The Flybe flight from Edinburgh to Sumburgh (BE6995) on a recent Saturday was scheduled to take off from Edinburgh at 3pm and due to land into Sumburgh at 4.25pm that day.
We eventually landed at Sumburgh at around 1pm the following day after a series of problems brought on by Flybe’s poor management of their staff and sub-contractors. Three aspects of that flight are now the subject of a letter of complaint sent to Flybe by ourselves and six other Shetland passengers.
First, the relationship with Menzies, the Edinburgh ground agent. As passengers, we waited for an hour on the ground, sitting in our seats with the door open (so the plane was cold) while Menzies and the pilots tried to sort out the paperwork to allow the flight to take off.
We don’t know what the problem was, but we would note that none of the other carriers that we fly on out of Edinburgh (for example, British Airways) have ever had such a problem. We have asked Flybe to explain their relationship with
Menzies and how they are managing this to improve the passenger experience.
This delay cost us the first hour of our journey. We had then to wait for the Menzies ground crew to return, they had been sent to dispatch another aircraft, before we could start up. It was at this point that the pilot noticed that the navigation equipment on the plane we were on was not working.
This was the second reason for our poor Flybe experience – old planes, probably under-maintained which often suffer mechanical faults. Again, as frequent flyers, we can only contrast Flybe planes (and the frequency of faults on them) with those of other carriers; and they do not do well in that comparison.
The pilot told us what the problem was and said they were trying to find another plane which we might be able to get on and which might be able to take off, depending on ATC scheduling. We cannot fault the pilot or co-pilot, who seemed to be doing all they could to get us on another plane that afternoon.
A second aircraft was found and we taxied all the way across Edinburgh airport to park beside it. We were transferred to the second plane which, it was immediately clear, was not ready for service.
This was the third issue that contributed to our miserable Flybe experience: the state of this particular replacement aircraft. For example, there were no hot drinks available as no urns were taken aboard. Even worse, the toilet had not been cleaned since the previous flight.
Given that we spent almost four hours on this particular (unprepared) aircraft – finally taking off from Edinburgh, flying up to and circling over Sumburgh for an hour and then returning to Edinburgh at 8.30pm – nearly all the passengers had needed to use the toilet. It was disgusting and the smell was pervading the whole cabin. We have asked Flybe to explain why was this replacement aircraft not properly ready for flight and why were we subjected to such terrible conditions.
We have also pointed out that the age and functionality of the fleet also means that the customer experience is compromised. For example, we were told that we could not use mobile phones on the plane when it was standing, motionless with the engines idle, on the ground at Edinburgh. We could not alert family and friends waiting in Shetland to the delay. Other airlines, with newer fleets, allow mobile phone use while on the ground.
The complaint has gone to Flybe; it is for them to answer and to compensate all of the passengers on that flight. All too often we see these issues deflected on to Loganair. However, it is Flybe we pay and whom we contract with to supply the service. It is their responsibility to manage the service and to ensure that passengers get the service they are paying for.
Harold Massie and Elsbeth Johnson on behalf of six other Shetland passengers.