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.

Awesome Tour of Sydney – The Italian GP

Mark Webber Time is something I’ve been really tight on the past few weeks. I’ve been in Romania for a wedding, at a 4 day music festival in Laois, and jetsetted off to Italy for the Grand Prix. The brief for the 5th Sydney challenge was to: “run your very own Sydney-themed event”. I’ve had to bend the rules slightly due to my schedule. Hopefully that’s cool. Instead of running my own Sydney-themed event, I turned the Italian Grand Prix into a celebration of all things Mark Webber. Mark drives for Red Bull and is a native of New South Wales.

You really get no clue on how fast those things move until you see them up close and personal. I travelled over on the Wednesday with Elly and George for a full week. You may remember Elly from her idea to build my ANZ Stadium replica. We made a trip to Italy’s biggest shopping centre and got all the stuff we’d need. Party gear, a few towels, champagne and things like glue, scissors and such that I’d normally have access to. Here’s what we got:

Have you figured out what the towels are for? Correct, they’re the colours of the Australian flag. The blue towel forms the base with white and red towels cut into bits to make the Union Jack, the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross. Glue brought all the bits together nicely. We were in at the track on Thursday for a pit walk and I almost got Mark’s autograph (he just left as we got to him). 🙁

On Friday, we cheered him on through first practice where he placed 9th. Formula 1’s qualifying system has changed in that the hour is split into 3 qualifying phases (click for details). Mark would need to be quick enough through the first two phases to make the third and he was, coming out 11th in the first phase and 6th in the second. Here’s the man himself with my makeshift pit board indicating his time:

It all comes down to the last qualifying phase to decide the positions for the top 10 though and unfortunately Mark didn’t have his quickest of the runs finishing in 10th. 🙁 We retired back to the hotel after the session (via a beautiful meal, loves me Italian food).

Sunday was race day so I donned my Sydney outfit from Week 2. 🙂 The Formula 1 race was due to start at 2pm but we knew it’d be busy with people literally camping out overnight on the seats. Since we had general admission tickets, access to the grandstands was out (they’re ridiculously expensive) so we found a nice spot around by Lesmo 1 corner. We’d made the decision to rent a Kangaroo TV thing, which allows you to watch live race coverage on it, so myself and George went off to get that whilst Elly kept our seats. After an hours walk down to the F1 village, we returned and bidded our time until the driver’s parade and anticipated the race start proper. As I mentioned earlier, Mark was starting 10th on the grid so from a position like that it’s easy to get tangled up with someone in the first lap. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened as his car was involved in a crash at the second chicane before he’d even reached our part of the circuit. It was his first retirement of the season. 🙁

After the race finished we made our way out onto the circuit and up to where he’d crashed out. Two Italian lads spotted the Aussie flag on my back and were big fans of the New South Wales native (even though their first love is Ferrari) so we took this shot:

Here’s myself, Elly and George at Curva del Serraglio just before we left the circuit:
DSCF6857 All in all, a great week away. Hope Mark does a bit better this weekend. We’re coming close to the end of the Awesome Tour of Sydney so watch out for another post on that later today.

Kevin & Oana’s Wedding

Had an amazing weekend in Timişoara at Kevin and Oana’s wedding. We arrived late on the Friday after flying into Budapest and driving the 200 odd miles down to Timişoara. While a few of the lads joined Kev in a local nightclub, the rest of us retired to bed after a few beers at the hotel.

Saturday was spent exploring the city and some of the architecture really is stunning. The Botanic Gardens are in need of a bit of attention though (I doubt Peter would have approved). 36 degree heat means you get tired quite quickly so we headed back to the hotel for a nap before heading to Mario and Anna’s place for a BBQ. The food was delicious and we ended the night playing darts (came first and promptly came last in the next game). We had a nice lie-in on Sunday morning before the wedding at 3. Kev entered to the Rocky theme tune (awesome) and Oana looked absolutely stunning. The ceremony itself was Romanian Orthodox (I think) and was different to anything I’d seen before.

After the ceremony we retired indoors (heat was getting the better of us again) and sat down to enjoy the first of 6 courses spread over hours and hours. That was a major difference. In Ireland you sit, eat the courses and then a band/DJ come on. In Romania, they’re all mixed together. It worked really well actually, even if I was full by the fourth course (seriously good food). We drank and danced the night away after that. They’re a fantastic couple and I wish them all the best for the future. Naroc!
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