Simon Calder: easyJet free flights Q&A

 

Q&A: easyJet promises business passengers a free flight if they arrive more than 15 minutes late. This guide explains how it works

In summer 2010, easyJet was plagued by cancellations and delays: barely half its flights took off on time (or no more than 15 minutes late, the industry standard for punctuality). To show how the airline has improved, it has launched an unprecedented offer which awards a free flight to delayed passengers – so long as they have the right sort of ticket (ie an expensive one). “Unlike our competitors,” says the airline, “We don’t think delays can be smoothed over with a bag of peanuts and an apology – while you sit on the Tarmac”.

When does the scheme take effect – and who stands to benefit?

It applies to all easyJet flights in October and November 2011. Only passengers travelling on a “flexi” ticket, easyJet’s new business-travel fare, can qualify. Those tickets cost two or three times more than the typical ordinary fare, but include one piece of baggage, speedy boarding and the right to switch flights between one week before and three weeks after the original departure.

How do you define the arrival time?

The expected time is whatever it says on your confirmation email. The actual time is “The time at which the seatbelt sign is switched off on arrival at the destination airport,” according to easyJet. This makes it more stringent than some airlines that time their arrival from the moment the wheels touch down.

Are all delays included?

No: easyJet says it won’t pay out if the delay counts as “Excluded Circumstances”, which “includes any significant external factors causing delay which are outside of easyJet’s control”. The airline says that these include, but are not limited to, “major weather disruption, snow, strike action, ash clouds etc.” That seems to be a fairly broad “get-out” clause: if your evening flight from Amsterdam to Gatwick is half-an-hour late, for example, the airline may simply explain it as air-traffic control delays, beyond its control, earlier in the day.

How do I claim my free flight?

Within four weeks of the delayed flight, send an e-mail to freeflight@easyjet.com that includes the booking reference and details of the delayed flight, and your phone number. The easyJet Contact Centre checks these details and then gets in touch to book the free flight.

How free is the “free flight”, and what are the restrictions?

easyJet will pay taxes, but if you want to check in a bag (or insist on speedy boarding) it will cost you extra. The three significant restrictions:

1. You must travel between have to book at least two weeks before travel

2. You must take the free flight by 31 March 2012.

3. There are some “blackout dates”, starting with all bank holidays, and also the main school holiday periods: 22-30 October, 22 December-3 January, 11-19 February.

I can’t take advantage of a free flight between now and the end of March next year. Can I give it to someone else?

No.

The free flight is only one way. How do I get home?

However you like! Naturally easyJet will hope that you will buy a flight, but you are free to choose any other carrier.

What do easyJet’s rivals have to say?

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Europe’s biggest low-cost airline, said “Ryanair remains Europe’s number one on-time airline, beating easyJet’s punctuality every week for the last five million years.”

A spokesman for British Airways said “Flying is always sweet with British Airways. No charge for food and drink. No charge for choosing your seat the day before you fly. No charge for checking in a 23 kilo bag. No charge for booking by debit card. And no gimmicks.”

And Alex Cruz, chief executive of Vueling, said “At Vueling, we don’t need to do that. Our punctuality record has been consistently the highest in Spain for the last three years, including in the bad ash-cloud and ATC-strike days. We have a large percentage of business customers (41%) and many of them already choose us because we are dependable.”

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