No need to fume about flight risks or budget airlines

The man who pays his way

Headlines, as The Independent's Guy Keleny notes in his excellent Errors & Omissions column, can sometimes provide a misleading impression of the article that follows. This week, the dark nether world where travel meets the media decided to take this notion to extremes – with no fewer than three headlines about aviation that turned out to be the exact opposite of the real story.

On Monday, the alarming headline "Flying on Fumes" yelled out from page 11 of The Sun: "Planes are repeatedly running dangerously low on fuel during flights over Britain," it warned, citing Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair flights that made "low-fuel emergency landings".

Running out of petrol in your car is a nuisance; at 30,000ft it is even more inconvenient. So how worried should passengers and people on the ground be? Happily, not at all. All the incidents involved diversions at the extreme end of the spectrum, with bad weather closing the intended airport and causing extended "holds" above the diversion airport.

Every pilot on every flight must load enough fuel to reach a different airport if the planned destination is closed, with 30 minutes' supply remaining in case there is a delay in landing at the alternate. If that half-hour supply looks in any jeopardy, then the captain will act. He or she will do what a traveller running late at an airport security check would do: ask to jump the air-traffic queue. It may be inelegant and awkward, but it isn't dangerous. It is simply a procedure to ensure "Flying on Fumes" never happens.

On Tuesday, the consultancy firm KPMG issued a report headlined "The End of Low Cost Flying". Happily, for those of us who rely upon airlines such as easyJet and Monarch, anyone reading the report would realise that it described "The End of High Cost Flying". It explained that the so-called "legacy" carriers – Air France, British Airways, SAS, etc – have done wonders to tackle their costs. As a result, the differential in the average cost of flying each seat one kilometre ("ASK", in airline parlance) has shrunk. So on the 1,000-mile route from Gatwick to Malaga, easyJet used to have a cost advantage of about £40 per seat over British Airways – but this has now shrunk to about £25.

One month from today, the evening flight to Malaga costs £36 on easyJet, and only fractionally more at £39 on BA. Both airlines offer free allocated seating (as easyJet turns itself into British Airways), and charge an extra £15 to check in a bag (as BA turns itself into easyJet).

 

Ending the lottery on flight delays

On Wednesday, the European Commission announced "new measures to strengthen air passenger rights" – and once again, the reality negates the headline. The proposed rules on flight delays will weaken air passenger rights. The present regulation, known as EU261, came into effect eight years ago. Airlines have been arguing about it ever since. They are particularly upset about their open-ended duty to provide accommodation if a flight is delayed for any reason. That liability is to be capped at three nights. If you are flying less than 155 miles, on a plane with fewer than 80 seats – such as Flybe's Dash 8 planes from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Belfast – you will have no rights at all in the event of a delay.

The right to claim compensation of up to €600 if your flight is at least three hours late will also end. The bar will be raised to five hours for short-haul flights, and increase to 12 hours for long-haul trips. The commission says the aim is to encourage airlines to find alternatives to cancelling the flight. But I suspect it is because the airlines have lobbied successfully on the absurdity of the rule, which arose from a court judgment.

Example: you may remember that last Tuesday saw Sussex (and much of northern France) smothered in snow. Many airline staff had problems getting to Gatwick. One consequence: BA's flight to St Lucia was delayed by about four hours. Annoying, certainly, to be grounded at Gatwick for the morning rather than carousing in the Caribbean all afternoon. Yet does it really justify hundreds of pounds in compensation?

Unless BA can successfully plead "extraordinary circumstances", the total bill could top £100,000. A pleasant surprise for passengers, some of whom will find they have flown free – but disproportionate to the harm caused. It looks more like a state-enforced lottery than a sensible scheme intended to compensate for inconvenience. Ultimately every passenger will pay for it in the shape of higher fares.

Ironically, BA provided the delayed St Lucia passengers with meal vouchers and bottled water, even though EU rules on care did not require it.

 

Airlines: stop being pernickity on tickets

Two long-overdue proposals were concealed at the very end of the commission's statement. Passengers who make spelling mistakes on their bookings will be able to get them put right without penalty; currently some airlines and agents charge hundreds of pounds for trivial errors. And if you buy a round-trip ticket but can't use the outward half, the return leg will still be honoured; at present, many airlines simply cancel your entire trip. So what took Brussels so long?

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower