Archive for FlyBe

Back to Sunny Ireland

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Maynooth with tags , , , , , on April 22, 2019 by telescoper

Well here I am, back in Maynooth, after a week’s restful leave in Cardiff. The weather here is just as nice as it was in Wales when I left yesterday: sunny and about 20 degrees. I’m enjoying the warm weather very much indeed, as my arthritis seems to have eased off considerably.

I was planning to return to Ireland today (Monday) but the flights were far cheaper yesterday. The plane I took yesterday (Sunday) less than half full. Incidentally, after their recent rescue and restructuring FlyBe have announced that after this summer they will no longer operate jets from Cardiff. Flights to Dublin will therefore be by their smaller Bombardier turboprops rather than the Embraer aircraft that I took yesterday.

Today is a Bank holiday in Ireland, as it is in the UK, but after that the Easter break is over; I’m officially back to work tomorrow. This semester will have been divided into three pieces, firstly by the half-term study week (around St Patrick’s Day) and now by a one-week Easter break. Last year these two breaks were contiguous, but Easter is quite late this year so they are separate this time.

Anyway, we now have three weeks of teaching left followed by the May examination period and, of course, the inevitable Marking of the Scripts.

The three remaining weeks include two Bank Holiday Mondays including today, Easter Monday, and the May Day Holiday on 6th May). I have lectures on Mondays I will miss two sessions, leaving only seven lectures remaining for Engineering Mathematics. I’d better make sure that in the short time remaining I cover everything that is in the examination!

Anyway, although it’s a holiday I’ve got to get my lecture together for tomorrow morning so I’d better get to work. It’s a shame not to be out and about in the sunshine but there you go. That is the price you pay for having a week off. No doubt there is a ton of emails to reply to as well; I’ve tried not to look at my inbox while I’ve been off. I’ve made that a rule for holidays now: put the out of office message on and leave the email alone!

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Technical Problems

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff with tags , , , , on March 10, 2019 by telescoper

This morning I got up early to travel to Cardiff Airport to get a flight back to Dublin.

We boarded the plane on time, left the gate on time and arrived at the end of the runway, apparently about to take off. We then sat there for 20 minutes before the pilot explained that there was a problem with the instruments on the flight deck. The plane then taxied back to the terminal, and an engineer got on, but he was unable to fix the problem so we all got off the plane which is clearly going nowhere soon.

A FlyBe Embraer 175 actually flying.

I’m currently sitting in the departure lounge drinking a coffee and wondering when (if) I’ll get to Dublin.

We’re told a plane will arrive from Edinburgh in half an hour and that will take us to Dublin. I’m not convinced. I think there’s a significant probability that my flight will be cancelled, but you never know..

The service with FlyBe has deteriorated in recent weeks almost as quickly as its fares have gone up. The airline has only recently been rescued from collapse and I suspect a major reorganisation is coming up.

Anyway, I know it’s safety first and all that, but my main concern is that we got all the way to the runway before anyone noticed there was a problem. Don’t they check before leaving the gate?

Update: we arrived in Dublin on Plane Number Two at 12.30, two hours and twenty minutes late but all in one piece.

Travels and Travails

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff with tags , , , on January 25, 2019 by telescoper

This morning I headed back to Cardiff for a few days. It’s my last opportunity to sort out a few things here before teaching starts.

I’m not having much luck with travelling this week. This morning there was a last-minute change of gate at Dublin Airport, then a delay boarding due to ‘technical issues with the aircraft’, then a lengthy queue of other planes on the way to the runway.

Then, just as it seemed to be our turn to take off, we started to taxi back in the direction we had come from. The pilot muttered something about ‘a discrepancy with the paperwork’. I really though we were going back to the Terminal and would all have to disembark.

Fortunately that didn’t happen. We parked in a remote part of the airfield while the alleged discrepancy was resolved. We eventually took off about an hour late.

When we got to Cardiff we were delayed still further by having to get a bus from the plane to the Arrivals area, although the usual gates within walking distance were unoccupied.

