Budget airline easyJet axes allocated seating – then reinstates it after passenger fury
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Friday 05 July 2013
Thousands of holidaymakers who had paid for allocated seats on easyJet flights were told they would instead have to join a free-for all.
Britain’s biggest budget airline is borrowing a jet to fill a gap in its schedules next month. Initially easyJet cancelled all seat allocations on the affected flights, and told passengers they would have to wait until after the flight to get the money they had paid for specific seats. But after angry passengers complained, the airline backed down.
Debra Howlett, from Billericay in Essex, paid £900 for flights for her family between Gatwick and Tenerife, including £21 for specific seats. Nine months after she handed over the money – and a month before the flight – the airline wrote to her saying “Due to an increased number of passengers travelling during the summer season” she would be travelling on a different airline, Titan Airways – with no allocated seating.
“I felt really let down,” Ms Howlett said. “I booked the flights on the day that they were released, as there is no way we would be able to afford to go abroad during the school summer holiday otherwise. I wonder why easyJet are selling planeloads of flights which they cannot service over the busy summer period?”
The airline told The Independent that a change in aircraft delivery schedules meant it would have to charter in extra capacity for 17 days in August. Titan Airways will operate about 100 flights for easyJet. While this represents only 0.04 per cent of the schedule, it still affects around 15,000 passengers.
Within 24 hours, easyJet decided it could, after all, implement allocated seating on the “wet-leased” Titan jets. Affected passengers were told: “We'd like to apologise for the letter we recently sent you about your upcoming flight. We will do all we can to ensure that you sit in the seat type and seat number that you have purchased.”
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