SARAH VINE: Why for the first time I wished I was flying Ryanair!
A group of travel agents, along with the consumer rights group Which!, have called on Rishi Sunak to crack down on airlines that fail to help passengers sufficiently when planes are delayed or cancelled.
They want the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to get more powers to issue fines, after a summer of long delays and disruptions, and at a time when customer satisfaction is at an all-time low.
I’ll say. I don’t think I can recall when I last got on a flight that took off or landed on time. And the lack of customer service from airlines is shocking.
Of course, one doesn’t expect much from the likes of Ryanair. But if you think corporate incompetence is limited to the budget airlines, think again.
Call me naive, but when I book with British Airways, I expect a certain level of service. I’m happy to pay a premium for flying to and from a more convenient airport, and not at silly o’clock. But after last week’s debacle, I doubt very much whether I’ll fly BA again.
Call me naive, but when I book with British Airways, I expect a certain level of service. I’m happy to pay a premium for flying to and from a more convenient airport, and not at silly o’clock (file photo)
It all started on Friday, when I opened the BA app to check my flight home from Marseille that evening. It was showing a delay. I mentioned this to my friend, and she rolled her eyes. ‘Watch out,’ she said, ‘they might just cancel it.’
Check-in was fine – then I sat down to wait. And wait. And wait. The flight time (9.50pm) came and went. They announced a gate-change. Everyone picked up their belongings and moved.
Finally, the inbound plane from London arrived. But then came the announcement: ‘Attention all passengers. . .Vol annulé [flight cancelled].’
An apologetic young captain came on the Tannoy and explained that the runway at Heathrow was closing at 11.30pm for ‘resurfacing’, and due to the aircraft’s late arrival he couldn’t get us back in time.
He then assured us all that accommodation and transport would be laid on. But as the minutes ticked by, it became apparent that nothing was being laid on.
The French ground staff took over – and they weren’t so nice.
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After confiscating everyone’s duty free and locking it in a cage (a bit dramatic, even by French standards), they proceeded to funnel us back through passport control and into the luggage hall to collect our cases.
From there it was out into the sweltering Marseille night with nothing more than a photocopied compensation form from BA. Marseille airport in August is not the most salubrious place in the world, especially late at night. One poor woman with a tiny baby was close to tears. An elderly couple looked lost and bewildered.
Even the business-class alpha, who had been striding around the terminal furiously barking orders into his phone, seemed at a loss.
The ground staff made it clear that remaining in the terminal was not an option, so after much frantic internet searching I managed to find a room at the Hilton Garden Inn.
There were no cabs, so I walked the kilometre or so there.
My room turned out to be in a part of the hotel under refurbishment. Put it this way: it made the Overlook Hotel in The Shining seem positively cosy.
The next morning, several hundred euros lighter, I checked my emails. Nothing from BA, and both the website and app seemed to think that my flight to Heathrow had left on time.
Eventually, I discovered the flight home would be at 2.30pm – almost 17 hours after the original departure time. At every turn, BA displayed the utmost disregard for passengers’ safety and well-being.
So yes, I rather agree: the CAA does need greater powers to get these airlines in check. Starting with British Airways.
As for my friend, guess what? Her Ryanair flight left bang on time.
Oh, do stop mithering on
Rebekah Vardy trademarked the term ‘Wagatha Christie’ earlier this year and Rooney has leveraged it to get herself on to the digital cover of Vogue
Disney+ are teasing ‘hotly anticipated’ stills from their upcoming ‘Wagatha Christie’ documentary about the courtroom spat between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy.
Hotly anticipated? Are they serious? I can’t imagine anything duller than listening to any woman with too much money mithering on about her supposed misfortune. Indeed, this whole saga has been nothing more than a protracted exercise in attention-seeking, as evidenced by the fact Vardy actually trademarked the term ‘Wagatha Christie’ earlier this year and Rooney has leveraged it to get herself on to the digital cover of Vogue. Enough already.
A couple from Hull have removed their four-year-old daughter from pre-school after they objected to a book called Grandad’s Pride, which features illustrations of men in bondage kissing.
I don’t blame them. But what really saddens me about this, and so many other similar cases, is that this kind of thing is so reductive and demeaning towards the very people it claims to champion.
True ‘Pride’ is about the freedom to love whoever you choose – and means much more than sex.
A couple from Hull have removed their four-year-old daughter from pre-school after they objected to a book called Grandad’s Pride, which features illustrations of men in bondage kissing
How being white and straight became reviled
Sadiq Khan’s office has downplayed accusations of prejudice after an image appeared on the London Mayor’s website of a young family, captioned: ‘Doesn’t represent real Londoners.’
As well as being disconcertingly heteronormative, the family was white, thus combining the two most reviled characteristics of our age.
Can you imagine the fuss if that had been a picture of a mixed-race couple, or a Muslim family, or if the parents had been same-sex?
Khan would have had to resign by now – and rightly so. But racism against white people doesn’t count.
We see this all the time – this week lawyer Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu tweeted that Lucy Letby’s crimes were an example of how an ‘ideology of whiteness keeps Britain in a chokehold’. I wonder how those grieving parents will feel about having their babies’ murders weaponised in this way.
Even the Lionesses got it in the neck for being too ‘blonde and blue-eyed’ from a Sky News panellist who criticised the ‘lack of diversity’ in the England team. Since Britain is roughly 82 per cent white and two of the squad – Jess Carter and Lauren James – are from ethnic-minority backgrounds, isn’t that more or less representative?
All this bitterness gets us nowhere. No one is denying the mistakes of the past. But as long as people judge others based on the colour of their skin, racism will remain a cancer to society.
Sadiq Khan’s office has downplayed accusations of prejudice after an image appeared on the London Mayor’s website of a young family, captioned: ‘Doesn’t represent real Londoners’
Baby killer Lucy Letby’s supposed prison cell, with its pink walls, pet animals and all mod cons, hardly seems much of a privation. In fact, my daughter’s first-year digs at Manchester University weren’t much different – and she got lucky. Many of her friends were in far less salubrious surroundings, often infested with vermin. And they had to pay for the privilege. Whereas Letby gets to live out her days at the taxpayer’s considerable expense.
It’s a ‘D’ for the Education Secretary
What on earth has got into Education Secretary Gillian Keegan? Having dismissed the anguish of countless A-level students last week at having their results downgraded by saying they don’t really matter, here she is again telling a reporter that ‘as someone who has worked for 30 years in business, who has employed hundreds if not thousands of people, I can honestly say I have never asked anyone for their A-Level results or what grades they got’.
That may very well be the case, Ms Keegan. But as you ought to know, it is A-level results that determine a young person’s choice of further education.
For your average 18-year-old, they are the difference between success and failure. More importantly, if you – as Education Secretary – are saying that A-levels don’t matter, how on earth are parents and teachers supposed to keep kids engaged?
Your job is to champion education, not discourage it. I suggest that if you don’t like it, you find another.
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