EasyJet blames everyone else

The market was deeply unimpressed with easyJet’s latest financial results yesterday and marked the shares down heavily. It seems everyone else is to blame for easyJet’s poor figures:

- Fuel was one of the main factors they pinpointed but it is going up for all airlines

- Yes, they were hit by strikes across Europe and snow in Britain but neglect to point out that they should have done very well indeed when Heathrow was closed before Christmas.

- And, it seems, people are not checking in as many bags as before – could that possibly be because business travellers in the autumn do not have as much baggage as holidaymakers in the summer?

One gets the impression that the new boss might just be having a clear-out. None of the reasons above adequately explain the figures.  As we have said many times, the company has been grossly badly-run from an operations point of view since its inception. Last summer’s debacle was only the tip of the iceberg. The only mystery is how the airline has been able to perform so well in the past.

There are some signs that Ms McCall might have grasped the problem. If so, they might not have to come up with so many limp excuses in the future.

All friends again?

The week has started on a rather up-beat note with easyJet coming to an agreement with their truculent founder, Stelios, that avoids any further legal action. The only losers in this will be the lawyers and the on-lookers who found it rather entertaining to view the public display of dirty linen by the airline and its ex-boss. As an outsider, I would suggest this goes down as a narrow victory for Stelios because the airline are going to have to pay him very heavily for the use of his easy logo.

And do I hear sounds of peace breaking out between British Airways and their cabin crew? The union was about to ballot for another strike but has postponed this because of some “positive moves” from the airline. It is unlikely that any further industrial action would be supported by more than a minority of the total cabin staff of the airline so Unite no doubt wishes to avoid a possibly humiliating strike. We have heard optimistic noises before but, this time, it does sound as if something positive might happen. Let’s hope so because the majority of the airline’s crew deserve better leadership than they have had from their union – and they need support to stop the airline destroying their terms and conditions completely. Starting rates for new crew with the airline make one wonder how anyone can live in London on such a figure.

When others are late, easyJet is later

Yesterday was a good day for European airlines without major delays at most airports so even easyJet managed to run without too many delays. However, there seemed to be a problem at Madrid in the evening and this illustrates all too clearly easyJet’s woes – it is also a good example of what you should do when considering whether to claim compensation under EU regulations.

Flights between Madrid and London were delayed in the evening but look at the difference:

Ryanair’s flight to Gatwick was one hour 15 minutes late

Two British Airways flights to Heathrow were delayed by about an hour

Iberia’s flight to Heathrow was around forty minutes late

and

easyJet’s flight to Gatwick was three-and-half hours late

Whilst there could be a special reason for the easyJet flight being delayed by so much more than other flights last night, it does seem just another example of easyJet being significantly worse than the competition. It is likely that any passenger approaching them for compensation under EU regulations would be given the brush off under the “circumstances beyond our control” clause. That would be fair enough but why was easyJet so much later than all the other airlines?

EU regulations require the airline to provide refreshments for delays of two hours or more and compensation of €250 for delays of three hours or more.

There will be many instances this summer when easyJet has delays of this magnitude which can only be blamed partially on “circumstances beyond their control”.

In these cases, we recommend you look at the departure and arrival times of other airlines and either take the matter to an agency such as www.euclaim.co.uk who hold vast amounts of data on aircraft movements and will pursue the airline on your behalf if they feel they are partially to blame, or you could take legal action yourself.

Note

To the relief of many of our readers, we will lay off easyJet for a while now. The point has been made. However, it is only through bad publicity and paying claims that the airline will be made to improve. We really need the tabloids to take up the cudgels so we just hope The Daily Mail is up to the task!

More easyJet fun

You might recall that last week Ryanair settled a legal action brought by Stelios. He was upset that he had been branded a cheat for not publishing easyJet’s punctuality record. Ryanair appeared to accept that Stelios was not personally involved in this and therefore paid up. The actual question of easyJet’s poor timekeeping was not part of the legal action.

Then, mysteriously, just a couple of days after the settlement, The Sunday Times published a damaging story about the serious timekeeping problems of easyJet. Even stranger, this article appeared in the Business section of the paper – it was really a general interest subject which should have been in the main section since there was no business or investment issue in the piece.

It is well known that much of the Business sections of the Sunday newspapers are based on PR “drops” from companies wanting to boost themselves or spread poison on their rivals.

