So the war of the island airlines has commenced. Domination of the northern skies is in full "flight". Both companies are going into great detail of their commitment to their "loyal" customer base. Thick and thin we'll stand by our favourite airlines....
Here's my experience over the last 24 hours. It's been similar to supporting the SPL football team: frustrating and left me contemplating the meaning of life and why we bother.
Arrived at Aberdeen Airport taking full advantage of the airline's 30 minutes before departure check=in policy (which I highly recommend if you value your time outside an airport), checked in, breezed through security and confidently sauntered over the walkway to gate 10 where they store us islanders away from jet-setters, MPs and Europe's business elite.
Arrived at gate 10 waiting area to find a great "big" jet - yes, jet - waiting for us at gate nine. With the two airlines' logos plastered all over the Embraer 170, and having followed the press releases of the airlines' intentions to service its loyal island customers, it dawned on me that this beast was actually our taxi home and not a mirage or simply blocking the view of our actual sky rat north.
Boarded give or take on time, skittered up the runway in what can only be classed as sheer luxury compared to the chicken run express that we're used to.
Quickly settled out at cruise speed, tilted back my seat and drifted off to sleep in relative silence versus the inferno of noise we normally endure where you'd honestly believe, with your eyes closed, that your legs are wrapped around the diesel engine grinding you through the air.
No sooner had we reached altitude we were descending towards Sumburgh. Dazed from my snooze I found myself squinting at my watch and tapping it thinking we've only been in the air 30 minutes. After having a look around the cabin and then getting told to straighten up my seat for landing I thought to myself ... what a service this it.
In hindsight, this is probably the most premature thing I've ever done, but it was good while it lasted!
A few minutes into the landing sequence, the pedal was back to the floor and I briefly thought I could hear some noise from the turbines. The captain came over the tannoy and announced that wind conditions had exceeded the airplane's limits and we would have to circle.
"Exceeded limits" I thought to myself; visions of an American-style hurricane was currently underway beneath me. The captain then came back on the tannoy and announced the winds were a constant 38kts, which prevented, by law, the airplane to land at Sumburgh.
38kts!!!! Force 8 - Shetland Beaufort Scale states - skippers of the ferry give thought to not sailing, while Shetlanders "consider it to be a good drying breeze and hang out their washing for the first time". Southern England utterly devastated.
We return to Aberdeen to find our competitors with their sky rats are casually continuing their flying programme, albeit slightly behind schedule but nonetheless slogging it out.
After sitting about at the luxurious gate 10 waiting area and hearing delayed BMI passengers being given food vouchers for an hour's delay, we were finally cancelled at quarter to two due to adverse weather. We were advised to exit departures and head to the Menzies desk to negotiate "options".
On arrival at Menzies we were given two choices:- 1) 1800 evening flight north. 2) 0650 morning flight the following day.
Looking at the forecast, poor visibility warnings and the thought of sitting about in ABZ for any longer, I decided 0650hrs on Tuesday. By the time I would have landed in Sumburgh and driven home it would of been eight or nine o'clock (not including further delays which actually happened).
After a delightful sleep in the city centre I arrived at ABZ again taking full advantage of the 30 minute check policy only to find the 06:50 had been cancelled due essential equipment being missing (the airplane).
No email, no text message, no prior warning. Just made to arrive and sit about. I'm no genius, but when you're missing an airplane it's fairly obvious no one is going anywhere.
As I sit in Joe's Coffee House finishing off my £5 breakfast voucher (which bought me a bacon roll with three quarters of a sausage [I had to pay for the other quarter]) I'm left contemplating life and why we islanders bother.
I'll Fly maybe.
Loyal arline customer Craig Johnson