A lesson in frustration with Aer Lingus

Photo by Martin O'Connell under Creative Commons License: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martinoc/535049143/

As I’ve mentioned previously, I bought a share in a Man Utd season ticket this year. That gets me three pairs of tickets for Premier League home games throughout the season. The first of which was last weekend with the game against Blackburn. I’d booked the flights with Aer Lingus back in August with a preference over Ryanair because I believed I’d get better service. Man was I wrong. Now I have to state that I’ve flown with Aer Lingus before without incident and I had a high opinion of them.

So, last Saturday rolls around and myself and Dar arrive in the airport at 8. The trip had been slower due to the snowy conditions and I knew the runway had been closed briefly so expected a delay. We consult the Departures board which shows “09:25 AER LINGUS 204 – CANCELLED”. Nightmare. It was amongst a handful of flights cancelled and we queued up to find out why from the Aer Lingus desk. After about 15 minutes, a staff member was checking the queue for people travelling to Manchester and explained that the 06.30am flight hadn’t left and to head to the check-in desk. We did just that and got through security quickly and headed for the delayed earlier flight. It’s about 09.20am at this point and things are about to go awry.

We arrived down to the gate where a lot of people hanging around. This was to be expected as most of the airlines were running behind time due to the earlier runway closure. The snowploughs were out in force though and aircraft were beginning to move with a few Ryanair flights going out. There was no sign of the Aer Lingus plane we’d be boarding though and there were no announcements. A guy we’d met earlier in the queue for the other flight was querying what was happening with the gate agent so I had a quick word with him. There was no immediate estimate on when we’d be leaving. Bear in mind that this is now about 11.00am and the original flight was due to leave at 06.30am.

I’d spotted a couple of Aer Lingus planes out on the apron that were parked up since we’d arrived at the gate. Why couldn’t they use one of those planes for the Manchester flight? In the meantime, approx 11.15am, a seperate Aer Lingus plane arrived in and parked close to the gate we were waiting at. We got talking to a guy and his son who had been at the airport since 5am. They were hoping we’d be able to take that plane. He went off to check the departures board which said “Delayed 11:45am” and instructed us to stay at the same gate. A couple of minutes later, the screen changed to display an Aer Lingus flight to Heathrow as the next flight leaving. That flight was running approx an hour late but, as you can understand, it riled a lot of people that Aer Lingus would be running a flight ahead of one delayed for almost 5 hours.

Shortly thereafter, we were directed towards another gate at the other end of the terminal. Upon getting there, we saw no Aer Lingus plane and staff who were ill-equipped to start answering questions from a couple of hundred angry people. A *lot* of people who are travelling to Manchester on a home match Saturday morning are going to Old Trafford and such was the case with the majority of people on our planned flight. The guy who was talking to the gate agent earlier was leading the effort to get answers whilst trying to stay calm. He relayed what the gate agent was saying to the crowd, by shouting, as the staff would not use the tannoy system. We were to be loaded onto a bus to take us to the aircraft, the aircraft would then be de-iced and we’d take off asap after that. The time at this point would be 12.30pm approx. They couldn’t offer any guarantee on what time we’d take off. At this point the airport police turned up, followed shortly by a few Gardai. As Ryanair announced the boarding of a Manchester bound flight, the crowd mock cheered. We were then told that Aer Lingus would be offering a full refund for those who wished to avail of it. Whilst that probably seemed like an acceptable alternate, people would be losing out on match tickets which were already paid for. I’d like to point out that a few kids were in floods of tears at this point at the prospect of missing the game.

We eventually boarded a bus to take us to a plane that had been sitting there since 8.30am. A certain amount of people had decided not to travel so a new manifest was required. The plane was then de-iced and we took off at 2.00pm for the short flight over. We eventually made it to the game at 3.25pm at Old Trafford but had missed the first three goals. My problem throughout the whole morning was that we were not told what was happening. Where was the original plane that was scheduled for the 6.30am flight? Whilst the gate staff insisted it wasn’t their fault, whose fault was it? The pilot stated he was scheduled for the 6.30 flight so it wasn’t affected by the threatened pilot’s strike.

It was a lesson in frustration and one which I’ll be very reluctant to risk again with Aer Lingus.

9 Comments

  1. Damo   •  

    Meh. With weather like that, you’re lucky you got there at all. Some people will moan about anything.

    To be honest, I’ve got zero sympathy for any Irish football fan who deserts the country on a regular basis to glory hunt at the likes of Old Trafford, Elland Road, the Emirates and Parkhead anyway (especially the latter, as it just adds further fuel to the sectarian behaviour from the cretinous element on both sides of the Old Firm divide), rather than giving their much-needed support to the local game. The sooner RTÉ scrap their Premiership coverage and concentrate more on giving the same level of exposure to local sport, the better.

  2. Dave2   •  

    This is a massive problem that’s universal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a flight at a specific time, but the hour comes and goes with absolutely no announcement and no explanation. Even if the gate agent doesn’t know anything, they could at least make an announcement to that effect so people don’t feel forgotten. Delays during poor weather are understandable… poor communication with anxious customers is not.

  3. anthony   •     Author

    @Dave2: You take more flights than anyone I know Dave so I was sure you’d have had a similar experience. Poor communication is the root of the problem and something they really need to improve on universally.

  4. peter donegan   •  

    essentially anthony if I did that as a business – I wouldnt get paid… you on th eother hand have paid in advance and must ‘put up with’ the…. lack of communication, poor service… call it what you may – but essentially frustration with a company.

  5. John Simon   •  

    I have to say that Aer Lingus are the masters of keeping customers in the dark. ‘Go to gate’ on the screen means nothing! I had that yesterday at 6.45am only to find the Aircraft flying us was closed up and dark and no intention ever of departing for a further 5 hours! Staff shrugged (not at the gate I was instructed to go to, of course there were no staff there!) and looked into the middle distance when telling me it was not their problem or fault. They (Aer Lingus are an operational mess and unfortunately have little or no regard for paying customers care when it comes to communicating the status of operational delays with customers. Pity…Wish there was a real alternative with another Airline with ‘care’ at the heart of their business model.

  6. anthony   •     Author

    @peter: Very true.

    @John: That sounds reminiscent of my experience that day alright. Communication is at the core of their problems and until they sort that, a lot more customers will experience what we did.

  7. Ian, SW14   •  

    I have just changed a name on a group booking with Aer Lingus. They have just charged me £80.00. This is ludicrous and when challenged they said ‘ but Ryan Air would have charged you more’.
    How can anyone work for an organisation that judges itself in this way. How can any government own a stake in a company that works this way.
    Never again!

  8. anthony   •     Author

    All airlines seem to charge a crazy amount of money for name changes Ian. Don’t know how they get away with it.

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