The Germanwings airplane crash in the French Alps hit really, really close to home. The very same day of the crash, a friend and I were waiting at Pisa airport to fly with EasyJet to Berlin when her husband told her about the tragedy by cellphone (we wished he would’ve waited until we landed). Needless to say, we were dismayed, shocked and stunned. No one knew what had caused the crash at that point (the co-pilot). We fly often. It could easily have been us on that plane.
But I’d like to share here a positive story involving a difficult situation aboard an airplane in Europe.
See, despite my fondness for airports, I’m a bit of an anxious flyer. But when the Ryanair flight I caught – from Berlin to Bergamo – had to make an emergency landing in Prague, I didn’t feel afraid. The airplane crew informed us it was due to a medical emergency, and I must say that from where I was sitting in 2A, it looked like they handled the whole thing very well.
It all unfolded quickly. Early into the flight, the crew asked a doctor to go look at the passenger, some rows back from where I was. I couldn’t see the passenger at that point because a small crowd of people had quickly surrounded him. The flight seemed to proceed normally until the crew asked us to fasten our seatbelts because we were preparing to land, about halfway into the flight time.
The airplane crew was as discreet as humanly possible about the whole thing, which I much prefer over the alternative (panic). I was wondering if someone was having a heart attack, but I couldn’t hear any noise. The patient seemed very calm (hopefully conscious, I thought to myself).
When we landed, an ambulance was waiting right outside the airplane. The paramedics quickly came in. The patient was not an old person having a heart attack, as I had initially thought, but a teenage-looking boy on a school trip. He sat in my row for a few moments, looking ok. Earlier his ears had started bleeding though, and it had been serious enough to warrant the emergency landing and his being taken to a hospital in Prague.
I was sad for the boy. His school group flew on, except (I think) for one person who stayed with him. The crew was kind to the ladies who had been accompanying the boy, letting them stand up front talking to the doctor onboard and on a cellphone, right up until we were about to take off again. They then gave the ladies seats in my row, which I had gotten assigned to randomly, along with “priority boarding.” Within an hour, we were back in the air. The flight proceeded without a hitch, and the delay was no worse than if the runway in Berlin had been badly congested.
Being an airline crew member is no doubt stressful. But from the passengers’ side, I am thankful for low-cost carriers such as Ryanair, the one I have used the most (I don’t remember if I have flown with Germanwings).
In my view, one of the great things about living in Europe is being able to travel cheaply by air.
Almost every couple I know here has been in a long-distance relationship (as in within Europe) at some point, and I am fairly certain these relationships, at least for students, would not have been possible without budget airlines. Also, without them, us low-budget travelers would not be able to escape so easily and quickly into a different culture and climate when we’re having the winter or routine blues.
Long-distance buses are just not comfortable, no matter how you spin it. Cross-continental trains are just not cheap. Nor can these reach islands where parties and summer never quite seem to end (ok, I’m not a fan of those personally, but still, it does float a lot of people’s boats). However, these are better for the environment than airplane travel.
Although Ryanair’s baggage regulations (slackened now a bit) have annoyed and screwed me more than once – and I don’t appreciate the constant in-flight sales pitches and having to pay for absolutely anything extra besides seat, seatbelt, oxygen masks and restroom use – I would take that over being unable to travel any day. And I have felt no more like cattle being herded than when flying economy class with “regular” airlines.