It’s news that every traveler hates to hear: Your flight will be delayed.
But for an easyJet plane full of people heading from Manchester, England, to Alicante, Spain, on Monday, that news was followed by something unexpected. To get everyone off the ground, a fellow passenger would fly the plane.
Michelle Potts, who said she was on the flight, wrote on Facebook that she arrived at the airport to discover a delay of a couple of hours, then had to rush to the gate when she saw the information had changed and the flight was getting ready to take off.
“Get to boarding and asked the guy at the desk what’s going on,” she wrote. “He said, ‘Oh, your pilot’s gone missing, but a guy that’s going on your flight is going to fly the plane.’ REALLY CASUALLY!!!”
The casualness of his delivery was because the “guy” was actually Michael Bradley, an easyJet pilot heading out for his own vacation.
“I’d very much like to go on holiday” said Bradley, according to the video posted on Facebook. “And if you need a favor, I’m standing here ready to go.”
Bradley said his wife had told him early in the morning that the flight was delayed because the airline was short a pilot. It wasn’t clear exactly how she knew those details, but a spokesman for easyJet said the airline publishes delay information on its website.
The airline needed to bring in standby personnel Monday after delays caused by a French air traffic control computer failure on Sunday, the spokesman said.
Bradley told passengers the flight would have been delayed two hours because of the amount of time it would take for a captain to get called up and respond to the airport. But before he went through security, he said he decided to see if he could be of use; he was already there, after all.
He said he called easyJet and explained that he was “doing nothing” at the terminal and had his license and identification with him. (He was not in uniform, but none of the passengers seemed to mind.)
In less than a minute — 38 seconds, to be exact — his phone rang: “They phoned me back and said, ‘Please, please, pretty please with a big cherry on top, can you fly the airplane to Alicante?'”
A statement from easyJet said the airline was “grateful” to one of its pilots who “volunteered to operate the flight” while he was on vacation. His substitution was “fully in line with regulations,” according to the statement. He had been off the previous four days and was well rested, and was allowed by law to fly, the airline said.
“Clearly, this is exceptional, but shows the commitment and dedication of our crew wanting to go the extra mile,” an easyJet spokesman said.