The World According to Low Cost Airlines #zerotohero

Assignment 5: try out at least three other themes — even if you’re happy with the one you have. Include at least one you would never think of using.

Assignment 6: publish a post that includes a new-to-you element.

One of the shows I used to watch with monotonous regularity in the early noughties was Airline. The show gave a fascinating glimpse into the operations of a UK based low cost airline, EasyJet operating out of Luton airport. Whilst air travel is meant to be glamorous, this show gave a no holes barred look at the travel industry, human nature and low margins.

Here’s a classic episode:

Fascinated by the myriad of personalities which featured in the show and the myriad of problems they encountered, I was hooked. Human beings are such fascinating creatures and holidays seem to bring out the best and worst of us. The show centred around conflicts and conflict resolution and how Easy Jet dealt with their delightful difficult customers in dealing with the complexity and unpredictability of air travel.

From the show I learned that:

  • low cost airlines have only a small window of opportunity for their aircraft to depart
  • they will not hold boarding open even for five extra minutes
  • there is nothing you can say to a low cost carrier to let you on the aircraft if you arrive late
  • losing your nut is particularly ineffective when trying to resolve conflict and only attracts tv cameras
  • I never want to go Luton airport
  • there is no story you can tell a low cost airline that it has not heard before.

Roll the film forward to 2006 and in a particularly non lucid moment, I booked an internal Europe flight with Easy Jet. 2006 was a time when the self help travel industry was in a fledging state and travel forums like Trip Adviser were largely centred on accommodation. There were little or few internet forums discussing travel and I had yet taken to social media. None of that stopped me though from booking the family holiday to Europe from beginning to end myself. The hardest part was booking the Europe domestic flights because I knew nothing about that market. So recalling Airline I went with Easy Jet on a flight from London to Athens.

The only thing was it left just after 6.00am…. from Gatwick airport…miles out of London. At 4.30am the trains to Gatwick don’t run. How lucky that the limo driving friend of the hotel receptionist did. How unlucky that we got onto the freeway and it was blocked by police due to a traffic incident. How unlucky that driver dude had to stop for gas. How even unluckier that driver dud took twenty minutes to fill the tank and whatever else he did when he disappeared into the gas station shop.

You know where this is headed, don’t you?

That’s right, our own Easy Jet moment. Arrived five minutes too late for boarding. Frustration welled up and our only day in Athens flashed before my eyes. This was the day we were to conquer the Acropolis. Instead, I was waiting for the Airline cameras to arrive to film my pleas for clemency. Yes, they would still take us, but next flight out was 13 hours away. In the end we took a flight with another airline, had a wonderful evening twilight and ate the most amazing Feta whilst gazing up at the backlit Acropolis. However to this day, my bottom has not graced an Easy Jet seat.

Then I vowed never to use another low cost airline.

Well, until last weekend. I am currently DIYing the bookings for our European vacation later this year and this time I have no lack of information for an excuse. However, the flight I wanted, the one on the right day at the right time is operated by a low cost airline. This time, the friendly Norwegian Air Shuttle. I’m not going to bore you with the whole sorry saga of why I had to change the booking ten minutes after I made it, but a call to Norway was on the cards. After dialling the number, I received a wonderful friendly greeting in Norwegian which then lyrically read through the phone menu in Norwegian for about five minutes. The very last sentence of which was “If you would like to hear the options in English please press 0”. The English version took 1 minute after which I found myself on hold having been told their website was experiencing problems which meant an unusually high call volume. Lucky me, I chose the one day when Scandinavian efficiency was on holiday. After about 10 minutes a most pleasant young Norwegian man broke through the musac peaking brilliantly in English. He listened to my plight with enthusiasm and empathy after which he thought he had to decline my request but would speak to his supervisor.

They must have been having coffee because it took a while. And he apologised profusely for keeping me on hold before officially declining to make the change request. He then apologised profusely for keeping me waiting once again and again once more before finally ending the call. Clearly, this guy did not talk to Australians every day.

He was so freaking’ polite and nice. And he had such a cool accent. So I bottled up my frustration and wrote a few non frustrated emails to sort out the issue. Here are a few examples of Norwegian’s friendliness from their twitter feed. They are so thoughtful that even their planes have thought bubbles.

I am pleased to report that since my conversation with Norway, Norwegian Airlines have since come to my European party in all of its orange and white livery.

So takk så mye, Norwegian Airlines . You have given me my right of passage and also the vehicle for learning how to embed a tweet into my blog posts. And for this, you deserve a

thumbs-up-smiley-hi

Now, if we can only make the flight…

PS. As for the theme assignment, I did this on my own over the Christmas break. White on black or black on white? That is the question. I almost went with a black background this time, but reverted to the white side at the last minute.

A straw poll: What do you prefer dark skin, light writing or light skin with dark writing?