Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Well, the Easyjet nightmare continued to the bitter end.

For once we managed to get to the airport before check in opened rather than our usual, several minutes before it closes, or on one notable occasion, after it closed.

We went to the desk where the two Easydrones sat behind patiently, waiting for the moment when check in would open. Two orderly queues formed, this being a UK flight and all. Just minutes before the 7.55 kick off, a supervisor appeared to tell No 2 Easydrone to take a tea break. She packed up and disappeared off, wishing everyone a pleasant flight and leaving just one Easydrone to deal with two queues.

"How's this going to work then' demanded a 'Retired to France' type?

"I'll take one person from each queue" explained Easydrone. Seemed simple enough to me.

Within seconds the 'retired to France' group, all beige slacks and half moon glasses, were in uproar, all claiming to have been at check in days, weeks and years before the people in the other queue, thus justifying their right to be checked in first. I groaned inwardly as one particularly feisty 'Anne Robinson' type, jabbed her finger at people in the other queue and demanded to know when they arrived and how long they had been waiting.

It went a bit like this:

Feisty Anne Robinson Type (FART): Well, what time did you arrive then?

Man with Bike (MWB): Two hours ago

FART: What time exactly?

MWB: 5pm

FART: I thought so! Where were you sitting? We were here at quarter to.

MWB: At the back

FART: I didn't see you, where exactly?

MWB: Over there (sighing)

FART: I think I was here before you, in fact I'm sure I was

MWB: Whatever.....

After a few minutes both MWB and FART where at the head of their respective queues. FART was toed up to the line ready to sprint for the desk if MWB dared to try and get their first. MWB couldn't have cared less.

The desk became free...

MWB: You first

FART: No, you.

For Heaven's Sake, I groaned to the children.

MBW shrugged his shoulders and walked up to the desk while FART visibly bristled that this young upstart should have had the gall to go first, even though she had asked him to.

The good thing with speaking French and having bilingual children is that you can break into French and be really rude about people and they are none the wiser. I hazarded a guess that FART probably said nothing more than 'Bonjour' and 'une baguette' and launched into a fairly good character assasination which was much enjoyed by the children.

Eventually we checked in and made for the departure gate. Gate 31 said our boarding cards. Hmmm, Gate 31 is a domestic gate so that couldn't be right. Eventually, after finding a milling throng of dazed and confused Fleasyjet passengers wandering around gate 31, I discovered that it was, in fact, gate 35. Easy mistake to make! So we all trudged round through passport control, manned as usual by gendarmes who had all got A* in their 'scowling suspiciously at nasty foreigner' test at Gendarme School, we collapsed in the cafe for a drink. As ever, my grand creme was repulsive and undrinkable but I soldiered on to ensure at least the minimum caffeine fix.

Departure was scheduled for 21.55 and by 21.45 the stand was suspciously devoid of anything vaguely representing an aircraft and sure enough, a message was now flashing along the bottom of the screen saying the flight was delayed by 1 hour 20 minutes. This being France, the cafe shut its doors at 22.00 and not so much as a drink of water would be available during our wait.

1 hour and 20 minutes later, no prized for guessing where we were. Still sitting in the departure lounge while the Easydrones perfected the art of the Gallic shrug with the head tipped on one side and a slight eye roll.

This is a gesture I've become very familiar with during the past almost 4 years. It's the standard answer to just about anything from 'when does the boulanger arrive' to 'my dog has been kidnapped by green shiny aliens'. It truly is an all purpose (and very French) gesture that we should all take time to learn. It works in just about any situation and a few you wouldn't even have thought of.

Eventually the flight was called and we realised that Easydrone @ check-in had had the last laugh. He'd given all the early arrivals a B on their boarding cards so they got to board last! FART nearly burst a major blood vessel when she realised and Mr FART, who sported a hearing aid, no doubt as a result of years of listening to FART's moaning, groaning and droning, looked apoplectic.

We boarded the plane, tired and thirsty, to be met by Francesca, positively the most bored air stewardess of all time, who couldn't even raise the faintest of smiles for her poor, delayed passengers and just continued to stare into the middle distance and chew her gum, a pose she maintained for the whole of boarding and most of the safety demonstration.

Now, as a former stewardess myself, I have a certain superstition about discussing plane crashes while flying in one but that didn't stop DD from spending most of the flight regaling me with questions such as 'do planes ever crash into each other in the air?' and 'if the engines stopped now would we crash?'. To me it's a bit like actors not referring to MacBeth by name as it brings bad luck and it left me with a bad feeling through the whole flight.

Eventually we start our descent into Gatwick. We're getting quite low but I haven't heard the landing gear go down. Even all these decades later I still do a mental check of all the things that should be happening as we come into land. Suddenly, about 500 feet off the ground, the nose tilts up sharply and the engines scream as we start climbing really steeply.

Bloody nora! It's the mid-air collision that DD had mentioned! I waited, heart in mouth, for the crunch and rush of air as the nose cone of a 747 smashed through our little Airbus (obviously as I'm typing this you know it didn't happen!). The crew made an announcement that this was normal procedure (my ar*e) and there was no cause for concern.

