Kyiv: A trip to remember despite the result

The Champions League final may not have ended the way we all wanted but, despite the disappointment of the game itself, all of us who were fortunate enough to be there will take so much away from the whole experience, not least of which is just how special it is to be a part of this club’s amazing army of supporters.

Thank you to everyone who joined us on the 5Times charter flights to Kyiv, we’ve had some wonderful feedback, putting smiles back on our faces and softening the blow of that result. We do owe you all a huge thank you too, for following our instructions and playing a part in everything running as smoothly as it did. All 352 passengers got to Kiev and back in one piece.

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There was a bit of a scare in the early hours of the Saturday morning for us. Both our planes were fully booked, but six of our passengers who were booked onto our first flight, the 5:50 am one, turned up too late and missed it. There was no room on our second flight, every seat was taken, so what could we do?

We either had to be tough about it (most airlines and travel operators would have been) or make some sacrifices – we went for the latter. There were four staff members booked onto that second flight, plus two of our sons, so we bumped ourselves off the 5Times flight and gave the six late passengers our seats.

We had no alternative flight. A nine-year-old boy was in fits of tears. But we felt it was the right thing to do, to ensure everyone who booked with us made it to Kiev.

Gini Wijnaldum’s dad spotted us and tried to get us on the Liverpool FC friends and family flight – LFC staff didn’t want to know.

It was quite the opposite with Thomas Cook, whose staff tried hard to help us out – a sharp contrast to the bad press they’ve had recently for a situation that was out of their control.

If it wasn’t for the extremely kind actions of Wayne Scholes of Red Touch Media, that little boy would still be in tears, his dreams shattered. Wayne answered our pleas for help by booking us onto the Red Touch Media flight to Kiev, leaving at 10am, meaning we all got there and only a couple of hours later than originally planned. A massive thank you from us all to Wayne for stepping in like this without any hesitation whatsoever.

You're going! Tears turn to joy as we get a flight for our stranded staff and their sons

You’re going! Tears turn to joy as we get a flight for our stranded staff and their sons

With our first plane already in the air we had to send messages to the staff on that flight hoping they would pick them up when they landed – by which time the delayed staff would in the air themselves. They got our messages, but couldn’t let us know they’d got them. This must be how it felt in the days of telegrams.

The staff split up: two went into Kyiv with the first flight’s passengers whilst the other two waited at the airport for the second flight to arrive. At least it gave them a chance to sort out sim cards, currency and cold beers while they waited – not necessarily in that order…

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Having no staff on the flight itself did cause some disruption to our plans but we did our best to work around that and everyone made it onto transport to the stadium. We kept people informed of what was happening via email and social media throughout the day, as and when we got any extra information – please excuse any typos!

On the way home, it also meant we had to fly without any 5Times staff on the second flight – but we did have staff from the charter company on board and at the airport and they were by far the best equipped to liaise with the airport and airline staff.

Ideally we would have preferred to swap some people over from the second flight to the first so we could get staff on both planes, but trying to organise something like that at that time of the night at an airport running at way beyond its usual levels of passengers, despite our best efforts, just wasn’t going to happen. We did manage to get our staff – and their sons – onto the unused six seats on the first flight home, but there was no way we could have made any other changes.

We actually waited until the last possible moment to board our staff onto the first flight, just in case we could make some changes and get some 5Times staff onto that second flight. There were plenty of volunteers willing to swap from the second flight to the first, unsurprisingly, but ultimately it couldn’t be done.

The staff member whose nine-year-old son had nearly missed out altogether decided to stay back for the second flight, leaving his son with the other staff members on the first plane, but in the end was advised by Nick from the charter company that if he didn’t get on that first plane he wouldn’t be able to get home at all.

Nick stayed back for the second flight and, just as the rest of the staff from the charter company had done all day and in the run-up to the flight, worked his socks off to ensure everything went as smoothly as it possibly could.

We do apologise to everyone on the second flight that you did have a delay, everybody just wants to get home by that stage, but thankfully it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, especially given the pressure the airport was under. Our first flight was the first of all the Kyiv flights to land back at JLA.

Our decision to send some staff over in advance to do a ‘recce’ of Kyiv paid off, it meant we knew what we were up against before we got there and we could get things in place to make it easier for everyone on the day.

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Thanks again to everyone who helped the trip go as well as it did, Air Charter Services, our friends in Kyiv with the coaches, Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Wayne Scholes and Red Touch Media, Gini Wijnaldum’s dad for trying, Thomas Cook for the same and of course to everyone who booked with us and travelled.

We couldn’t do anything about the result, but there will definitely be a next time for Liverpool and, who knows, maybe we’ll put flights on again too! Madrid 2019 anyone?