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Delays and cancellations are expected from today as French air traffic controllers begin a six-day strike.
The strike over budget cuts is not as large as first feared, as one of the two unions that announced the action backed out at the last minute. However, flights to and from France, and also many flights that travel across French airspace will still be cancelled or delayed.
Eurocontrol, a European air safety organisation, estimated almost 14,000 hours of delays over the strike period. A similar walk out last year led to the cancellation of around 1,800 flights a day across Europe.
Ryanair has cancelled 26 flights to and from France, and British Airways has cancelled three return flights from Heathrow to Toulouse, Marseille and Lyon. Easyjet has cancelled 28 flights, but none of these are from UK airports.
Airlines have said that they will update customers daily on further cancellations.
BA said: “The level of disruption is likely to fluctuate in different parts of France at different parts of each day.
“Unfortunately this industrial action is also highly likely to lead to delays on other short-haul services which have to overfly France.”
“We expect to receive information from the French authorities the day before each strike event as to the levels of mandated cancellations for all airlines on each route.
“We aim to publish our revised schedules by 1400 GMT each day for the following day’s flights.”
Advice for travellers affected by the strikes
A statement on the Easyjet website said: “For cancelled flights, all our customers will be offered a free of charge transfer to a new flight or a full refund.
“We strongly advise customers who wish to travel and want to rebook Easyjet flights to AVOID rebooking flights for any day between 24th-30th June as there is a high likelihood of further disruption that could cause further cancellations.”
Ryanair has urged the French Government and European Union to intervene, calling for the air traffic controllers’ right to strike to be removed and in the meantime to allow neighbouring air traffic providers to keep the skies over France open over the strike period.
Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs said: “It is high time the EU Commission removed these air traffic controllers’ right to strike, in the same way as ATC in the US, and many of Europe’s armies and police forces, are prohibited from striking by law, to stop Europe being held to ransom by a small number of air traffic controllers every summer.”
The Civil Aviation Authority is proposing a new “noise tax” similar to The Tax on Air Transport Noise introduced in France in 2005, reports the Telegraph.
In its recently published Managing Aviation Noise report, the CAA proposed measures aimed at reducing noise from aircraft taking off and landing at airports in the UK, and compensating those living nearby.
The CAA said the tax would be a ‘last resort’, but if implemented it would penalise flights according to how much noise pollution they cause, with proceeds going towards paying for insulation in communities near airports. It could adopt a similar system to that in France whereby airlines are taxed depending on the number of people affected, the aircraft’s weight at takeoff, and the noise rating and time of day.
The report said: “If other measures do not go far enough to engage the aviation industry in the effort to manage noise, policymakers could consider a further incentive applied with the introduction of a noise tax.”
Monarch Airlines’ new managing director has pledged to bring “humanity and warmth” back to flying in Europe.
Andrew Swaffield, who joined the airline in April, said that these qualities had disappeared from European air travel, and that the customer often gets lost in the process of a “race to the bottom in terms of the cheapest and the biggest and the most efficient” adding, “We’re small enough to think that we don’t have to be like that.”
Monarch have already begun to implement some customer improvements, including posting 45 staff at nine of its major airports to assist customers.
“The feedback tells us that our customers are increasingly finding the airport experience very difficult, so we have put Monarch employees in the airports, in Monarch uniforms, whose job is purely to help customers,” he said.
“We are measuring how it’s going down and so far it’s been entirely positive.”
He said the next stage would be to improve communication, particularly when things go wrong. This would include being open with customers about what’s going on, particularly with delays or technical problems.
Swaffield emphasised the importance of price being key at the internet booking stage, particularly as people don’t tend to differentiate between anything but price, adding “but once you’ve got somebody experiencing something better, they will come back, especially when they are travelling with their loved ones.”
Finally, he emphasised that the airline will be responding to customer travel trends and will adjust its schedules accordingly.
“It’s no longer just about Saturday departures and two-week stays, it’s about flying midweek or for long weekends and taking more, but shorter trips.”
Monarch has just been awarded ‘WorldHost Recognised Business’ status after 1,690 of its staff, from pilots to office workers, undertook an intensive 10-day WorldHost customer service training programme.
