Your airline ticket that you bought on the Web is as safe as houses – right?

The emergence of the Internet – or more precisely – the World Wide Web into the mainstream over the last decade has meant the role of the high street travel agent has changed irrevocably.air-traffic-control-faa1

Most Internet-savvy people now routinely go to the Web or an app on their smartphone to check out hotel and car hire prices, as well as airline ticket costs.

Last March I decided to book ahead and save a few shekels for our annual pilgrimage to Paris every October for the Arc De Triomphe, the world’s richest horse race.

As this takes place on a Sunday, I decided – as I always do – to fly over on Friday and return on Monday – making a weekend of it in Paris.

One of our local airports – East Midlands (EMA in airline code) – has a convenient Jet2 flight at lunchtime, so we booked our flights on the Web and that was that.

We also booked our hotel in Paris on a discount pre-paid deal.

Earlier this week I got an email from Jet2 saying the following:

 

Jet2.com – Your schedule change

Dear <>

Re: Booking reference(s) *****

We are writing to inform you that your flight(s)
LS609    Oct 03, 2014 12:55
LS610    Oct 06, 2014 16:55
have been withdrawn.

As a result of this withdrawal a refund of the above flight(s) will be automatically processed and credited to the payment card used at the time of the original flight booking. This will be done as quickly as possible, however, due to the constraints of the UK clearing banks, please allow up to 14 working days for this to be completed.

We hope that this advance notification will give you sufficient time to make any other necessary alterations to your travel arrangements, and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused by this change. We look forward to welcoming you on board Jet2.com and hope that despite this, you consider us for future travel arrangements.

We would ask that you notify all passengers who are travelling in your party of this flight withdrawal.

Once again, Jet2.com sincerely apologises for the amendment to your flight and hope that despite this, you will consider Jet2.com for your future travel arrangements.

If you require any further assistance please call our Pre Travel services team on 0800 408 1350.

Yours sincerely,

Operations Team
PO Box 314
LEEDS
LS19 9DY

Tel: 0800 408 1350
Opening times: Mon – Fri 08.00 – 21.00 & Sat – Sun 09:00 – 18:00.

 

So I phoned the helpline and got an apologetic but unhelpful customer person who said that was pretty well it.

It took a bit of prodding before she said she could offer me a flight from another local airport – Leeds-Bradford (LBA) – but it would cost us £70-00-plus each – and even then, there was no guarantee that the LBA-CDG route would not be axed by the airline.

After pressing the CSO, she said that Jet2’s terms and conditions allowed the airline to do this.

Following a bit of research, it turns out that (a) Jet2’s parent company  has issued a profits warning this week, and (b) has either sold/transferred the `landing slot’ from EMA to Paris (CDG) from this September onwards. A coincidence perhaps?

Can they do this? It seems they can – the norm in the travel industry is that, if a route cease occurs, the airline concerned re-routes the customer via an alternative flight/airport combination.

With scheduled airlines, this is usually not a problem. With budget airlines, it clearly is, but after contacting Easyjet for what their policy is, their press office told me:

 

“On the rare occasion that easyJet withdraws a route, our customer services team will pro-actively contact any passengers due to fly after the withdrawal date to offer them a free of charge transfer to another service or a full refund.”

 

I am still waiting for a response from Jet2’s press office and will update this blog when – and if – they get back to me with their official strategy.

 

So what’s the bottom line here?

Well, if you choose to book a budget flight – especially with Jet2 – then you need to be careful that you don’t book so far ahead that there is a risk that the airline may cease the route in question.

My travel journo chums – one of whom was horrified at Jet2’s `dump the customer’ strategy – say that the route ceases tend to take place in March/April and September – and usually the airlines/airports work together to ensure there is around three months notice, to allow passengers to be re-routed by the airline with the minimum of fuss.

If you need to book a flight beyond this three month window, then the message is quite clear – it pays to shell out a little extra and fly with a scheduled airline like Air France, BA or Lufthansa – or one of their budget subsidiaries like FlyBe or GermanWings – or Easyjet – as they can re-route passengers in the event of a route cease.

So, with hat tip of extraordinarily negative gratitude towards Jet2, I hope this little tale of the Internet has helped you understand what can go wrong with a contracted airline ticket.

When I did my law module as part of my accountancy qualifications, there was a detailed discussion about the law of contract – with the `Bumper Hall Pen’ case sticking in my brain.

It seems that Jet2’s terms and conditions drive a steamroller through the law of contract – the £64,000 question, of course, is whether Jet2’s customers are aware of this little vignette?

+SG

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