Finally I was surprised to see full passport control in place inside the Terminal. Normally there are no passport checks on passengers flying from Dublin to the UK because of the Common Travel Area. I suppose that arrangement will be yet another casualty of Brexit.

On the other hand perhaps all these curious incidents with paperwork, passport checks, etc were related? A suspicious individual on the plane perhaps?

A large contingent of rugby fans were on the plane for tomorrow’s match between Cardiff Blues and Connacht at Cardiff Arms Park, but they were a friendly crowd and unlikely to be the cause of security concerns.

Anyway, I got back to Pontcanna a full 90 minutes late and not entirely gruntled.

Here’s another picture of Maynooth University Library Cat from earlier this week. I wonder what he would have made of today’s shenanigans?

FlyBe in a Mess

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff with tags , , , on November 17, 2018 by telescoper

Having to return to Cardiff for the weekend, on Tuesday I booked a ticket with FlyBe for a flight from Dublin as I have done on many previous occasions.

Yesterday I tried to check in online to get my boarding pass beforehand (which speeds things up a lot if you have only hand luggage) but the system failed. I contacted Flybe and they said I’d have to check in at the airport. When I arrived at Dublin airport this morning I found the staff at the check-in desk unable to check anyone for the Cardiff in because the passenger list had not be generated, evidently as a result of the same computer glitch.

I waited. About an hour passed and a large queue grew. Fortunately I was near the front as, anticipating issues, I was sure to get to the airport in good time. Eventually the staff resorted to an older, manual, system and I was checked in. The plane was delayed taking off but I got to Cardiff about 10am.

Today’s mess was entirely self-inflicted as it transpires that it was an error arising from an update to their computer system. That sort of thing won’t do FlyBe any favours. The airline is currently up for sale as it is steadily losing money. These are difficult enough times for the air travel industry, without antagonising customers with displays of sheer incompetence. There were very many disgruntled passengers in the line behind me who won’t be using Flybe again.

To be fair, though, I have used this airline quite a lot in the past year and have had few reasons to complain.

I hope Flybe doesn’t go bust, as the livelihoods of many workers are at stake. But finding a buyer a few months before Brexit might not be easy. The consequences for Cardiff Airport would in that case be very serious, as this piece explains.

For myself, I’m just relieved that I longer have to commute weekly between Cardiff and Dublin as I did earlier this year, as Flybe is the only airline operating on that route.

Back to Cardiff again..

Posted in Cardiff, Maynooth with tags , on June 6, 2018 by telescoper

So here I am again, back in sunny Cardiff (if a bit later than planned). My flight from Dublin was supposed to depart at 8.35, but didn’t go until over an hour later. The delay was allegedly caused by a lightning strike last night that required the plane to be checked before take-off. Although they must have known about this mishap for some time, FlyBe didn’t bother to tell us anything about the reason for the delay or how long it would be. This was the scene at the (unstaffed) departure gate at about 9.15am. The lack of communication or any form of customer service compounds the irritation caused by such delays.

Anyway, once airborne, it was a pleasant flight. Here are two pictures just after taking off from Dublin Airport, with a view up to Malahide in the North.

And here are a few more flying over Wales about 10 minutes before landing.

We landed about 85 minutes late in Cardiff, but it’s lovely weather here so I’m not as grumpy as I might have been. Now, to work.

Cardiff to Dublin via Belfast

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff with tags , , , on April 11, 2018 by telescoper

I thought I write a brief post to arising from today’s travel difficulties, really just to make a record of the episode for posterity.

As last Wednesday I got up early this morning (4.30am) to get the 7am FlyBe flight from Cardiff to Dublin, due into Dublin at 8.05am. Having only hand luggage, as usual, I proceeded straight upstairs to the departure area only to find that the screen said the flight was cancelled, and directed passengers intending to travel on it back downstairs to the `Disruption Desk’ .

A long queue had already formed by the time I got there, but I got to the desk fairly quickly. The assistant explained that the cancellation was due to `staff sickness’ (i.e. they were short of a pilot) and the only option on offer was to fly to Belfast whence a bus would be provided to Dublin. The Belfast flight should have left at 6.15am but was being held for passengers to Dublin. I was also given a £5 refreshments voucher.