Ryanair’s on-time landing trumpet jingle will sound its last after passengers branded it “annoying”, “awful” and “cheesy”.
The airline has decided to stop playing the famous bugle, which sounds at the end of every flight that lands on time, after feedback from a Twitter-led survey.
The move is part of a series of customer service improvements started at the end of 2013. So far the airline has introduced ‘quiet’ flights with less in-flight announcements before 8am and after 8pm, it has also given passengers a 24-hour grace period in which to correct any minor errors made in bookings, and it’s removed the ‘Recaptcha’ security code for individual bookings.
A Ryanair spokesperson hinted that the bugle will be replaced by something else, and its “next customer improvement” will be unveiled soon.
Ryanair will start a weekly Cardiff to Tenerife service from 30th October.
Flights will operate on Thursdays, leaving Cardiff at 11.15 and arriving in Tenerife at 15.20 local time. Return flights will be a 06.55, arriving in Cardiff at 10.50.
Tickets are on sale now.
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Get closer to summer sun locations in 2015 as British Airways launches five new routes from London Gatwick.
From next April the airline will fly to Cagliari in Sardinia, Crete and Rhodes in Greece, and Bodrum and Dalaman in Turkey.
“This is the biggest launch of new routes at Gatwick we’ve had for several years and is brilliant news for families and holiday-makers wanting to get away from it all for that all-important break to relax in the sun,’ said BA head of commercial Gatwick Colm Lacy.
Cagliari will operate three times a week, Crete four times a week, Rhodes twice a week, Bodrum twice a week, and Dalaman four times a week.
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Easyjet Flexifare screenshot
Lowest fare guides and flexible dates options are really helpful in finding the lowest travel fares, but sometimes the cost of a flight or train when you want it is still too expensive.
Moneysavingexpert.com founder, Martin Lewis has just revealed a way to ‘trick’ Easyjet’s booking system to get the cheapest possible fare.
“The idea is to book a Flexifare on the same route at a less busy time, then switch to the dates you originally wanted. It’s not the easiest trick in the book, but if it works it could save £100s,” is says on the website.
It’s a bit of a risk as you need to know that your dates will still be available to switch to. The website provides a step by step guide on how to do this, which includes beginning a booking for 20 people on your desired flight to see if that many seats are available and therefore not likely to sell out so quickly.
One customer is quoted as saving £700 on flights to Lanzarote. The online posting said: “When we went on the Easyjet website the flights were over £1,500 including bags. We then booked the flexi flights, which were £848 – a saving of £700. A bit nerve-wracking for the 24 hours, but we know it works. There must be availability obviously on the dates you are changing to.”
A spokesperson for Easyjet said: “EasyJet’s aim is to provide easy and affordable fares for everyone which is why we provide a number of tools on our website to help customers identify the best flight for their budget.
“Our recently launched ‘low fare finder’ makes it easier than ever to find the lowest fares available on specific routes without the stress of needlessly changing dates and our Inspire Me tool enables customers to specify their budget and dates and sets out on a map where they can fly to for that budget.
“Flexifares are designed specifically for the business customer and offer the flexibility they require when travelling for business, however there is no guarantee of availability on alternative dates. Most of our passengers travelling during the peak summer understand that the earlier they book the cheaper the fare will be.”
Train fares are another contentious issue when it comes to the different prices for the same routes, often depending on whether you book early enough or use a rail card.
Tickets are grouped into three types: “Advance” for a specific train journey, “anytime” for any train on the route, and “off-peak” restricted to quieter times of travel.
“Anytime” tickets are usually most expensive because of their flexibility, but it can still seem too expensive when booking an “advance” or “off-peak” ticket, and this is where the money-saving trick comes in. If you are travelling on a popular and fairly lengthy journey, then it could be much cheaper to buy tickets for separate parts of the journey in a practice called “ticket splitting”.
For example, a one-way “advance” ticket from Oxford to Leeds will cost £90, calling at Birmingham New Street. However, a one-way “advance” ticket from Oxford to Birmingham New Street costs £33, and then from Birmingham New Street to Leeds another £49 giving a total fare of £82. This is a fairly sizeable percentage saving of the original cost, and can amount to much larger savings on other routes. National Rail allows ticket splitting (essentially travelling on the same train) as long as the train stops at the station you’re splitting the tickets for.
