Easyjet Airbus A319 loses windscreen to lightning strike

Easyjet A319.jpgIt’s been quite an evening – in a good way and a not so good way. The good stuff first: so I’m on my regular biweekly commute home from a storm-threatened Madrid to London Gatwick. We are actually lined up on the runway, and I notice that the windsock is lined up in exactly the opposite direction, which is nice, but looking as if it may be uprooted any moment which is not so nice. We sit for a good while and the captain announces that the wind is out of limit for take-off – which is pretty blowy.

Eventually we roll and as soon as we are airborne the fun begins -really very nasty turbulence, lots of negative g, plenty of screams, afew tears, but our A319 is reassuringly skyward bound and the offendingCb is slipping behind. And then we mysteriously level off at, I don’tknow, perhaps 10,000ft – that sort of area anyway.

Somethingobviously wrong, and sure enough the captain duly announces, in hisfinest soothing tones, that due to a technical problem we will bereturning to Madrid – when we can, which is not so soon as the regularinbounds are stacking up due to the storm. He has my complete attentionwhile I wonder what exactly Mother Nature has done to my aeroplane.

Windscreen.jpgAnywayan hour after take-off we are back on the ground, the usual Spanishround of applause well-deserved on this occasion, and the captainannounces that the problem was no less than a lightning strike on thewindshield and he’s happy enough for us to take a look as we file off.You can see the result here. Thought-provoking right?

So bravo to the crew, and indeed my fellow passengers who were admirably phlegmatic about it all.

Sadlythen the bad stuff kicked in – which is the Easyjet operation at Madridof which I am a long-standing victim. It really is difficult to conveythe full awfulness of the Easyjet Madrid-Gatwick service. I have beendelayed hour upon hour, and cancelled over and again. And every time Iand my fellow pax have been treated insultingly dreadfully.

Onthis occasion there is as usual no information. However, as the gate isnow physically surrounded by the entire paxload who have just left theaircraft, with their bags on it, Swissport can’t just disappear asusual because then the airport management will get cross.

Luggage belt.jpgTimeslips by and eventually they announce it’s been cancelled and we willbe leaving at 06:00 tomorrow. Could be worse I suppose, and so we allset off to collect our bags. That’s the last we see ofSwissport/Easyjet and all 130 or so of us then sit watching a moving,empty luggage belt for two and a half hours. Two and a half hours.Mums, babies, the lot, abandoned.

Two weeks ago the same thinghappened. On that occasion people got very cross indeed so Easyjet justEasyjet office.jpgshut their office. And people got even crosser and so the police werecalled. In the end I gave up and flew on a rather nice Air EuropaEmbraer 170 the next day instead. I plan to do that in future if I can.

BecauseEasyjet has treated me so badly for so long I’m exercising myconsumer right to fly Ryanair – who do the same route much better – orAir Europa. Now unfortunately Easyjet have the best slots, and also thecompany makes a lot of my bookings, so I can’t quite so easily dropthem – but I’ll do my best.

I don’t really approve of usingthese blogs to sound off about lousy personal experiences, after alleveryone has them and they generally look less important the next day,but I’ve been building up to this for months. Easyjet just can’tdeliver – I’m sure they don’t care about me, but now the feeling ismutual.

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13 Responses to Easyjet Airbus A319 loses windscreen to lightning strike

  1. Michael Hordern July 9, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    I was on the same flight (not quite home to Oxfordshire yet) and have to agree. Crew were excellent – special thanks to the captain, passengers were excellent, ground staff were clueless or invisible. This also persisted this morning as there was continuing faffing over the gate and time of the new flight. Worst point was when a rumour went round that the flight would now leave at 10am. After most of us had hot up at 3:30 to check in for the 6am!
    There shouldn’t have been any room for rumours if the ground staff had been any good.

  2. Chiara July 9, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    Hi – we were actually on that flight and I apologise in advance, I was one of the screamers and possibly one of the loudest. I was searching google to see if there had ever been any incidents of lightning hitting the windshield and whether any planes had crash-landed because of it – no info that I know of so am not sure whether I should be kissing the ground, the captain and all of his family for basically saving our lives, or just shrug it all off as an “interesting” experience as planes were built for this type of thing dont you know…
    All in all, the captain is great but yes, Easyjet is possibly the worst airline in terms of customer service, but I wouldn’t vouch for Ryanair being any better.

