Archive for FlyBe

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.

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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…

Landing on the Nose

Posted in Biographical with tags , , , on November 14, 2017 by telescoper

The other day I noticed a story about a plane carrying 53 passengers that did an emergency landing at Belfast airport. Here is a picture from that link:

The story caught my attention for a couple of reasons. One is that the airline and type of plane (a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400) were exactly the same as the one I took from Cardiff to Dublin a few weeks ago. The other is that something very similar happened to me many years ago, on a trip to America. That event may even have involved the same type of plane, as it was a twin turbo-prop, but in my memory the one I was on was a bit smaller than the one shown above. I don’t remember the name of the airline either (though it might have been the now-defunct US Airways) but it was taking me to State College (Pennsylvania, USA), from either Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, for a meeting at Penn State University. I’m not sure of the year, either, but it must have been around 1990.. I’m not sure of the year, either, but it must have been around 1990. From all that you can infer that my memory isn’t all that good, but I do remember the details of the emergency landing extremely well!

We were approaching State College when I noticed that the plane started circling around the airport, which was visible below. Circling prior to landing owing to air traffic restrictions is not an unfamiliar experience for anyone coming into land at, e.g., London Heathrow, but State College airport is in a fairly remote location in rural Pennsylvania so a problem with the air traffic seemed unlikely. Eventually the pilot came onto the intercom and explained that there was a problem with the undercarriage under the nose of the aircraft and we would have to make an emergency landing. The circling was an attempt to use up fuel to reduce the risk of fire on landing. The dozen or so people on the plane seemed quite scared as the pilot explained the procedure, including the brace position to be assumed when was making its landing.

As it happened, I was seated in a window seat next to the emergency door on the port side near the front of the aircraft so it would be my job to open it and get out quickly to let everyone else get out. As we came into land I studied the instructions over and over again. I am not a particularly courageous individual, and I think having that to concentrate on is the best explanation for why I actually didn’t feel all that scared. I was too busy concentrating on the task at hand to let anything else into my head.

Soon we were coming into land. I could see fire engines from their lights flashing either side of the runway as we came down. The pilot shouted “BRACE! BRACE! BRACE!” as the plane touched down on the wheels under the wings, and was a sharp deceleration as the braking systems were deployed. When we were moving sufficiently slowly the pilot dropped the nose, the plane dipped forward and there was a scraping sound as the plane veered to port. It tilted again which I (correctly) assumed was because it had left the runway and was on the grass verge.

The shout came `OPEN THE DOORS’ and I followed the instructions to the letter, turning the handle, pulling the door towards me so it detached and then flinging it out of the aircraft. It worked like clockwork. I felt like a hero, but that sense of pride soon vanished. Forgetting that the plane had tipped forward, I misjudged the step onto the emergency chute that had deployed and, instead of proceeding in an orderly fashion, I tripped on the way out and fell flat on my face. Fortunately, it was not far down to the ground from the door and it had been raining so I fell onto wet grass rather than concrete. I picked myself up and followed the instructions of the firemen to get the hell away from the plane. I’m sure they were laughing as I ran past them to safety.

The plane was safely evacuated and nobody was hurt. Nobody else got covered in mud like I did either…

Later on I got to know a guy who worked on safety training for cabin crew at British Airways. He told me that one of the most important things about an emergency situation on an aircraft is to give the passengers something to do to keep them occupied. That is the best way to prevent panic. It certainly worked with me!