So my trip to Madrid didn’t happen.
The first update to EasyJet’s mobile app was to inform me of a one-hour delay but advising me to check in as normal.
I dutifully arrived at Manchester’s Terminal 1 (after an epic voyage back across the Pennines that started at 04:30) and settled down in the Aspire Lounge, courtesy of my Priority Pass card, with the intention of catching up on client emails and other work in a “relaxed and comfortable environment”.
My original ETA in central Milan (for a proposed working dinner with my client) was about 20:00 local.
As the afternoon wore on and Storm Emma began to pester from the west, the mobile app updated every hour – with another hour’s delay.
I was in communication with Italy and we decided if the ETA passed 23:00 that night, the trip had best be postponed and re-scheduled, allowing us more time together and a better quality experience.
In the event, the flight landed at Malpensa at about 22:30 last night and it would have been well past midnight before I checked in to my AirBnB.
Once I had pulled the plug, I made my way back into the main airport lounge and to the EasyJet customer service desk by gate 31, where Lorna was on duty.
My timing was immaculately lucky.
I arrived alone, explained that I wanted to go home and get my bag back.
Her initial response was to point out that, as the flight hadn’t been cancelled, there would be no refund.
I replied that no refund was expected, that my business trip had become ineffective and that I just wanted to get home.
She made a phone call, organised everything and ask me to take a seat and wait – potentially 30 minutes – for bag recovery and an escort back through immigration.
As I sat down, it happened – the red lights started flashing all over the departures board.
Cork – cancelled.
Dublin – cancelled.
Guernsey – cancelled.
Basle – cancelled.
and so on.
Within 10 minutes there was a crowd of fractious passengers, all milling at her desk to ask Lorna what was going wrong and what she was going to do about it.
Interestingly, the only EasyJet flight on the aforementioned list was Basle but even though Lorna was in EasyJet uniform, they came to her anyway.
I had the fascinating pleasure of watching and listening as Lorna dealt with situation – dare I say it “a slip of a girl” (sorry to be age-ist but it is meant as a compliment).
She was polite, respectful and did her level best to engage with each passenger, to make them feel heard and to offer the best advice she could whilst waiting for some support from the ground side team at MIA.
There was no “computer says no” at any time – it was a masterclass in how to deal with unhappy customers – I wish I could have recorded her for training purposes.
Congratulations to Lorna and, I suspect, to EasyJet for the training:
I wonder who does their training?
I wonder how often they role play?
I wonder how often the training is refreshed and updated?
I wonder how they find people like Lorna?
My happy ending was an unexpected arrival at home for 4 days, after a travel week I can tell my grandchildren about (not that I have any).
I’m sure some passengers had an unhappy ending – people looking forward to getting away for a few days rest; others from Europe who were just trying to get home.
One chap who had flights cancelled on each of 2 consecutive days.
In the small world department, I even bumped into a couple of old friends from IDH 2008; members of a lad’s trip to Geneva that had started in Liverpool (cancelled), transferred to Manchester (cancelled) and was now hoping for Zurich, facing a 4-hour drive after midnight to get to their destination (I suggested they call it a day and go for a curry in Rusholme instead).
A lot of very disrupted people and, in the centre, Lorna – calm in the storm and holding it all together.
A Champions League performance.
p.s. I spent about 90 minutes on a Zoom call this morning with my Milanese client and her marketing manager – we had a great conversation and I left them with plenty of homework. I’m hoping to get to Milan in early April.
All is well – I wish you a restful weekend – leave the car on the drive, stoke up the fire, batten the hatches and ride the storm. If you can – get out for a run or a walk – it’s invigorating.