No one's going anywhere until...

A technical fault led to a full-scale stand-off on Flight 727.
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The Independent Travel

THE STRANGE thing about the Scot Airways flight 727 from Glasgow to Edinburgh last Friday night was that it didn't actually exist, at least as far as the schedules are concerned. In fact it was a one-night-only event, albeit with a surreal quality. An American business-class passenger was perched up with the pilot, headphones on and looking very self- important, and we'd lost one of our two stewardesses to the flip of a coin.

Inevitably it all started with a technical fault – the nightmare of every tired, fractious business traveller who just wants to get home for the weekend – and every frazzled young parent nursing a (potentially) peevish child, who just wants to get away for the weekend.

Checking in at London City airport just before 7pm we were told that, owing to a technical problem, the Edinburgh and Glasgow flights were being combined. That meant that those of us on our way to Edinburgh would be taking a slight detour and stopping off in Glasgow on the way. Most took the announcement with equanimity. It was just a slight glitch, after all, without too much of a delay forecast.

However, when they finally allowed us to board we noticed that they had miscounted. There was one passenger too many. Perched on the staff jump seat facing a plane full of people in proper seats (admittedly only a 31-seater plane) was a disgruntled female passenger. The two stewardesses had nowhere to sit.

We weren't going anywhere until it was sorted. For the next half-hour, mumblings from the front bemused those of us at the back not able to hear what was going on. Finally an American businessman gave up his seat to the disgruntled female, in return for a ride on the flight deck.

As he clambered into the cockpit, the two stewardesses flipped the said coin and the brunette collected her bag leaving us with the blonde. All satisfactorily resolved and the baby hadn't even grizzled – apart from the fact that is was now 9.30pm and we were still on the ground in London.

Conspiracy theories started circulating. The man in front of me had been told that the Edinburgh flight was almost full when he booked his ticket. A few passengers on the way to Glasgow had been told the same thing. Clearly this didn't appear to be the case as only some 12 or 13 of us were continuing to Edinburgh.

So was there really a technical fault or had the flights been combined for commercial reasons? And if so, didn't that have a knock-on effect in terms of safety?

The Civil Aviation Authority states that only one cabin crew is required on an aircraft of less than 50 seats. I'm sure I wasn't the only one wondering about the mental state of the new occupant of the flight deck, and thinking that, in the event of an emergency, two stewardesses would be better than one.

It turns out, according to a Scot Airways spokesman, that the flights had been almost full but they had managed to "mix and match" and put some passengers on earlier flights. And although they are under no obligation to operate with more than one member of cabin crew, it is their policy to fly with two.

As for the worrying inability to count, one passenger had checked in at a Swiss airport, but the computers hadn't communicated with each other. These technical problems combined to get us to Edinburgh shortly before midnight, but at least we arrived safely.

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