Why my love affair with CityJet is over

Broken HeartIt started back in 2010.  I was working with a bank at Canary Wharf and the day rate was high enough to allow me to fly into London City airport.  Initially I assumed it would need to be BA that flew me back and forth each week, however when I went to book I noticed there was another airline who also operated the EDI – LCY route; CityJet.  From what I could gather from the Internet, CityJet seemed like a small airline that operated short-haul routes to major business centres.  Their target customer was the business traveller and the service they offered seemed to match that.  They had a ’15 minute’ check-in guarantee at LCY that seemed infinitely better than using any of London’s other airports.

The price for my flights were (and indeed still are) very similar to BA although watch out if you are booking one way as they sneakily add on about £30 for the privilege.  CityJet worked out a little cheaper than BA so I paid for the first 4 weeks of my contract and waited.

Flying with CityJet was great.  They had a 06:20 flight from Edinburgh that arrived into London City for 07:30 and as I discovered on my first few trips, when everything went according to plan, I could be at a desk on the 32nd floor of a Canary Wharf building by 08:30 with coffee in hand.  CityJet are full service so of course you could take a bag and have a coffee on the flight for no extra charge.  Staff were always friendly and helpful and they really seemed to value my custom.  They just seemed to do what they did, really well. They also offered tasty little chocolate sweets that were expensive enough to be special, but no so expensive that I felt the need to take them home to MrsTravelFreak!

My contract went on, as did my flights for long enough for me to hit Gold with Flying Blue and I never had any issues with the flights.  I arrived on time, if I checked in a bag it too arrived with me without delay and I could still get to work on time.

Over the past few years, I have taken on a number of contracts for clients that are not based in Canary Wharf or the City so I have used CityJet less, however on the occasions that I did, the service was still what I had grown to expect.  This was all about to change.

In July this year I took on a contract for a client based in The City and once again, it was most convenient to travel to LCY.  With little more than a glance at BA’s prices (there was generally less than £10 difference up or down anyway), I booked flights for the first few weeks of the contract.  The average price of these flights were £209 return – not cheap by any stretch when you compare it to EasyJet where a flight from Edinburgh to Gatwick can be yours for as little as £29.  However, time is of course, money and I didn’t fancy the arduous journey from and to Gatwick each week.  It’s also nice to be able to check in a bag and have a gin on the way home.

July 2012 was special for London, they were hosting the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.  Widespread travel chaos was expected so many companies (alas not my client!) allowed staff to work from home and avoid central London completely.  This resulted in London being as quiet as I have ever seen it.  It also had a huge impact on my love for CityJet.

Week one – CityJet changed their flight schedules some time ago merging the 06:20 and 07:00 flights from Edinburgh.  The expected arrival was 08:30 and so I could just about be on my client’s site for ‘the back of’ 9:00.  For the first flight I arrived at the airport in good time and had a drink in the Servisair lounge (Gold Flying Blue got me in).  When it was time, I went to the gate (always gate 1) and wandered on to the plane.  I noted that there weren’t a lot of other passengers and enjoyed the extra space.  Flight landed on time and I got to the office when I thought I would have. Good stuff.

Week two was a bit different.  I was first worried when I selected my seat when checking in online, as the layout of the aircraft was different.  I was further worried when they changed the gate from 1 to 24.  As you can probably imagine these gates are at opposite ends of the airport and are usually reserved for RyanAir flights.  I imagine they are known as the ‘cheap’ gates.  Off I went marching to the gate and again I noted that there were only a few other passengers.  We boarded a bus, which has happened previously on occasion but not very often.  The bus journey took us past every other plane in the airport, past the cargo section of the airport and only stopped when we reached parking stand 200.  It is my understanding that this is the last stand in the airport; it is certainly the furthest from the terminal.  I could see lots of cages for the cargo flights lying around and a very small, CityJet branded plane.  We waited in the bus for almost 20 minutes before the doors were opened and we were allowed to board.  Boarding didn’t take long and we departed (a bit later than we should have).  The plane had propellers and so the journey took an additional 20 minutes when compared to the same journey in the ‘normal’ aircraft.  The journey was not comfortable, this wasn’t a luxury aircraft – it was just cramped, old and slow.  We arrived into City for just after 9:00 and it got worse!  As we were in the ‘cheap’ aircraft we had the last parking stand here too.  This meant we had to wait for a bus to take us into the airport.  I didn’t leave the airport until 09:35 – 60 minutes later than normal.  The return journey this week was pretty bad too – sitting on the old and tiny plane in the heat for 30 minutes was almost torture.  And then they ran out of gin… Anyway…

