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?

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
film
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried