An Irish airline is under fire for failing to deliver passengers to the place they were expecting to land - but for once, it's not Ryanair that is responsible. The low-cost carrier Aer Arann has told passengers who booked on its new thrice-weekly services from Manchester and Luton to Angers, in the Loire Valley, that they will, instead, fly to and from Nantes - 60 miles downstream.
The intended service was to have filled a geographical gap, and stimulate tourism, in the châteaux country between Tours and Nantes, which are both served from the UK. Angers is located on the river Maine, just upstream from its confluence with the Loire. In the 12th century, it was the power base of Henry Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy and King of England. It has a fine cathedral and an imposing fortress, containing fragments of a 14th-century tapestry.
Because of what Aer Arann says were problems securing air-traffic control cover at the city's Marce airport, Angers lost its flights to Nantes - which already has regular services on British Airways and Ryanair from Gatwick and Stansted respectively.
Travellers who have already booked on the routes are being contacted and offered refunds if they decline to accept the switch in airports. But many customers have been angered by the change. Keith Ward of West Yorkshire had bought flights for his wife and a friend to fly from Manchester to Angers and back early next month.
"Nantes is around 100 miles in the wrong direction as far as my wife's ultimate destination is concerned. She and her friend would be two women landing late at night in a strange place. My wife is too nervous to hire a car and drive herself. Taxi fares would presumably be exhorbitant. It is all highly inconvenient and we feel let down."
Aer Arann is Ireland's third airline, after Ryanair and Aer Lingus, and has a fleet of 11 ATR propeller aircraft. It began life in 1974 with a shuttle service between Galway and the Aran Islands, off the west coast. Twenty years later, the carrier began to create a regional network, serving airports and routes not covered by Ryanair.
This year, it has expanded rapidly from the UK to Europe - a recent addition was a new flight from Cardiff to Lorient in southern Brittany. Aer Arann also picked up some of the routes lost when Air Wales ended passenger services two months ago, and has replaced Ryanair on the Cardiff-Dublin route.Last year, the European Commission imposed rules on compensation when passengers are delayed, overbooked or find their flight is cancelled at short notice. But the regulations do not cover cases like this, where the destination airport is moved and advance warning is given.
THE POLISH airline Centralwings has abandoned its route between Leeds-Bradford and Warsaw after just seven weeks. The carrier - whose slogan is "Pay less, expect more" - has abandoned the West Yorkshire airport entirely. Centralwings blames "fleet constraints" for its decision to axe the route. It is believed, though, that fares and loads were proving disappointing, and the airline decided to cut its losses. SkyEurope, Wizz Air, easyJet and Ryanair are all competing fiercely between northern England and Poland.
Centralwings services from Gatwick and Edinburgh to several Polish destinations are continuing.