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Easyjet Faro-Gatwick, with diversion to Nantes

Easyjet Faro-Gatwick, with diversion to Nantes

Old Jan 5, 21, 4:49 am
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Easyjet Faro-Gatwick, with diversion to Nantes [Capt Incapacitated]

Well Saturday was an interesting experience and very much a first for me in 38 years of flying.

I'd been down in the Algarve for Christmas and were originally due to fly back on the evening of the 28th on BA. By the afternoon of the 27th, with all the news coming out of the UK the “why on earth are we going back” feeling became overwhelming so I decided to push our return back to the 2nd. BA were obviously more than useless, I couldn’t change on MMB, calling up gave a recorded message saying “we are too busy to even let you hold” and so I just claimed for an eVoucher and booked Easyjet instead. 2 tickets, 2 upfront seats in row 4 in an empty cabin, 1 checked bag, €200.

Saturday came along and we bade our early morning farewells to the lovely Algarve hills where life had felt pretty much normal for the preceding fortnight - lunches out in local restaurants, walks on the beach, beers in the sunshine outside cafes. Got to a very quiet FAO and the Easyjet Speedy Boarding bag drop was empty whereas the normal desk had a big queue with pax travelling to AMS, BRS and a couple of other places and trying to sort out all of the various immigration/testing rules. I also like the Easyjet policy of allowing you to check in a hand luggage bag for €7 which makes getting through the airport a bit smoother. Arrived at the gate and as you can see it was a beautiful day for flying on our A321neo.

Easyjet still offer Speedy Boarding (unlike BA) so when they made the call we were pretty much first on. Welcomed aboard by a very chirpy Captain and before long we were on our way at 1045 GMT, about 10 minutes before the scheduled 1055 departure.

Before long we were in the cruise and eating our leftover Xmas sandwiches. I was drinking a Super Bock from the terminal - apparently not strictly allowed according to the crew - and I’d bought a top up from BoB (which Easyjet are still offering, unlike BA. In fact they’re even offering inflight retail too along with duty free alcohol and tobacco).

As we headed out over the Bay of Biscay at about 1225 ish I noticed a bit of activity around door 1L, it was clear whomever was behind the curtain wasn’t well. Lots of discussion amongst the crew and the guy sounded more and more distressed. So they got the med kit out and the oxygen and there was a bit of back and forth with the cockpit. One of the crew then did a PA asking for any medical help - doctor, nurse, or even a vet. In hindsight the FA did look a bit shaken and it seemed they were quite keen to get help. An older Portuguese gentleman made his way from the back up to the front.

At this point we started descending quite gradually and the poor guy started groaning really badly. Shortly afterwards one of the other cabin crew went in to the cockpit and then came out with a slip of paper and said “we’re diverting into Nantes”. We then started a quite extraordinarily rapid descent, I have never experienced anything like it. Ears popping all the way down which is unusual in this day and age especially on a newish aircraft.

The poor guy was still groaning away and there was a lot of discussion about getting him into a seat for landing. So they moved the lady out of 3A (we were in 4, there were only 35 pax) and they started to get the guy ready to move into row 2 and when the curtain came back I was quite taken aback to see that it was actually the Captain looking really poorly and with an oxygen mask on.

They laid him down on 2ABC and then manoeuvred a female CC into 2A to comfort him. This was the most shocking part actually as clearly we were down to the FO on the flight deck, and were still descending very quickly. The crew were very good about getting the cabin ready but you could tell they were a bit shaken up.

Very soon we landed at NTE and there was already an ambulance and support vehicles waiting at the gate, the paramedics came on and got the Captain off to have a look.

He’d actually perked up a bit in the descent and was upright, talking etc but then as we were landing he was in a very bad way again and groaning away. I spoke to the FO later on and he said that he could hear everything going on even from his seat in the cockpit, which can’t have been pleasant whilst trying to manage an emergency descent and arrival all on his own. Kudos to him.

