(not so)easyJet

March 30, 2010

I have got a wonderful story to tell, but I am in no mood to tell it. Why is my mood so dark? I lost my hat. Yes, the green, communisty one. This is easily my favorite hat. Really, it is the only one I wear with any regularity. I got it in Moscow last year, and, particularly since moving to Belfast, it has become synonymous with me, in much the same way as my brown jacket is to folks at Northwestern. I know it sounds silly, but I can’t help it. I really love that hat. It is either in George Best City Airport or some random cabbie’s car, but how we got to this point is a story all its own.

I don’t really like flying. Let’s just get that out in the open right now. It isn’t that I’m afraid, although I will admit that the idea that the only thing keeping us in the air is physics does unnerve me sometimes. No, it’s that flying is a uniquely unpleasant experience. I’m not covering new ground here, and far more talented people than I have ranted about the ridiculousness of airlines. Amid all the common complaints—long lines, unhelpful corporate regulations, crap in-flight meals—I would like to add another: size. Obviously, I’m not fat. Fat folk and airlines have been in the news recently because some companies have started to charge larger people for extra seats because they take up too much room. (That’s the 4:43 AM, no sleep yet today way to say that. I’m sure there are more tactful ways, but I’m not willing to use them right now.)

I don’t have this problem, but mine is more intractable. I fully accept that some larger folk are unable to lose weight, but conceivably a fat person can lose weight and thus not pay the penalty impose by the airlines. My problem is that I am too tall, and there aren’t many ways to go about correcting that short of stepping on a land-mine or dancing with a lawnmower. “Oh, but Chris,” I hear you say. “You could just upgrade to business class.”
Would that I could, for business class seems like the land God led Israel to when I’m flying. But when you’re staring at repaying student loans as soon as you’re done with school, you don’t overspend. So I’m herded onto the plane and made to sit in a crushingly uncomfortable position for the duration of the flight instead. This is my experience of flying.

Oh that it were happening now.

My flight was scheduled to leave City Airport at 8:30-ish. Being extra careful, I let myself have some room to spare on the front end. I arrived at the airport and checked in at 6:20. The flight was scheduled to be an hour, and from there I would wait in Luton Airport until around One AM, at which point I would take a shuttle bus to Heathrow. There I would wait some more until around noon when my flight left to go to Moscow. It is almost five as I write this and I am still in Northern Ireland.

Why? EasyJet. Apparently they didn’t have a crew who could fly us from Belfast to Luton. Once they realized their error, they canceled the flight. Online. But in City Airport, the only internet connection is one that has to be paid for, thus no one is online. Two hours after they cancelled the flight, they told us. In so doing we missed all the last flights out of the airport for the night. (City Airport’s flyways go over residential areas, and as a result it is not allowed to operate at night.) Instead we waited in line for two hours while they sorted everything out. People who could wait until tomorrow were given hotel accommodations and a rescheduled flight, but for folk like myself the news was altogether darker. You see I couldn’t wait until the next day for my flight, obviously. I have to be in Heathrow. So this was my option: Board a cab and drive to Belfast International Airport, 30 minutes away, and wait until 6:00 when a plane will take off and go to Stansted. From there I have to pray that I’m able to catch another shuttle, get to Heathrow on time, and relax as the rest of the trip, hopefully, goes smoothly.

This is where the hat gets lost. My memory is famously poor. I forget plans I make with people, only to find out from their anger that I have disappointed them. Sometimes I realized that I’ve forgotten something, but can’t remember what I’ve forgotten. It isn’t fun. So, somewhere between calling the cab to take me to Belfast International and getting out of the cab, I lost track of my hat. It could be back in City Airport; but I called them, and it wasn’t in the lost and found. It could be in the cab, but I looked when I got out and didn’t see it. It may have disappeared into a wrinkle in time and my sleep-deprived brain didn’t register it, because, by the way, I have yet to sleep tonight. There’s no place for overnighters to sleep in Belfast International, so I’ve just been awake, hoping that time will go fast.

Meta-Interruption: Obviously, I wrote this in between flights. Well, actually before I started flying for real. I will now pick up the story again, and begin using past-tense to describe events.

Once I landed in Stansted I had to sprint to the bus counter in order to make it to a bus that would get me to Heathrow. And there I found out that since I was changing my ticket from a Luton departure to a Stansted departure, I was going to have to pay 10 pounds. (I am going to make sure easyJet repays me for that.) To top it off? The route that the bus had to take was littered with road construction and accident clean-up, which meant we were absolutely crawling along. A trip that should have taken an hour and a half was doubled, so by the time I got to Heathrow, I again had to run through the airport in order to make it to my plane in time.

Now I’m in Moscow, and I never thought I would feel more comfortable getting around in a country whose language I don’t speak well than getting around in a place like, say, the UK. Some of it might be muscle memory; I remember a lot of the places I’ve been in Moscow from when I was here last. I flew into the same airport; I’m going out of the same train station, even a few of the Metro stops were the same. Still, getting around here has been much more relaxing than running through UK airports and trying to sleep despite Belfast International’s completely nonexistent accommodations for folk having to do that. (Well, I am having to tell cabbies here, “No, you don’t understand; I don’t want to take the taxi. I want to take the metro.” They’re persistent.)

If I return on April 12 and my hat is still missing, EasyJet will have made an implacable enemy. Actually, they already have, if I’m honest. The handling of this matter from start to finish has been amateurish, and if I miss my flight out of London because of this I am going to be furious. When companies make an enemy of me, they rarely see me again; ask Wal-Mart. I would have flown EasyJet one or two more times in my lifetime had this gone smoothly. Instead, they’ll never be getting my patronage again.

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2 Responses to “(not so)easyJet”

  1. Mahlon said

    Spoken like a person true to the spirit. Wonder where you got that from!

  2. Andrew said

    Easyjet in poor customer service shock. I’m really sorry for your trouble Chris…

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