Want to arrive on time? You’ll need to pay extra for that, says easyJet

Plane Talk: When flights are delayed, and seats are available on earlier departures, should passengers pay to transfer?

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Saturday 21 September 2019 13:55
When flights are delayed should passengers pay to transfer?

Two weeks ago I was on an easyJet flight from Toulouse to Gatwick that arrived on the wrong day.

On Wednesday my easyJet flight from Edinburgh to Gatwick was set to take off on the wrong day, too.

Fortunately I had, for once, allowed plenty of time to reach the airport serving the Scottish capital (even though I used the 300 bus – quite possibly the world’s worst air link, and a story for another day).

Might I travel on an earlier departure? Any London airport would do. The people on the easyJet desk said seats were available on a flight to Stansted. But in return for getting me to London on the same day as I had booked, easyJet would charge me £30.

Was this a case of an airline profiting from its own disarray or a valuable customer service? While you can never trust a Twitter poll, you can rely on plenty of fellow travellers in social media land standing by to offer their views.

On the way to the gate, I set up a one-hour Twitter poll, asking whether easyJet was profiteering from its failure to keep to time, or if the airline was merely selling a useful option.

Of the 899 self-selecting votes that were cast, four out of five respondents chose “Profiteering”, with the remaining 20 per cent urging me not to moan.

Simon’s snap poll resulted in a damning verdict

Even though it was my £30, I don’t think this was quite a case of easyJet saying “You want to be on time? That’ll cost you extra.”

The airline has a very useful, if little known, policy that allows passengers to switch to earlier departure for that £30 fee – regardless of whether the original flight is on time: “If on the day of your return flight, you would like to move to an earlier flight on the same day, you can check availability on our mobile app or at the airport,” easyJet says.

After my trip, a spokesperson for the airline said that when a delay reaches three hours, the fee is waived (my flight was eventually two-and-a-quarter hours behind schedule).

But I reckon there should be more flexibility when a significant delay becomes known – for the benefit of both the passenger and the airline.

If there are passengers at Edinburgh airport heading for London, and their booked flight is going to get them south long after most transport has packed up for the night, from a customer-care perspective it makes sense to fill every available seat on earlier departures – the one I took to Stansted, and a later one to Luton.

It also works for easyJet. I presume the airline complied with its obligation to provide refreshments to the passengers whom it delayed to Gatwick. So I saved easyJet at least a fiver by removing myself from Scotland.

Also, a significant number of passengers have contacted me over the summer about the many late-night cancellations that easyJet has made. Had the Gatwick flight become a victim of a duty-office cull, that would have been another £100 for a hotel room. And next morning I would still have been in Scotland, and still a problem for easyJet.

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A duty manager who worked for British Airways in a number of bases worldwide told me he had a simple rule for people who asked to travel on earlier flights: if seats were available, they could transfer free of charge.

There are so many things that can go wrong with aviation, that reducing the scale of any potential future issues made sense to him.

Do let me know if you have had good or bad “early out” experiences – and at least the incident has prompted me to remind you of the easyJet £30 option.

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