my original account).

I don't hold out much hope for getting my money back any time soon. At one point I considered going straight to the top, but a glance at Stelios's Twitter account shows not much action there.

Next year I think we should all boycott Easyjet and fly by Rage Against The Machineair.


Popular posts from this blog

Talking shit

The Invisible Sign

The Most Effectual Top Cat