Flyglobespan chairman Tom Dalrymple today underlined his airline’s determination to restore full confidence in their Ireland West Knock service to New York’s JFK.
“We have taken a bit of pounding,” admits Dalrymple, “Some of it justified, some of it totally undeserved. But we are conducting a full internal enquiry into all aspects of our performance – with a view to ensuring that our Ireland West Knock – JFK service performs to the high standard we expect from all our routes.”
The problems started when the flight from JFK to Knock on June 28th last couldn’t take off because of a warning light on the engine management system of the Boeing 757.
The decision was taken immediately to organize overnight accommodation for the passengers and flyglobespan would like to point out that many other airlines would not have done this.
The engineers at JFK advised that the plane had been struck by lightning when on the ground – New York had experienced some very severe weather resulting in delays of up to 30 hours to the flights of major US airlines – but their advice was that once the parts had been sourced the repair could be carried out overnight.
At that time the airline could have sent a rescue aircraft from the UK but crew rest time meant that it would not have taken off any earlier than the scheduled repaired aircraft and there was nothing to be gained.
The parts arrived later than expected, the repair made and initial engine testing suggested that all was 100 percent. However when the plane was taxiing for take-off the same warning light came on – and the pilot had no option but to cancel the flight. The passengers were again given hotel accommodation although many at this stage had decided to make their own way home via other carriers.
“We are deeply concerned with the comments of passengers waiting in New York and I am determined those received will be responded to and necessary actions taken to making sure that we learn from this.
“I can well imagine the frustration that the passengers must have felt at that time,” says Dalrymple. “And I apologise profusely for their discomfort but I hope they understand that the airline had followed the advice given and as always was putting safety first.”
The opinion of the JFK engineers was that this fault was electrical and would be fixable following further investigation.
This became the only solution available as on Saturday Glasgow Airport was hit by a severe terrorist attack, which closed the airport for 24 hours, grounding six of our fleet at this base and additional aircraft at other airports.
Apart from affecting thousands of passengers travel arrangements over the following days this attack denied us the ability to mount an immediate rescue mission due to the fact that our flying schedule was severely disrupted.
Dalrymple explains: “I know the JFK problems had started before the terrorist attack – but the Glasgow Airport closure made an already difficult situation virtually impossible to resolve by way of another aircraft.”
“It put a huge strain on our fleet, our flight deck and cabin crew personnel and our customer handling staff in Scotland – which may explain the number of complaints we received regarding passengers unable to get through on our help lines. We did however attempt to keep everyone appraised of the situation via our web site and our efforts were well received by our passengers.”
When initial testing of the engine could not give a 100 percent assurance that all would be well for take-off time, the airline had no option but to cancel the flight before the passengers had started boarding – and instructed their ground handling agents at JFK to begin repatriating customers home via other airlines.
The airline also decided to fly out two of their engineers and two specialists from engine manufacturers Rolls Royce to help facilitate the repair.
“Despite coping with the problems of the Glasgow attack, we were looking at all ways to resolve the JFK issue,” insists Dalrymple. “We looked at trying to source replacement aircraft – but, sadly, there was no quick fix and we had no option to suspend the service for a few days to cut out the uncertainty – and to continue to repatriate any remaining passengers.
“In the end the engineering team we flew out resolved the problem and we were able to resume our flights on the day planned and included an additional stop-over in Ireland West Knock.”
Flyglobespan are examining all aspects of our handling of the situation and our customer service team is currently consolidating the list of complaints we received and we will be responding to them in time.
The airline has received a number of complaints regarding a lack of information being available at JFK airport and our North American manager Stephen Elmy is in dialogue with our New York ground handlers Swissport to assess their performance. It is clear from feedback that this area requires particularly detailed investigation as the performance of our ground handlers fell well below the standards expected by our passengers. Many of the instructions issued by the company to alleviate the situation seem to have simply been ignored.
We emphasise that all passengers on the delayed flight and who were not carried by us will have their fares refunded.
“We know we let our customers down in JFK,” admits Dalrymple. “And we apologise for that – and if they feel they have been let down they have every right to criticise us.”
“But among the media coverage over this there have been some comments that would seem to question flyglobespan’s safety policy. Let me stress that this airline always puts safety first. We pay 100 percent attention to safety and any suggestion to the contrary will be scrutinised by our legal team.
“This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that until this incident our Ireland West Knock to JFK service only suffered two delays due to technical issues all of the others were due to the lengthy delays on the tarmac at JFK whilst waiting to depart.
“Our website currently offers flights from 16 UK and Irish airports to over 30 world wide destinations - satisfying the stringent aviation rules of all the countries. We have a fast growing fleet of modern aircraft and will be one of the first UK airlines to take delivery of the next generation Dreamliner aircraft which Boeing launched this week. We will have two in service by 2010.
“When other airlines wouldn’t, we brought a brand new service to Ireland West Knock and are proud at the positive response it has generated.
“We are constantly looking at ways to improve all our services – and take on board feedback from our customers. Because of the level of traffic at our JFK slot, we have experienced some take-offs delays despite pushing back on time. We are actively looking at ways to resolve this.
“Over 6,000 passengers have flown already on our Ireland West Knock Transatlantic services – with another 25,000 booked over the coming months. That emphasises the route’s popularity.
“Along with the airport officials, we are determined to put recent events behind us and move forward positively. We see a great future and go forward with confidence.”