07/24/2013

Murphy's law strikes again (more than once)

In the past few days some easyJet passengers have suffered when the reserve easyJet Swiss aircraft has been absent when needed.


It was yesterday, 23 July at about 11h20 am, that the easyJet Switzerland flight EZS1305 fleft Geneva for Ajaccio: a flight of just over an hour. Unfortunately, it must have had some technical problem which immobilised it in Ajaccio, instead of returning to Geneva.

This would normally have not caused too much of a delay for the returning Ajaccio passengers if easyJet had been able to send the reserve aircraft from Geneva to Ajaccio. Unfortunately, at about 10h30 (an hour before the Ajaccio departure) it had been decided that this reserve aircraft was needed in Lyon to do a there and back flight between Lyon and Rome on behalf of easyJet UK. In consequence, a different easyJet Switzerland aircraft was taken out of its normal routine and sent empty to Ajaccio, from where it returned to Geneva about 4h30 late (thus allowing, if they want to, the passengers to claim an indemnity).

This, of course, left a hole in the Geneva flights, so a reverse borrowing saw an easyJet UK plane flown in from Berlin to do a return trip to Gatwick then go back to Berlin. Murphy's law (something about always needing the spare aircraft when it is unavailable) was thus verified for a second time in less than a week.

Actually, the first time was much more serious! It happened the previous Friday, when the spare Airbus was sent to Nice for the day. That afternoon, as many will remember (especially in Onex!), there was a deluge from a thunderstorm in the late afternoon. As well as stopping railway traffic between Geneva and Bellegarde (widely reported), it also effectively closed the airport runway for a good 30 minutes (which I did not see reported, although I believe that it may have been).

As we have seen before, the effect of even such a relatively short runway closure has knock-on effects involving cancelled flights and delays much longer than these 30 minutes. I suppose it is all related to aircraft being in the wrong place or missing the scheduled slot, whîch can later mean missing another slot and so on. Of course, this happening on what is normally the busiest day of the week wsa another example of Murphy's law.

The result, for the unfortunate passengers and airport neighbours in Vernier, was that in addition to some cancelled flights, no less than 19 aircraft returned to Geneva after 11pm, of which three arrived after the normal closing hour of 30 minutes after midnight, which requires special derogations from the airport management (which will certainly appear at some time on the airport Web site and will probably be put down to meteorological conditions).

What was slightly more noteworthy was that two easyJet Switzerland flights were even later, so that they had to be diverted to Lyon (from where the unfortunate passengers would have shared the experience of a night coach ride from Lyon to Geneva).

What I also noticed was that these diverted flights were marked on the airport web site as cancelled, rather than diverted. It was probably due to the stress of handling such a difficult situation, in which I have absolutely no doubt that all the airport personnel worked extremely hard until a very late hour. However, it does remind us that the air traffic is intense and increasing, so that what appear to be minor problems can have serious consequences.

Of course, it is not certain how many of these very delayed or diverted flights might have been avoided if the spare easyJet Switzerland aircraft had been available in Geneva, instead of being in Nice. It is equally true that easyJet make a great effort towards punctuality (their record recently is especially praiseworthy) and avoidance of flight cancellations, and that managing the enormous number of aircraft and flights of the airline must be a very demanding task.

Nonetheless, by scheduling the thunderstorm for a Friday afternoon when a spare easyJet aircraft was unavailable, Murphy's law was proved true yet again. If only he could restrict his operational area to Ireland and easyJet Switzerland could always keep the reserve aircraft here in Geneva!

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