Let this be a lesson to all of you - never try and connect between two low cost airline flights. I thought that by having almost 4 hours at Luton I’d have too much time and be bored. I was wrong!
My itinetary was to fly with easyJet to Luton from Amsterdam on EZY224 at 0910, arriving in LTN at 0915. Then I was going to head home to Ireland on Ryanair flight FR335 to Dublin at 1300. If you’re wondering why I didn’t bother just going directly from AMS-DUB it’s because I was travelling with my gf who lives in England.
All was going well. We arrived at Schiphol at 0745 and checked in without waiting in any queues which was nice. Schiphol is an amazing airport and really puts shambolic airports like Dublin to shame. For such a major airport it’s hassle-free, airy and a shopper’s paradise. Thankfully we didn’t bother with the shops! Instead we had a quick breakfast and proceeded to the gate where a considerable number of people were already waiting to board. The aircraft (Boeing 737-300, G-EZYI) had arrived on time and at 0845 or so, boarding commenced. Unlike Ryanair, easyJet try and bring some order to the boarding process by issuing passengers with a number at the check-in. Then when it comes to boarding the aircraft passengers with numbers 1-30 board first, followed shortly by 31-60, etc. It seems to work pretty well but there are always people who manage to board successfully even if they’re number hasn’t ben called up yet. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of the system. Our boarding numbers were somewhere in the forties.
Once on board we tried to get the emergency exit seats in the middle of the aircraft as these have brilliant legroom, especially for tall folks like myself. It’s kind of ironic that that particular row of seats is row 13! In the end we had to settle for seats 18E and F but for a low cost airline the legroom was good. Again much better than Ryanair. Out of the window I watched countless KLM aircraft come and go along with Northwest DC-10s and 747s, a BA A320, British Regional ERJ, Malaysian 777, Transavia 757 and several other easyJet 737s. It was a fine morning in AMS with a clear sky and low temperature (0c) and little wind. The aircraft seemed to be ready to go but we were then informed that two passengers who had checked in had not turned up. So after waiting several minutes it was decided that their bags should be located and removed. It took the baggage handlers quite a while to find them but they were then taken off the aircraft and brought back to the terminal.
We pushed back at 0915 or so and followed another easyJet 737 to the hold. Our departure was to be from the southwesterly runway and by 0935 we were airborne. We overflew the cargo apron which contained two El Al 747 freighters along with the Emirates Cargo 747 and a Singapore Airlines Cargo 747. There was also a Qantas 747 in the midst of them. The aircraft then headed direct to Clacton on the English east coast, overflying the flat Dutch fields before reaching the Dutch coastline and then crossing the North Sea to Clacton. Once the Netherlands disappeared from sight it wasn’t long until the clouds appeared and from then on the view was totally obscured. The inflight service was the usual no frills affair - drinks trolley, etc. I have to say though that I was very impressed with easyJet. Maybe I’ve just been flying with Ryanair too much for my own good recently
At 0900 local time we reached the Luton area but the captain announced on the intercom that the visibility at LTN was down to 150 metres in fog. To perform an autoland 200 metres visibility was required as a minimum. So the decision was made to circle to see how the weather developed. Extra fuel had been loaded at AMS in anticipation of the foggy conditions. We were updated on a couple of occasions with the latest information. It was very tedious just slowly banking continously while not being able to see anything below. At 1015 we were informed that the weather conditions at LTN had worsened as visibility was now 100 metres and because the fuel reserves were getting low there was no option but to divert. Stansted was our chosen alternative and was not suffering from the foggy conditions so we headed there. At 1035 we landed on Runway 23 and taxied to an empty cargo apron where another easyJet 737-300 was sitting having been diverted also. The passengers assumed that we would then be promptly allowed to disembark, go to the terminal, reclaim our bags and leave STN. This was not to be the case. As easyJet don’t serve STN they have no personnel there and so it was up to operations control at LTN to come up with a contigency plan and negotiate with Servisair, etc. at STN with regard to handling these diverted flights. Stansted was now well and truly a low fare airline airport. I watched an abundance of Ryanair, Buzz and Go movements and in the process we were joined by yet another easyJet aircraft on the cargo ramp. All the UK’s low cost airlines were now present at the one airport.