Week three – same aircraft was used.  Same departure stand was used.  Same delay was experienced.  Then it the hit me!  As the passenger load was so low (I assume due to the Olympics) CityJet decided to use the smaller aircraft, knowing full well this would change the arrival time considerably.  They did not choose to inform passengers of this decision.  Remember this is a full service airline – premium if you will, with a target customer of me, i.e. the business traveller.  It got worse.  We arrived at City just before 09:00 but I had made the mistake of checking a bag into the hold (and no I wasn’t given a Priority tag despite being Gold Flying Blue, but I find that you never are at Edinburgh these days).  The checked bags did not arrive on the belt at City until 09:25.  What makes it worse still – is that a BA flight (from Edinburgh) landed just after the CityJet flight.  Clearly BA are still deemed more important at LCY as the bags from this aircraft (almost all WITH Priority stickers…) arrived only a few moments after the passengers did – this flight was dealt with first.

Week four  – we got to the (random) gate and I heard a conversation going on with CityJet cabin crew.  Suffice to say that the flight was delayed by an additional 25 minutes as we waited for some ‘paperwork’ to be resolved so that CityJet crew could travel on the flight.  Can you imagine BA delaying a flight due to an extra crew?

Weeks five – eight – I couldn’t book these flights at all.  I use Skyscanner to check prices (just in case BA have a deal on – I am not so loyal that I don’t check) and it transpired that there was an issue with the information that Skyscanner was passing to CityJet.  This meant that I couldn’t complete the booking process.  I went to the effort of recording my user experience with screen capture software that I then sent to CityJet.  I was eventually contacted by a Webmaster who explained that the issue was with Skyscanner and that I should make the booking directly.  This took almost 10 days during which time the price of one of the CityJet flights had increased by £60.  I sent a message to CityJet customer care explaining the situation but clearly they don’t ‘care’ very much.  As a matter of principal I booked the BA flight (that was cheaper anyway, although only just) instead.  Once the flights were eventually booked the journeys’ got a little better.  The big plane was back and I sometimes made it to the office when I should have.  Alas I didn’t get a Priority tag at Edinburgh or City even once (!) and only on one return flight were the nice chocolates offered.  I had checked in for one of my return flights using the Air France app for my iPhone.  The boarding pass was displayed and I got through security and into the gate with it.  When I went back into the app to display the boarding pass to show to the crew on the aircraft, I was surprised to discover that it had disappeared.  The ground crew wouldn’t allow me to board without a pass (despite being held in captivate pen…) and so they had to walk (very slowly it seemed) back to the terminal to print another.  This delayed the boarding process by about 10 minutes but it was more the principal – I explained to the ground crew that there was an issue with the app and CityJet flights and they would not listen – they were convinced it was user error.

I was later told by CityJet staff at the check in desk at LCY that the scan at the gate indicates on the airline systems that I have boarded and this the coded boarding pass is then removed from the app.  They told me they have raised the issue a number of times before, however ‘management don’t listen’.

Management not listening seems to be a theme at CityJet – I have twice asked Customer Care for a contact for management to share my Customer Experience with and have been ignored on both occasions.  I even went to the effort of inviting the chief exec of CityJet to join my LinkedIn network – yep, you guessed it I was again ignored.   I won’t explain the conversation heard between an off-duty pilot and an off duty cabin attendant; suffice to say they are not happy with the company at present, so much so that Unions may be involved soon.  Be warned and remember you read it here first.

All of the things that made CityJet great have vanished.  I have given them way too many chances.  Unless I have to connect at CDG, I won’t be flying with CityJet again; I just can’t have my heart broken any more.

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