Holiday time, and off to Ibiza. I decided that I was fed up of the summer which we were being inflicted with in Northern Europe. Cold, wet and simply unpleasant. I managed to talk The Pretty One into agreeing to my bringing the bike. A new bike box was purchased and an evening wasted trying to pack the bike.
The flights were booked on a budget airline. When traveling with a bike I always try to do the most direct routing. Jet2 was the airline selected. It all got off to a bad start with checking in the bike. Apparently there was a 20kg weight limit for sports equipment. Given that to book the bike onto the flight you have to phone their sales line (on a premium rate number – thieving tactics being fully deployed) you would have thought they would mention this. The box weighed in at 30kg, and they promptly requested 120gbp per flight for the box. Given that the charge for the box already paid was 70 for the round trip, my opinion of most budget airlines hasn’t changed. They are out to scam you at the first given opportunity. We should have read the small print though. After negotiations with the supervisor, the charge was reduced to 40gbp. I paid. It will be point one of many on my letter to Jet2.
We boarded the flight. A 737-800. It is a while since I have flown a 737. They are normally the domain of airlines I don’t fly. European airlines usually fly Air Bus short haul. Yes, Lufthansa and BA have some ancient 737s on their fleets, but they aren’t deployed in my routes.
So Jet2 was a new airline for me. I must admit the cabin was fairly pleasant. Alternating red and grey leather seats. Not the super economy feel of Ryan Air. Leg room was good too.
So the flight began, and it was lumpy. Not massive, cabin shaking turbulence but enough to make it uncomfortable. The seat belt lights remained on About 30 minutes in, there was a call put out for the ‘senior cabin crew to come to the flight deck’. It struck me as unusual. Almost immediately there was another announcement.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen this is the captain speaking. Unfortunately there is a technical problem with aircraft. We will be returning to Manchester, where we will make a precautionary landing. Please remove all loose items from the cabin and ensure your hand luggage is returned to the overhead bins, or is pushed right forward under the seat in front of you. Please ensure your seatbelt is tightly fastened and follow the instructions of the cabin crew precisely’.
His voice was tense.
For me, precautionary landing means emergency landing. The cabin crew came to the overwing windows and checked the engines for fires.
The cabin however remained jovial. I suppose that is the way we cope. Of course there were the typical idiots mouthing off. Suggesting this was more likely with Jet2 than with another airline. That, I don’t believe. Some were abusive, and subsequently not allowed to take the replacement flight. Good.
The landing was hard. It would be. We were overweight. Aircraft are not designed to land with a full load of fuel. It puts a lot of stress on the airframe, and also requires the entire length of the runway.
It was very hard though. Positive. And there were fire engines there waiting, racing us down the runway. My friend in air traffic control tells me that this is standard procedure for an emergency landing. The plane came to a halt slowly, then was taken to a stand away from all over aircraft. It was circled by fire crews.
Eventually we were let off. I had called the ATC friend, who had informed me that the aircraft had suffered dual autopilot failure.
Jet2 were pretty good. A new flight on a repaired aircraft was arranged to take off at 19:30 (from an original 14:30 departure) however due to removing people from the flight, and then not being able to find their luggage, the crews hours were exceeded. The cabin crew were also up against it. The water runs never reached the middle of the plane (front and back were watered) and the free soft drinks also never got to us. We were fortunate that we had brought our own food and used the Jet2 food vouches to purchase food and drink we could consume during in the wait. We eventually took off at 21:45 or 22:00. Even once in the air, Jet2 were still expecting everyone to pay for any food. This was disgraceful. £5 worth of food was supposed to sustain you for an additional 6 – 7 hours.
The flight was then uneventful. However the rental car office was closed, so there were out of pocket expenses.
As for Jet2 – well, shit happens. For the most part, it was only the inability of the cabin crew to stand up to more boisterous passengers which let them down. The insistence on sticking to the rules meant the service recovery was lacking (no free food or drinks beyond the legal requirement). I will see how much they respect the rules when I invoke the EU law on delays and compensation.