Time ticked by and I gave up hope of making my Ryanair flight to Dublin. The chances were it would be diverted anyway from LTN. The passengers stayed remarkably calm throughout which was refreshing and the crew were very helpful. The flight crew were aplogetic and pleaded for the passengers not to take out any anger on the cabin crew because it was nobody’s fault for what had happened. This was true but I still felt a bit bitter towards whoever decided to put Luton airport up on a hill We were offered free drinks and a free snack which is something that Ryanair would never do! So I continued to stare out my window while sipping away on a can of Pepsi (which normally costs £1 on easyJet!) and eating a little tub of Pringles. Not very filling but a lot better than nothing.
At about 1200 the captain announced that easyJet ops had reached an agreement with Servisair on handling the aircraft. Prior to this the aircraft had been refuelled in case LTN were to reopen in the near future. However it was decided that it was best to process the passengers through STN and bus them back to LTN. At 1230 we were finally able to disembark and board two buses to bring us back to the terminal. By now there were 5 easyJet aircraft sitting on the apron in a line. It looked very impressive but was surely costing easyJet dearly. Once we reached the terminal we had to clamber up a number of sets of stairs and through various corridors before reaching passport control. This was painless enough but we then entered the chaos of the baggage hall. Bags are slow at the best of times at STN but something told me today was going to be more than usual. Because we were a diverted flight we got less prority than the normal STN flights which is only fair. However the announcements made in the hall were too confusing. When it was announced that all diverted easyJet passengers wishing to travel back to Luton should proceed to the bus station outside the terminal it caused even more chaos. People just headed straight for the bus station with no bags because they assumed by the announcment that their bags would be loaded directly on to the coaches to Luton. I just stayed in the hall to see what would happen and sure enough a few minutes later a further announcement was made that passengers should collect their bags in the bagage area before heading for the coaches. Where or when the bags would appear we did not know.
Eventually after 45 minutes of waiting we were sent to belt number 4 to collect our bags. Once this was done it was time to find the Luton coaches. We had been informed over the PA system on a number of occasions that they would be waiting at bays 28 and 29 but it turned out to be 36 and 37. No announcement was made of this change. Yet more confusion for the already disillusioned passengers. Our coach departed at 1345 and arrived at Luton at 1500. The woman in front of me was snobby and foreign and really annoyed me. The whole journey to Luton her mobile kept ringing and whoever was on the other end of the line each time got to hear all about her “nightmare” journey and how she had a flight at 1200 the following day to catch to Atlanta. I had a flight at 1300 to catch and not the following day! She also insisted she was going to write to various newspapers about her journey and whinged endlessly about the organisation of it all. I’d like to see her organise the handling of 7 or 8 diverted flights within a short space of each other. People like her really annoy me. When we reached LTN the first thing she was going to do was go to easyJet HQ and complain. I’m sure it got her far.....
Luton airport was chaos but the fog had lifted considerably. Queues for the easyJet check-ins stretched all the way to the entrances. I went straight to the Ryanair reservations desk but there was nobody there after waiting 15 minutes. I proceeded to the check-in desks and informed them of my predicament. In true Ryanair/Servisair fashion they didn’t really care and as the last flight of the day (at 1610) was full if I wanted to go home I’d have to sleep overnight and wait until the following day. There’s no point arguing or complaining to Ryanair as it states in their terms and conditions that they are not responsible for passengers missing connecting flights as they are a point-to-point airline. By now I was very tired and just wanted to go to bed. I’m fortunate enough to have student accomodation only about 20 miles from LTN so I went there for the night and booked a flight from LTN-DUB for Monday 7th January. That flight went without a hitch and would require another trip report but I think we’ve all had enough for now!