Our time in Madeira was wonderful. Great apartment, lovely flowers, great food and pleasant weather. What a shame it had to end with easyJet.
While in Funchal I upgraded us so that our return flights would have speedy boarding included. We still arrived early at the airport and got checked in OK. Then security which was nowhere near as bad (or careful if that is your viewpoint) as at Inverness or Gatwick. In fact, I had left a tiny pair of scissors in my washbag and, of course, the X-ray picked them up. This was a lovely pair of Wilkinson Sword bathroom scissors which we have had for more than thirty years. I thought I was going to lose them, then the security officer just put them back in the bag and waved me on. How sensible for a change. He made a value call that I was not going to attack the crew or passengers with them. Most grateful. There is some common sense left in the world.
Once through security, though, things went downhill rapidly. easyJet announced at least an hour’s delay which would see it close to midnight before we’d get back to Gatwick. We would be stuck in the departure lounge for some two hours. Now, I use the word “lounge” advisedly as ALL of the seats were moulded wood. They were the most uncomfortable seats we have ever had to sit upon and it was impossible to find a good position to read or anything else. Looking around the “lounge” everyone kept shuffling and standing up and sitting down and moving positions. Hopeless.
The Madeiran tourist board chiefs and the airport managers should be forced to sit in this waiting area for two or three hours and see how they are punishing their visitors for having been stupid enough to come to Madeira in the first place. It will be a close run thing if ever we go back because of this and the fact that aches and pains get worse as you get older. How they could do this to their visitors? Giving us an unpleasant experience at the end of our visit. Crazy!
Eventually we got airborne and the speedy boarding meant that we managed to fight our way quickly to some good seats in the front half of the plane. If they allocated seats at check in this problem would not occur and there would be no scramble for seats. They don’t do that because they do not care about the stress, comfort and experience their customers endure.
However, being close to the front did not mean that we were far enough forward to get the cheese and pickle sandwiches which ran out by row five or six. The choice was then the Madeira standard cheese and ham or ham and cheese or ham with cheese or cheese with ham. Once again I felt sympathy for any Jewish vegetarians travelling with us! With all the wonderful things we ate in Madeiran restaurants, why does this country serve nothing but a ham and cheese combination in its sandwiches and rolls? Weird.
The seats, of course, are far too close together and I noticed that the tall German gentleman in the isle seat could not get his tray to sit flat enough to put his drink on. What is going on in easyJet management. People are getting taller and their seat spacing is getting smaller. Why don’t they go the whole hog and strap us all up vertically. Could double the capacity. Could maybe triple it if they strapped couples face to face!
Flight over, we arrived at Gatwick. Once disembarked we were then held standing for some fifteen minutes in the corridors approaching immigration. This happened three more times at different locations. We really were being herded – literally! So, we were 40 minutes roughly just getting to immigration. No seats anywhere along this route for elderly or infirm and, frankly we are both rapidly approaching both categories. I really don’t think I could have managed it if my gout had chosen that time to play up.
At last we reached the immigration queue which is like a DisneyWorld queue doubling back on itself about eight or ten times. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, carrying heavy on-board carry-ons, this was absolute torture.
Finally we are allowed into the UK from the EU country we were leaving, immigration having finally decided that all these holidaymakers were not terrorists or trying to get into the country illegally. What is wrong with these people? Do they really think what they are doing is necessary? Madness.
FINALLY, we got through immigration and walked to the board which shows where you have to go to get your luggage. We stood here for more than an hour – no seats whatsoever in this area, until a gentleman we had been talking to decided to go off and take a look at the baggage areas.
What he discovered was that all the baggage areas were underneath the waiting area so we had been standing up completely unnecessarily and could have been sitting downstairs. With my ankle problems all this standing was no joke.
In the baggage area we continued to wait. There was no one to ask except a baggage expediting desk who knew nothing. It was even rumoured that the bags were locked on the plane until morning. Anyway, it took close to two and a half hours after landing to get our bags at 2.30am.
The customer issues here are obvious. No one from easyJet gave a damn about our wait and would probably blame it on the baggage handlers. The baggage handlers didn’t give a damn about us and, worse still, hid themselves from us utterly so that they could not be questioned or asked to provide some customer service. If they had been there, they would probably have blamed easyJet. There were no airport managers or support staff anywhere to be found because they don’t give a shit about us or easyJet or their baggage handlers.
The whole experience was a disaster. There was now no point in us getting a taxi for, probably, yet another dreadful Travelodge experience as the check in for our Inverness flight was 5am so we paid for a night’s accommodation we were not able to use. Could we have got there for a shower and an hour’s kip, yes I suppose so if we didn’t mind lugging all our luggage around the airport to a cab and then lug it all along endless corridors to a Travelodge room which would probably have been awful anyway given our recent experiences. We’ll never stay with them ever again and do everything in our power to stop others staying with them.
So we planted ourselves in the sitting area by the Costa Coffee bar. I went to get coffees from them and they gave me my latte in a cardboard mug. Red rag to an already upset bull. I asked for it to be transferred into a china mug. “No we don’t do that at night, as there are only two of us on”, the server said. I asked if I had had a discount because of this. “No”, was the reply. Costa, you are not providing a proper service. If there is too much washing up for two people in the middle of the night then get a third person on. Don’t give the customer a reduced service. At the price charged for these coffees, if they cannot keep up with the dish-washing, then there MUST be money there for the extra staff. Greed, Costa, GREED!
With that our final easyJet flight was as OK as they can ever be and we returned home to blazing sun having had a terrific break, but a lousy time travelling both ways.
easyJet, Gatwick management, Gatwick baggage handling agents, British Immigration and even Costa Coffee – it is about time each of you realised that you are in the customer service industry. You are all failing British tourism or British people – probably both.
Will we go back to the beautiful island of Madeira? Before our flights home it was a definite yes, now I really don’t know. So sad, so unnecessary, so twenty-first century!