Jersey is not part of the United Kingdom, but is a dependency of the British Crown and relies on the United Kingdom for its military defence. It is located just off the coast of Normandy, France and has a population of 98,000. Its economy is largely based around tourism and the financial services. This was the middle of February and my partner and I had a planned weekend break together alone on this island.
It was late afternoon and there I stood in the airport in front of the self check-in terminal. The screen requested a booking reference and after I entered in the code, and there it was in big red bold capitals – CANCELLED.
Thus began our weekend journey to Jersey Island. It was hardly a surprise. The winds had been gusting at 40 miles per hour and many other flights had been cancelled. A quick check before heading off to the airport suggested our flight was still on – but now we needed other options.
The Flybe supervisor took our details and we agreed to the 7.35 flight from Gatwick airport. We were at Southampton airport and so Flybe hired a coach, which we boarded at 4.00 pm for the 87 mile trip. In these conditions and with a peak hour traffic load it didn’t seem possible to make it in time. The driver didn’t seem too pleased to have been called out at such short notice – for a journey whose arrival time seemed impossible. And we didn’t arrive at the airport until 7.00 pm and this was not to be an issue since this flight would not take off until 10.00 pm anyway.
This was also a night of the valentine – and it was hoped to have been in Jersey on time for a romantic meal in the four star hotel that had been booked. Instead dinner was to be steak and chips in an airport diner – average food but fiercely overpriced. Not the best start to this romantic break away.
After a long wait our flight was called. It was a twin turboprop Dash-8 and we were seated at the back. The wind blew fiercely and the plane shook and vibrated even while still on the tarmac.
It felt foolhardy to be taking off in such a small plane in such conditions – and even more so when bigger and heavier planes had remained on the ground rather than risk a flight. But the captain had made the assessment – and so it was to be a flight through a violent sky over an English channel whose waters roared and frothed like mad men in the torment of an endless nightmare.
Something was not quite right while approaching Jersey’s landing strip. During the descent the plane had chopped and pitched and shook to the tune of the gusty wind. The flight felt beyond the control of the plane’s rudder and ailerons and so it was no surprise to feel the plane detach from the descent, at around 500 feet, and begin ascending once more into the heavens. The landing was abandoned and another twenty minutes or so was spent hovering above the earth waiting for a more stable atmosphere to glide the plane down to safety.
The second attempt felt just as choppy as the first but this time the landing was not abandoned. The plane descended in a buffeting wind and the wings oscillated up, down and from side to side. And if it was hardly a smooth landing, still the wheels didn’t smack the tarmac like a falling slate of cement and we were all safe – and we all felt grateful enough to compliment the captain with a hearty round of applause.
It didn’t take us long to disembark from the plane and head out to the airport’s arrival lounge. We found our car rental stand and the representative gave us our Ford Fiesta. The journey to the St Brelades hotel only took ten minutes. It didn’t take us long to check into the hotel, find our room – and embrace our slumber after a long and exhausting journey.