I thought a moment and then decided to accept this offer. I didn’t have any morning appointments today, but definitely had to get to Maynooth somehow by tomorrow morning as I have a lecture to deliver.

The plane left Cardiff about 7.15am and arrived in Belfast around 8.10am but when I emerged from the arrivals area there was no bus. In fact it took about 45 minutes to arrive, and we didn’t get going until about 8.55am. Many of the passengers were clearly nervous about missing connecting flights in Dublin, including a group of women planning onward travel to the USA, but the trip was fairly uneventful apart from the fact that the toilet was out of commission necessitating a stop so that people could use the facilities in a service station.

I can confirm that there is no visible border between Northern Ireland and the Republic on the road between Belfast and Dublin, although it does change name from A1 to M1 on the way. The distance between Belfast and Dublin by road is about 100 miles and it took just over two hours. I arrived at Terminal 1 of Dublin Airport at 11.05, almost exactly three hours late. I thought that wasn’t too bad a result given the chaos in Cardiff when I left but it was still a frustrating morning. I had to wait until 11.50 for the bus to Maynooth, where I finally arrived about 12.40.

I will of course be submitting a request for the compensation to which I am entitled for the delay, but above all I hope that those whose arrangements were even more seriously disrupted than mine managed to get to where they needed to go in the end.

Uncommon Travel Experiences

Posted in Biographical with tags , , on March 29, 2018 by telescoper

Back in Cardiff for the Easter weekend – which I am to spend mainly sleeping – after flying back this morning from Dublin, I thought I’d do a brief post about a fairly strange thing that happened when I got to Cardiff Airport this morning.

I’ve done this flight many times over the past few months and arrival at Cardiff has always been the same story: passengers disembark and walk through a special arrival gate marked `Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland’. This leads past a couple of desks (marked security) which have always been unoccupied and straight into the baggage reclaim area. This morning, however, there were 3-4 police and/or UKBA people and they checked everybody’s passport who was on the flight from Dublin.

This is quite irregular, as there is supposed to be a Common Travel Area including the UK and Ireland (as well as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), and passport checks are not routinely made at borders within the CTA. They never have been to date on any of the trips I’ve made.

So what was going on? Was it some sort of rehearsal for the post-Brexit era (which may well see the end of the CTA, as there is likely to be a hard border between the UK and Ireland)?

I suspect not. One possibility is that the Police were actually looking for someone or something specific. Although passport checks are not routinely made, there is no law forbidding them if there’s a reason to make them. In fact the CTA is the result of informal agreements rather than domestic laws or international treaties so it’s not legally enforceable in any case.

However, I think a likelier explanation is connected to the reason why the flight was late departing from Dublin. The computer system that is linked to the automatic boarding pass reader at the departure gate seemed not to be working. The Flybe staff there had to check every document by hand, and cross names off a printed list as they went through the departure gate. The final tally of passengers also took a while to produce, so we left about 25 minutes late.

I suspect that whatever the problem was with Flybe’s systems, some of the passenger data usually registered for each flight was not available. When authorities at Cardiff were informed about this, an additional precautionary check was performed. I think this is a good theory, as it provides a unified explanation of two unique phenomena (unique in my experience of the Dublin-Cardiff route, that is).

Anyway, although I was surprised at to find uniformed people checking passports when I arrived, and mildly concerned that I might miss the 10.00am bus from the airport to Cardiff, I have travelled enough to realise that it’s never a good idea to make a fuss or even a joke when immigration officers are involved; it never achieves anything and they rarely possess even the most rudimentary sense of humour. And I got on the bus with plenty of time to spare….

Incidentally, when arriving in Dublin from Cardiff there is no specific arrival area for passengers from the UK who must proceed to passport control along with everyone else. A person travelling from the UK to Ireland does not have to show a passport – an ID card will suffice – but the UK does not have a system of ID cards so the only photo-identification most of us have is a passport. In practice, therefore, I show my passport when I arrive. In fact I usually show it to the automatic barrier that reads e-passports, which is far quicker than joining the queue for those with old passports or other forms of ID. At least the automatic machines work in Dublin…