THE official opening of the i360 was greeted with sunshine, crowds, and a technical fault that caused delays of almost an hour.
The inaugural 2pm flight did not take off until 2.45pm, accompanied by both a male voice choir and sarcastic applause from waiting crowds who knew their trips too would be delayed.
British Airways i360 chief executive Eleanor Harris told The Argus that a technical fault with the doors had caused the backlog but said the atmosphere was fantastic and that every ticket for the first day had been sold.
Julia Parkin, 75, had been waiting over an hour in the sunshine when she said: “The whole thing is a shambles. For a first impression it is not great and the staff aren’t being very helpful.”
By 2.30pm the 200 people in the glass pod looked remarkably unconcerned as a man emerged over their heads and started to work on the bright red metal cradle which supports the pod on its journey up and down the tower.
A previous unofficial test flight in the middle of the day had encountered difficulties when the doors refused to open upon its return to earth.
Ms Harris told The Argus: “We’ve been going up and down all day, and there have been no problems, and for the last three weeks but today, it’s just a few teething problems. It’s still amazing though, and what a fantastic atmosphere everyone has wanted to be here for the first flights.”
She said that every trip yesterday, which were due to run every 20 minutes from 2pm and every 30 minutes from 6pm, was fully booked.
By 2.45pm the pod took flight greeted with slightly ironic applause from the hundreds in the queue which snaked around the interior of the waiting areas, back and forth along the pavement out in front of the attraction and a further 50 yards along towards Hove.
Later in the day the company tweeted: “We’d like to thank everyone for their patience and apologise for any delays. Like any new attraction we are subject to teething problems. We’re offering refunds and rebooking to visitors who are here today.”
Many who had booked tickets for delayed flights were impatient in the queue, but the lucky few who took the first flight were already happy to overlook the delay once they returned to earth, calling the experience “fantastic.”
Addy Taylor, 52, had come down to Brighton with her family from Leicester and by 2.40pm should have been embarking on the third flight of the day but was still in the queue.
She said: “I hope it’s going to come soon because we’ve got to get back to Leicester. But I’m looking forward to it though, it’ll all be worthwhile. We weren’t going to be here today but you can’t come down here and not go on it.”
Her neighbour in the queue, Natalie Blake, said “We were supposed to have left to get back to Ipswich almost an hour ago.”
Those walking through the exit door were in much better humour. Eighty-seven-year-old Dougie Jones said: “It was brilliant. I could see my house all the way over in Marine Gate.”
I CAN SEE MY HOUSE FROM HERE
AS THE first cohort of passengers disembarked Brighton’s newest visitor attraction there were smiles all round despite the technical problems that had delayed their flight by 45 minutes.
Samuel Maycock, 25, from Brighton, was among the first on.
He said: “It was good. It was really fun I could see for miles. I could even see my house.”
Dougie Jones, 87, was there with his son Craig and said: “I think it was brilliant I could see all the way over to my own home in Marine Gate.
Craig added: “It costs a great deal of money, but it’s a fantastic addition to tourism in Brighton and people will really enjoy it.”
Miles Hammonds, eight, from Dunsfold in Surrey was on a trip with his mum Samantha. He said: “I thought it was awesome. I could see everything I came here to see.”
Samantha said: “It was so interesting to see the pier from above like that. It looked extraordinary. It was very exciting.”
Annabelle Symonds was in Hove for her brother’s birthday which the family celebrated by taking the inaugural trip up the world’s slenderest tower.
She said: “I think it was really good. It’d be good if it lasted a little bit longer, and maybe if there were fewer people up there so you could see the views better.”
Annabelle’s brother Harry, 38, from Hove said: “We’ve watched it being built so we were very excited to take the first flight. It lived up to expectations.”
Vincent Parker, 49, from Hove, said: “Because it’s been such a big deal for Brighton and Hove and there have been some negative reactions it would have been nice if BA had put a bit more fanfare on.
“They could have done something with more interaction, and there was no information about the delays.
“But the views were fantastic and it’s going to be a very positive thing.”