Football fever is upon us and while most connoisseurs of the game go home to watch the matches on television or head to the stadium to catch the matches live, for some fans of Chelsea FC, neither options were feasible.
Airports in Lufton, from where the Chelsea FC fans were supposed to depart for the Europa League finals (Chelsea vs Arsenal) in Baku, experienced massive delays on May 29th. The delay, which lasted for hours, was attributed to the lack of fuel for the airplanes.
Just like other airports in and around England, Lufton’s airports too have been severely hit by extreme power outages. With no power for hours at a time, fuelling stations have become completely inactive, leaving airplanes stranded on the ground due to a lack of fuel.
Disappointed fans take to Twitter
The Chelsea FC fans flying to Baku were scheduled to travel on two official Europa League aircraft. Run by global travel giant Thomas Cook, the flights were dedicated to transport fans from Lufton, Somerset, to the finals match in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The flight tickets didn’t come cheap. To book a seat on the charter, football fans paid a whopping £979 to the airline. Typically, tickets between Lufton and Baku are available from £250. Costing almost four times this amount, the Thomas Cook flight was a hefty price to pay, especially given the delay.
Tired and disgruntled fans soon stormed Twitter with rants and pleas. Some tagged the Chelsea FC official Twitter page and requested them to make alternate arrangements to help fans get to the finals on time. According to the tweets, the aircraft had already been grounded on the tarmac for 1.5 hours when news of fuel insufficiency arrived. Many fans bombarded Thomas Cook’s official Twitter page, asking them for an explanation. Some even dubbed the aircraft as “Shambles Airline”, a reference to Thomas Cook’s legacy of terrible performance as a travel service provider in England.
In early 2019, Thomas Cook reported a loss of $1.5 billion in its trade and announced its plans to sell the airline at the earliest. Reports suggest that the company has already received many lucrative bids.
Arsenal fans suffer too
The delay at Lufton is reported to have affected thousands of Arsenal FC fans as well. The possibility of missing the action due to a lack of fuel was a double shocker to Arsenal fans; the first being footballer Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s announcement of not participating in the much-awaited finals match.
In their official statement to the press, Thomas Cook stated that the two designated Europa League charters had been provided the highest priority and that the flights had taken off at 10:00AM UK time after only a two-hour delay. They confirmed that fans would make it to Baku well in time for the finals match to begin.
The company also took the opportunity to apologize for the low ticket allocation – the company had provided both Chelsea and Arsenal fans 6000 tickets each only, despite Baku stadium’s capacity to seat 70,000. Thomas Cook confirmed that the decision was taken to ensure crowd safety during the game.
The UEFA also took to Twitter, apologizing to fans for the inconvenience caused. But they also included a warning that outbursts by unruly fans would not be tolerated at the match.