Another trick I found when trying to book an “anytime” ticket on thetrainline.com was that I still had to provisionally select a journey time to allow me to buy the ticket, but the price of the “anytime” ticket fluctuated depending on the time I was searching for. I selected a time later in the day to halve the price of the ticket at the time I was considering travelling, but could still use it at any point that day.
There are lots more possible money saving methods to cut the cost of travel. Let us know what your tips and tricks are in the comments section below.
Good news for British Airways, which has been ranked best airline in almost every category except value by a Skyscanner survey.
BA came first for its food and drink, onboard experience, its style and customer service in short-haul flights, but ranked third in ‘best value for money’. It was beaten by Easyjet in second place, and little-known airline, Norwegian, in first place.
Norwegian was a surprise contender and fared extremely well in the survey, biting at BA’s heels in second place for most of the categories.
Skyscanner’s Mary Porter said: “Being a Superbrand and one which Brits are very proud of, it’s perhaps not surprising that British Airways has scooped the top spot in our survey.
“However it is particularly interesting to see such strong results for a far less well-known airline, with Norwegian taking second place and goes to show that low cost does not necessarily mean an inferior product or service.”
The survey was of 4,000 British travellers, surveyed on their opinion of airlines’ short-haul flights from the UK.
We tend to expect the attendants on our flights to be the epitome of cheeriness and professionalism; but a recent survey of 14 North American airlines assessed the rudeness rating of flight attendants, with some surprising results.
The Airfarewatchdog commissioned survey found flight attendants at Spirit Airlines to be the rudest at 26%, with Air Canada second at 11%, and perhaps rather surprisingly in fourth position, Virgin America with 9% of the votes.
The Virgin America ranking is a surprise considering it came out on top in an Airline Quality Rating study just weeks earlier.
Least rude were Alaska Airlines and Southwest, both receiving only 1% of the vote.
3,400 frequent fliers were asked to choose from the 14 airlines, with the results weighted by number of passengers flown by each airline to account for the fact that larger airlines would have a bigger response.
Spirit — 26%
Air Canada — 14%
Frontier — 11%
Virgin America — 9%
Allegiant — 8%
United — 7%
US Airways — 7%
American — 5%
AirTran — 3%
Delta — 2%
Hawaiian — 3%
JetBlue — 3%
Alaska — 1%
Southwest — 1%
Compensation for delayed or cancelled flights totalling around £240 million was failed to be claimed by passengers last year, according to passenger rights specialist refund.me.
Although the figure seems large, it’s much lower than the £355 million left unclaimed in 2012 and is due in part to improvements made by airlines to keep delays under the limits that would trigger compensation payments, plus more passengers being aware of their rights.
The no win, no fee firm helps eligible passengers fight for compensation under EU Regulation EC 261. Since 2004, passengers have been entitled to claim compensation of up to £490 for late cancellations or flights or delays of more than three hours, other than due to circumstances beyond airline’s control.
Refund.me founder and CEO Eve Buechner commended improvements made by airlines: “After nearly a decade of citing poorly justified “extraordinary circumstances” to avoid compensation payments, airlines appear to have turned the corner on both service and post-service quality,”
“Some airlines now have more aircraft on standby or move to pre-emptively smooth things over with passengers by offering vouchers, miles and accommodation more willingly.”
However, Buechner warned that all this progress could be put in jeopardy when a planned review of EC 261 by the European Parliament considers whether passengers should not be entitled to compensation of less than five, seven or 12 hours.
“This would effectively nullify the progress made in the last few years and set passenger rights back to their standards of 10 years ago,” she said.
“The airline industry has made significant progress in improving passenger rights in the last two years. Passengers are more aware of their rights and airlines have become more compliant and offer better service as a result. It would be disappointing to undo this progress. It would lead to more delays, more cancellations and more stranded passengers.”
Refund.me processed more than 10,000 compensation claims last year, totalling more than £3.3 million, and claimed a 94% success rate.