Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: We had to fly back with a different airline to the one we originally booked
Every day our travel guru answers your travel questions
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Thursday 17 January 2013
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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