Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Low cost and low expectations

Dear Bmi Baby,

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that you are receiving a letter of complaint in relation to your decision to cancel the 15:30 flight from Belfast City Airport to East Midlands Airport on Monday 19th September. I am also quite certain that this is not the only letter which you will be receiving, given the solemn mood in the departure lounge on that fateful afternoon.

My frustrations run deeper than the mere disappointment at having to spend a sunny Monday afternoon inside the corporate limbo of George Best Airport. You see, I am a reasonable man. People say so. I am so patient and enjoy my own company and, had I made a decision to waste a day I'd be quite happy with my choice to do so. However turning up on time to be told by a member of Group 4 Security: 'Flights been cancelled, go to departures' didn't exactly get me on side.

Confused and a little bit annoyed I joined the bitter queue at departures (despite having already printed my boarding pass) behind a woman who had just been given the same news as me; she was not impressed. In fact I took it better than she did. Eventually I was seen by a young chap who offered little apology or explanation stating the cancellation was something 'operational'. Keeping my composure, I asked how long they had been privy to the knowledge that the flight had been cancelled, to which he shrugged. I then recalled the laborious booking process where, amongst the traps including car hire, insurance, priority lounge and excess baggage potholes I was asked for my mobile phone number. I asked him politely why, if they have our contact information from booking, did they not contact the customers and let them know the flight had been cancelled earlier. This would have saved me significant time and effort as well as £55 in a taxi. Again, my comment was met with a shrug.

Now, I don't want to get this guy in trouble. He was polite in his ignorance and it was quite apparent that he did not know why the flight had been cancelled and that he was in the highly unfortunate position of having to tell the would be passengers that they would be unable to get home/to work/to appointments/meet deadlines and so on. He put us on the next flight however, which was at ten past seven. This was at half past one.

On the plus, I was offered (after I asked) some compensation! That'll help the next 6 hours simply fly by! My girlfriend and I were able to treat ourselves with your very generous token of a £3 voucher, redeemable throughout the airport (excluding W H Smith). You can imagine our elation at this 'Golden Ticket', an opportunity to dine like kings, an ephemeral blissful moment were we could forget our humdrum lives and the poverty we wade through and enjoy the finer things free of guilt. It might surprise you to learn what £3 will buy you in George Best airport...

At the Bushmills bar: 1 small tube of pringles.

At the Cafe: Crisps and Soft drinks (excluding Innocent Smoothies).

At O'Brien's Sandwich bar: nothing, whatsoever.

Needless to say we were disappointed; however we opted to use our £3 voucher to offset our meal at the ‘Bushmills bar’ which came in at £26.55. I appreciate that times are hard, but three pounds does not stretch as far as it once did and, I would anticipate that with a turnover in excess of £869,000,000 last year that you could perhaps dig a bit deeper in order to preserve a valued and regular customer.

Yours sincerely,

Tiernan Welch

Monday, September 05, 2011

A non-music fan's guide to...Leeds Festival

Following the mixed feedback from my first column I approached my follow up with some trepidation and so contemplated for some time about what to write about. But what do people really want, I mused? I considered current issues; but are people really interested in my views on the recent UK riots or on the Gadaffi regime? Probably yes.

Then I saw my opening, Leeds Festival 2011; the last hurrah of the festival season. But could I really write about another festival? We all know what happens when follow ups don't cut the mustard and ideas get stretched. Need I remind you of: The Matrix - Reloaded, Blues Brothers 2000, Sex and the City 2, The new Star Wars films, Grease 2, Cruel Intentions 2: Manchester Prep, Jaws 2: The Revenge, Men in Black 2, Dumb and Dumberer and Speed 2: Cruise Control. I mean, they’re all incredible films, but sadly the world wasn't ready.

Despite the fact I am a confirmed musical ignoramus, the calibre of acts at Reading and Leeds this year was so strong and unignorable that even I was familiar with some names. So on my long and pointless drive to Leeds on the Friday morning I spend the journey familiarising myself with the hits of The Muse, The Pulps, The Strokes and Late Night Gimp Fight. I also opted to bring my girlfriend with me who does like music, despite being completely deaf.

Friday started wel,l as I managed to lose all my cards and money before even paying my donation for our guest passes. Compounding my elation at this, we were also welcomed to the 'jewel of the North' by apocalyptic weather conditions and a small Irish girl attempting to sell me Ketamine. Once we set up camp (in the disabled camp site) music reigned as well as the sky and I decided to watch the bands with the worst / most interesting names which included: Death from Above 1979, Panic! At the Disco, Chapel Club, Friendly Fires, Danananaykroyd and Warpaint. I didn't enjoy them personally, but my girlfriend appeared to - or at least I think she did. I don't know sign language.

In addition to his main stage set we also managed to watch a 'secret set' by one Frank Turner. It can't have been too much of a secret though as the backdrop behind him had his name on it. Much later we watched the Muse with 100,000 strangers. Muse decided to use this point in history to perform their now 10 year old record 'Origin of Symmetry' album in its entirety. I’m sure it’s good and all, but it’s hardly ‘NOW! That’s what I call music’ where you’re certain to have hit after hit and I felt as though it went on a bit, I mean even people wearing Muse T-shirts didn’t seem to know the words so I used this opportunity to eat some chips. Later that night we went 'celeb-spotting' in the guest area which was completely unsuccessful. On arrival back to my tent I attempted to manually blow an inflatable mattress. What a rush.

In the morning a number of stewards approached us and appeared to be trying to suss out the nature of our disabilities, but they were all too polite to just come out and say something, so I spend the entire weekend pretending to suffer various impairments to justify my stay in disabled camping. It was a lovely morning; I was full of positivity and cider. The sun was out, BBQ's were lit and there was an air of optimism, until it started to rain. We spent some time in the early afternoon at the main stage where heavy metal boy bands ‘Architects’ and ‘Bring me the Horizon’ sang songs about girls, their issues with God and having mild mental health problems. This set the tone for a very bleak afternoon spent watching hardcore bands with homeless people. My girlfriend didn't enjoy it either, but obviously I couldn't be sure.

Despite missing X Factor my Saturday evening picked up tenfold when I realised that there was free 'Relentless' in the guest area, and by realising this I managed to miss My Chemical Romance and most of 30 Seconds to Marxism. I particularly enjoyed watching the moment where Actor and Model Jared Leto literally come out of his A-hole.

Sunday and more 'Relentless'. Relentless drinks boast some impressive flavours and over the weekend I enjoyed 'Dominion', 'Inferno' and 'The blood of Christ'. Celeb spotting was a bit better today too and, as well as human shit pump Chris Moyles I was lucky enough to see Louis from pop sensation 'One Direction', though the only sensation I was feeling at the time was a Relentless inducted Stroke. If the drummer from the Kaiser Chiefs looks like a train driver then I may have seen him too.

The weekend was topped off by forgettable performances from The Strokes and Pulp and then changing a car tyre on terra firma drenched with 3 days of rain. My girlfriend and I still aren't talking, but what's new...?!

Tiernan Welch