Full disclosure: I’ve travelled a lot with EasyJet, from the days when I was working in the Netherlands and commuting weekly on what we used to call the Stelios Speke-Schiphol Shuttle to last week’s long weekend in Paris. I’ve done dozens of sectors with the carrier. And timekeeping has never been a problem: last Tuesday we were back in Liverpool quarter of an hour early.
An EasyJet Airbus A320. That can carry 164 passengers
But clearly there are sometimes delays, and a recent one at Sharm-el-Sheikh has had the Sun – with the Mail close behind – in full why-oh-why mode. A flight to Gatwick suffered a bad delay, and was on the tarmac for five hours before the passengers were disembarked and sent to a hotel for the night. Then the flight was delayed the next day. It’s in the category of “stuff that happens”.
Normally there would be a quick turn-round of the flight and it would be away back to the UK. So what happened? Apparently some kind of technical issue, and the press would have been happily playing the other side of the field if passengers had been subjected to any kind of danger while in the air. Unless the carrier can find another aircraft – not easy at the height of the season – there will inevitably be delays.
This, though, does not concern the Sun, which blusters “30-hour flight fury ... 160 Brits stranded in Egypt by monster easyJet delay”. The clear inference is that the airline doesn’t care about its passengers, which is not helped by the paper using a photo which clearly shows the Captain taking time out to talk to them and explain the situation. But Rupe’s downmarket troops plough on.
There are complaints that people had no food for five hours. Shine a light, lads, haven’t any of you ever gone from lunch to evening nosh without a snack in between? For those of us who eat at around 2000 hours, that’s well over five hours. Then the Mail says passengers were “told to stay on board”. You board an aircraft, you’re under the command of the Captain. You didn’t know that?
And, had the aircraft taken off within, say, half an hour of closing up, the passengers would have spent more than five hours on board – it’s a five hour flight back to Gatwick. Then the Mail shows just how seriously it takes air travel, by illustrating its piece with a photo of an Airbus A319. Mail people, there were 164 passengers on this flight, and an A319 can’t carry more than 156. You figure it out.
Then, bizarrely, both Sun and Mail start banging on about EasyJet’s new cabin baggage policy, which comes in next week, despite it having nothing to do with this story, and – as the Mail admits – not imposing any additional costs on passengers. It’s an excellent example of Phil Space journalism, and another sign that the original story was a bit on the thin side.
Such is the strength in depth of most papers’ transport reporting. Or maybe not.