Q. We have just flown back from Spain on an airline I have never heard of, with cabin crew who spoke little English and on a tatty plane. The airline we had originally booked with say they had to charter a new flight and has refused to pay compensation.
A. “Ad-hoc charters” like this are nothing unusual. If an airline runs short of planes, perhaps because one of the fleet is out of service, the carrier can choose to buy in extra capacity from other firms that have spare capacity in order to patch the holes in its schedules. The standard contract is for “wet-leasing,” whereby the other airline supplies the plane, the pilots and the cabin crew.
Sometimes wet-leasing can take place on a large scale: in 2010, easyJet chartered in some 757s to reduce the widespread cancellations and delays. Some BA passengers found themselves aboard Ryanair planes during the cabin-crew dispute. And last summer Monarch expanded its schedules rapidly to take up some routes abandoned by Bmibaby, and brought in capacity from Aurela of Lithuania and AirExplore of Slovakia.
What are your rights when this happens? Zero. Your contract with the airline allows it to substitute another aircraft. Some passengers have concerns about comfort, and others about safety, but you have no right to cancel. On the point about safety: any airline flying to and from the UK must satisfy European aviation regulations.
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