Do you think there is just a vague possibility that an Irish company might have helpfully fed this story to The Sunday Times?

German newspapers are full of easyJet stories at the moment because of delays and cancellations at Berlin and we imagine the British press will soon follow, with or without any help from our Irish friends.

If you doubt that easyJet has problems just go to the Arrivals section of any UK airport where they operate and look at their evening flights. Yesterday was not a good day for any airline because of some go-slows by air traffic controllers in Spain and France. Delays were to be expected but it is worth looking at how the different airlines coped.

Most of British Airways’ Gatwick flights arrived on schedule with a few more than fifty minutes late. EasyJet had fourteen flights delayed by between an hour and four hours. They also had at least four evening cancellations – including a flight to Dalaman. This is not funny – it is one thing trying to rebook a flight to Amsterdam but try getting a seat on a flight to Dalaman in high season. Tabloid journalists should be queuing up to write some “easyJet ruined my holiday” stories.

Air traffic control problems will probably get worse in the next three weeks. This will give easyJet an excuse for its problems but, if you are delayed by more than three hours or have a cancelled flight, you should not accept this excuse. The airline must be compared with other airlines. Yesterday was fairly typical – other airlines managed with minimal delays, easyJet did not.

If you have a delay or cancellation, do not hesitate to go to Court – but evidence of other airlines’ performance will help your case.

Only by publicity and having to pay compensation will easyJet learn – let’s hope they learn quickly.

EasyJet Must Pay for Mistakes

The July edition of Inside Traveller contained an article criticising easyJet for its serious operational failings. The City has long though that the airline would be more profitable if it could just squeeze a bit more from its passengers and cut a few costs. Our view is that the airline would have been much more profitable for the last few years had its operations been better managed.

Nearly every summer they have the same problem. They suddenly wake up to find themselves under-staffed for the number of flights they have to operate. This leads to delays, cancellations and the need to charter aircraft and crews from other airlines. Furthermore, some of their flights are scheduled so that they are almost certain to operate late because of over-optimistic views on how quickly aircraft can be turned round at some airports.

Ryanair were forced to apologise to Stelios last week over claims that he hid the airline’s bad timekeeping. It is worth noting that no one disputed the timekeeping question – it was merely an issue of whether Stelios himself was to blame and, as a non-Executive shareholder in the airline, this was clearly not the case.

We are pleased that The Sunday Times ran an article yesterday detailing the many delays and cancellations the airline is suffering, They added that the operators of Gatwick Airport had spoken to the airline about their concerns this issue was having on the airport’ s operations. Similar articles have appeared in the German press.

There are two ways easyJet can be made to improve.

Firstly, the more publicity, the better. A few “shock horror” stories in the summer tabloids will do no end of good.

Secondly, they should be made to pay. Their standard response to a claim for compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight under the EU regulations is to deny the claim and say the problem was due to reasons beyond their control. In most cases this is wrong. If you suffer a delay or cancellation, we suggest you send a formal request for compensation. If you hear nothing after four weeks (which is quite normal because they are hopeless at handling complaints as well), then threaten Court action if you do not receive compensation within two weeks. Then simply fill out a small claims form and wait for the Court date. The airline will probably contact you a few days before the due date and offer a small amount to settle the case. You should refuse it and go to Court. It is unlikely they will  defend a case and, even if they did, their record is now so obviously bad that they would have serious difficulties. We would be happy to help if requested.

EasyJet is a good airline which is being seriously let down by part of its management. It is in everyone’s interests that it is forced to improve.

EasyJet refunds passenger – continued

Here is a brief addendum to the previous post, written by our editor-in-chief.

Being a demure character not prone to self-aggrandisement, our editor was no doubt too embarrassed to mention how pleased our subscriber was with the outcome of this story. I’m rather less demure, and so more than happy to quote our easyJet customer:

“A huge thanks to you for telling me what [the email address] was and enabling me to obtain this small but very important (to me) victory. I shall set the money aside to part fund my next subscription to Inside
Traveller, worth its weight in gold.”

If you want to find out how Inside Traveller might be able to help you, click here.

EasyJet refunds passenger – world doesn't end!