We went into a holding pattern while I ran through all the possible scenarios in my head. Landing gear stuck.....hydraulic failure..... another aircraft on runway... I never had any fear of flying when I did it as a job because you always knew what was happening. I hate being a passenger and not being in the know.

It brought to mind an incident during my flying days when I flew for a well known Middle Eastern airline. It was during the period when the government was trying to put locals in jobs previously held by the foreigners regardless of their ability to do said job.

We had a number of pilots who had trained at dodgy US flying schools and who, quite frankly, I wouldn't put in charge of a push bike. One particular one (who shall remain nameless for fear of a fatwa) but who was related to the ruling family and therefore 'untouchable' was made chief training pilot as it was considered better to keep him on the ground as much as possible rather than let him loose in the air with the lives of hundreds of passengers.

I knew of air crew who suddenly developed debilitating illnesses when his name was read out on the crew list in the pre-flight briefing.

It was my bad luck to find myself on his crew on a flight to Sudan but fortunately he was only co-pilot which drastically improved my chances of survival.

I was working in First Class so it was my job to tell the captain that the cabin was secured for landing. I went into the flight deck just in time to hear the following conversation.

Captain: Mohammed, do you have a Sudanese driving licence by any chance?

Mohammed: No, why do you ask?

Captain: Because you are lining up to land on the f***ing MOTORWAY!!

So, back to present day, and we held.... and held.... and held. I chatted gaily to the children until I realised that I was the only one on the entire aircraft who was talking. Clearly the crew's calming reassurances hadn't had the desired effect.

Eventually we started to descend.... I waited for the wheels to come down. Down and locked! Hooray, we were all going to live to see another day.

We finally landed 2 hours late where, god bless the CH, he was waiting, as instructed with Cadbury's chocolate and a latte!

I gulped down my latte, shared the chocolate with the offspring and realised that my back was fair covered in suspicious looking bites. Is Easyjet really Fleasyjet? What do you think?

Note: thanks to all who have commented during the last few days. I've had 4 days of duelling with dial up so I've lost the will to live. All comments will be answered shortly. Keep 'em coming!


blogthatmama said...

Yuck! Wouldn't surprise me - Easyjet once let on four of the drunkest men I've ever seen or had the misfortune to sit next to, when the kids were younger. They swore and threw up all the way from Barcelona to Liverpool. Lurch suggested to the cabin crew that they use a cage instead of a seat next time.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi...your Middle Eastern airline comments amuse me very much...having spent at least two years in Egypt! Just travelling in minibuses all round Hurghada (Red Sea) made you feel as if they were preparing to land on a Sudanese motorway!

As for the Gallic roll and shrug...encountered one of these at one hotel we stayed. Daughter had lost her playmobil figure. The waitress knew we had lost and had even picked it up...but now it was missing again! Did she go and ask another member of staff to see where it was (we were on the point of leaving)...no she did not! Why do I find the French completely unfathomable...God knows...I've tried my best over the years...even worked for them....if you've got a mo' read the expat cultural guide on Daily Telegraph online - I think they've finally solved the mystery for me!!!

(Very) Lost in France said...

BTM - I did a summer season as a stewardess for a charter airline. The job from hell! Once I gave a very drunk passenger his meal in a sickbag and said 'There. That'll save you the bother!'. Strangely enough, they didn't ask me back the following summer! VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hadriana - shall have a look at the Daily Telegraph's guide. It might help me understand my neighbours. I used to hate doing the Cairo flights. They were the absolute worst. Did I tell you about the time I got glued to a chair in a restaurant in Cairo? VLiF

Hadriana's Treasures said...

No...but I'd love to hear that story! When I was in France just recently I had complete mental block and the waitress said "Cerises" for one of the desserts...I was convinced she was saying "souris"...I thought she cannot be offering me mice surely? We are "les rosbifs" but come on....!

Sandi McBride said...

Okay, you've just put your finger on why I hate to travel...precisely...I'd have simply gone to the bar and waited for the taxi that would take me home...less you were going home, and then maybe I'd be chunneling it, lol!

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

See? This is why I don't fly anymore. Terror. Plain and simple. Terror that has nothing to do with anybody of a different religion or race or creed or color. More like terror that the stupid giant tin can we're flying in will suddenly decide to have a "bonding moment" with Planet Earth. Uh-uh, sister. Not for me.


The Esk said...

What a fantastic blog VLIF you've had me laughing aloud as I read this!

It is my dream to run a chic up-market B&B, perhaps just outside St Remy de Provence, please tell me it's not that bad!

(Very) Lost in France said...

Kari - I guess the latest Qantas problem did nothing to allay your fears!! VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hello The Esk and thanks for dropping in. Yes, it's that bad!!

Only kidding. Follow your dream I say, whatever it may be. VLiF

VindalooQueen said...

Don't be so patronising. I worked for Easyjet as a stewardess.

Previously (Very) Lost in France said...

Yes VindalooQueen and I worked for BA and Gulf Air so I know a little bit about airlines too you know.