  3. Kieran Daly (blog owner) July 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Hi everyone, yes, as Michael says, things were little better this morning. What a fiasco.

    And Chiara if you were screaming, I don’t blame you at all. That really was quite a ride last night – one of the worst I’ve ever experienced in many years of flying. I thought everyone was admirably calm in the circumstances.

    The thing about Ryanair is that their customer service is not much different, but their punctuality record is so much better than Easyjet that it doesn’t matter so much. If you’re interested you can go onto the CAA website and find all the data route-by-route. Easyjet’s record on LGW-MAD is absolutely awful, and Ryanair’s record, on exactly the same route at not very different times, is very much better.

  4. BorjaMadrid July 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    Last year I had an 8-hour delay with easyJet on the route Madrid-LGW. I only flew with them once more and that will be it: the ground crew are useless (they rely on Swissport) and the treatment we got that very day was awful.

  5. Maria July 12, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    I was in that flight too, I wasn’t scared until I saw the windscreen and started to think what could had happened.

    I am complaining to EasyJet and to AENA, the firm that manages the airport, because they shoudn’t have authorized the take off in the first place. It was as easy as taking a look trough the window, we could all see the storm.

  6. Godzilla July 15, 2010 at 5:32 am #

    A cracked window should be no big deal.
    It could have been quite possible to press on to England.

  7. andy toomer July 16, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    Scary stuff, wouldn’t like to be sitting behind that glass

  8. Easy Pilot July 19, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Maria – while I understand your concerns about taking off I would like to explain the decision making process before we get airbourne.
    The airport operator has no input in the take-off process. Air Traffic Control (ATC) will clear us for take off once landing or departing aircraft are safely out the way. They will give a wind reading which is based over a 10 minute average and include any gusts if appropriate.
    It is then up to the pilots to decide whether to depart or not, based on the limitations of the aircraft and the pilots themselves (more experienced pilots can take off in stronger winds). In this instance, it sounds like the crew delayed take-off for just that reason.
    But we don’t just go on a wind reading and a clearance from ATC. We have experience, weather radar and wind-shear detection as well!
    Weather radar scans anywhere up to 100-150 miles ahead for water vapour (clouds) and grades it on its intensity and movement. Intense and convective moisture is generally found in storm clouds (CBs) and these “paint” bright red on our display. We avoid these! Wind shear does a similar thing but at a closer range and if we get a windshear warning, we abort the take-off.
    So once we’ve assessed what will be on our departure path we decide whether to get airbourne or wait for conditions to improve. If there is a gap in the clouds we tell ATC that we would like to fly a heading to avoid the CBs. This is quite possibly what your crew did on that day – even if it looks like they were flying into a big black sky.
    All that said this was a lightning strike and these are random – all the care and preparation in the world can’t stop nature from doing its thing. Lightning strikes, like bird strikes, just happen once in a while – even in relatively bening conditions.
    As Godzilla pointed out, the windscreens are designed to withstand considerable damage before they break but the crew elected return to Madrid just to be on the safe side.
    While the experience was undoubtedly uncomfortable it was not unsafe. easyJet puts safety above everything else and if the pilots did not like the situation they were in, they would have been under no pressure from the company to depart. (There is a saying in aviation that pilots are always first on the scene of an accident and it is somewhere we don’t want to be!).
    I hope that puts your mind at ease a bit. I will try and reply if you have an other concerns.
    PS I can only apologise for the way you were treated on the ground – it is something that frustrates us and the cabin crew because, generally, we try and treat you with courtesy and respect. Often we feel our hard work is undone, or worse still you have a bad experience before you board and take it out on the cabin-crew who have no idea what has gone on!

  9. Kieran Daly (blog owner) July 19, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    Thanks for that Easy Pilot. I’ve never met anyone who’s got a beef with the crew – but the Madrid ground operation is a serial offender. I understand the new CEO has already visited – I’d love to think we’ve got her attention.

  10. Private Jet Hire July 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    That would have been incredibly scary. Sure glad it wasn’t me flying that plane :)

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