EasyJet has a better reputation for clarity than many of  its competitors. Its website presents fares in a transaparent way (with all taxes and charges included, unlike Ryanair and BMIBaby), and when it says it’s flying to, say, Barcelona it means Barcelona. The actual experience of flying with them can be fairly pleasant too. Unfortunately, the airline is let down somewhat by its Customer Services – sending a complaint or a request for a refund can be a tortuous affair with long delays and cut-and-paste replies that do not address the question.

The airline has had quite a lot of press criticism for its Speedy Boarding supplement. You pay extra to be first in the queue to get on the aircraft and – in theory – get the best seats. But if your flight is boarded by coach, you may well be first on the bus but have no guarantee of being first on the plane, and your Speedy Boarding supplement will be money wasted. (And of course, EasyJet’s Terms and Conditions make it very clear that they will not refund in these circumstances.)

A reader contacted us at Inside Traveller about a very specific twist on this problem. He was travelling from Madrid to Gatwick and had paid the extra for Speedy Boarding but was shocked to see that the staff at the gate allowed a positioning crew to get on the aircraft ahead of all passengers. In our opinion, this was simply wrong. Whatever the Terms and Conditions might say about not giving refunds for Speedy Boarding, they cannot put airline crew ahead of passengers who have paid a significant premium to board first.

Our reader was understandably reluctant to go through the standard easyJet Customer Service rigmarole which would no doubt have resulted in several standard emails denying any claim. Instead, he was considering a direct approach to Trading Standards.

Fortunately, our research team has access to an email address that bypasses easyJet’s Customer Service department, reaching rather further up the airline’s heirarchy. An email to them resulted in a reply within ten days saying they would check the situation with their Madrid staff  – and confirming that it was their policy not to allow crew to board before Speedy Boarders. Ten days later, they apologised and processed a full refund for the Speedy Boarding fee.

A rather contentious refund processed within three weeks – a miracle by easyJet standards!

(The “special” email address is just one of the many secrets we share with our subscribers who have access to our Ask the Experts service.)



EasyJet and Ryanair Reduce UK Flights

A lot of hot air has been expanded about the announcements that Ryanair is withdrawing from Manchester and reducing flights from Stansted whilst easyJet is withdrawing from East Midlands and reducing flights at Luton. The airlines have blamed this on the increase in UK APD and airports charging too much. The real reason is terribly simple – and we predicted it in Inside Traveller months ago.

Ryanair and easyJet have a strong presence throughout Europe. Maybe in some countries airport tax is lower and they can get a better deal from a few continental airports but the reason they are reducing flights from the UK is simply down to money. The serious reduction in the value of sterling means they can earn more from their assets (aircraft and flight crew) by using them on flights that earn Euros than on flights that earn Sterling.

I just took a look at a flight from Madrid to Luton on 9th September. It is priced at €102 if you purchase it in Spain but if purchased in Britain as part of a round-trip, it costs just £78. Much better to use that aircraft to fly from Spain to France where all passengers will pay the Euro fare.

Reducing a few marginal services from the UK and using the aircraft on the Continent makes good economic sense.

Most overseas airlines regard their routes to London as their prize assets but nearly all of them will be suffering not just from the reduced yields which exist throughout the industry, but the fact that any sales they make in the UK are worth significantly less in their home currency.

The UK remains a very attractive market to all airlines but, until Sterling improves against the Euro, we will just have to get used to the idea that we are the poor relations to our Continental neighbours.

A new airline!

This year has been an understandably slow one for airline launches, but this week sees a change of pace with the arrival of Air Arabia Maroc, a new low-cost carrier that starts services to Stansted on 6th May. Roundtrip flights will operate four times a week between Stansted and Casablanca. It’s wholly-owned by Air Arabia, a Sharjah-based LCC that runs a pretty slick operation in the gulf and beyond. As far as prices are concerned, they aren’t particularly eye-catching – £177 for a return trip in August is a slice better than easyjet to Marrakech at around the same time, but timings are a bit grim for normal folk (an 07.20 departure ex Stansted outbound, and overnight ex Casablanca for the return), so this may not end up being the Traveller’s first choice.

On a different note, last month the parent company launched a service to Athens from Sharjah. This opens up new vistas of travel options for LCC masochists enthusiasts. Think of it – multi-stop itineraries all the way to Oz on low-cost carriers. For instance – Easyjet to Athens, Air Arabia from Athens via Sharjah to points east, and thereafter on Air Asia or Jetstar!