After about 40 minutes the paramedics came back on to say he’d had a heart attack and they were taking him to hospital. The crew were getting concerned they could still see the stationary ambulance out of the front of the aircraft during this time, but I understand French policy is to treat in ambulance at the scene rated than go straight to A&E.

In the meantime the FO had been busy getting on to London and they got a rescue plane with crew to bring another (entire new flight and cabin crew) to bring our aircraft back. This seemed to be a bit of a faff due to ground handling at LGW being short staffed due to Covid but eventually it pushed back and I followed it on FR24 (I told my daughter “Thunderbird 2” was coming to get us).

Then it was just a case of waiting. But the crew opened the BoB for free food and soft drinks which was good, the FO made regular updates and made sure our aircraft was refuelled and loaded with new flight plan whilst we were waiting.

So eventually when the cavalry arrived at about 1600 GMT it only took about 25 mins before we pushed back (with Thunderbird 2 following behind).

Smooth flight back … even had the new crew darting around the cabin doing BoB by hand from the galley … to a deserted LGW-N but the UKBA was a predictable shambles. Bags waiting on the belt when we got to it and we got on an empty fast up to London Bridge.

The day was very long - we were on the aircraft for 7 hours all in - but I understand the Captain is recovering and the FO did a great job in getting us down in one piece and the crew were great at looking after us. And I have to say Easyjet handled it superbly, sending an entire new crew on an A320 just to pick us up was great at such short notice (and it would’ve been quicker had they not been short staffed at LGW ground ops). Very impressive. A BA CEO once said something along the lines of “good customer service is all about how you perform when things go wrong” and by that measure Easyjet gets a A++++ from me.

Regarding the descent, a review of FlightRadar24 shows we started a gradual descent from FL 380 at 1228, by 1233 when we started the sharp right turn to NTE we were at FL 336, we turned onto finals 10 minutes later at 1243 at 3,100 ft and landed at 1249.

Last edited by BahrainLad; Jan 6, 21 at 7:03 am
BahrainLad is offline  
Old Jan 5, 21, 5:50 am
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First, I do hope the captain is recovering well and also well done easyJet - as ever the measure of how good a company is, is how they cope when things go wrong and this sounds like it could not have been better.

Second, thanks for a great account.
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Old Jan 5, 21, 7:12 am
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Wow that must have been quite some flight! Good to hear that the captain is doing better.

Seems like a job well done by the easyJet crew, especially shielding away the situation from the passengers and handling the delay. I hope it wasn't too stressful for the kids on board, but judging by your cute daughter running down the aisle and playing on her tablet it looks fine!

Thanks for sharing.
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Old Jan 5, 21, 8:34 am
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I have only flown EasyJet once - I normally travel to Europe for two weeks at a time with multiple stops, so I need to check in a large case - hence the one and only time, and to be honest was not impressed with them.

BUT, after reading your account has really changed my mind, and, if possible, I would support them. Well done to the Crew, Management and I hope that the Captain recovers fully.
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Old Jan 9, 21, 5:34 pm
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Definitely not an usual flight
offerendum is offline  
Old Jan 10, 21, 4:30 pm
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Great TR - glad all was overall okay... wow.
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Old Jan 11, 21, 1:07 pm
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Yikes at your trip and I hope the captain makes a speedy recovery.
nequine is offline  
Old Jan 12, 21, 5:56 am
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Wow, what a trip and I hope the Capt is recovering quickly!

With regards to your sentence "The crew were getting concerned they could still see the stationary ambulance out of the front of the aircraft during this time, but I understand French policy is to treat in ambulance at the scene rated than go straight to A&E."
This is correct, in a sense that if the patient can be treated on site and then transferred to hospital, he will. If not, the ambulance will dart straight to A&E whilst the patient is being stabilised at the back.
(This comes from my old training days as a 1st aider in France 15 years ago, not sure whether this still applies now)
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