Airline’s botched attempt for ‘stress free experience’

‘Economy Plus’ passengers travelling from Alicante airport or Malaga airports using budget airline Flybe are getting a raw deal, according to first hand experience by EWN reporter Benny Davis.

AS a result of blanket media exposure, the average consumer is fully aware of the obstacle course one has to negotiate when booking low cost flights. But do the same hidden dangers apply to ‘upper-deck’ travel?

You would think not but according to my recent experiences with the airline Flybe – they do.

This Southampton based carrier sell their former Business Class package, now re-branded, ‘Economy Plus’ as “a truly stress free airport experience.”

Amongst other benefits, it promises dedicated priority check-ins, fast-track security and Executive lounge facilities. As this was the first leg of a long awaited 24 night luxury cruise, I decided to go for it and sat back eagerly looking forward to a memorable experience – which it was – but for the wrong reasons.

What Flybe failed to mention was that neither Alicante nor Malaga airport support fast-track security or dedicated priority check-in and the airport lounge is a definite no-go area for Flybe passengers.

After suffering the indignities of being accused of queue jumping and being ejected from the lounge, my wife and I ended up suffering the standard ‘bucket and spade’ travel hassle of long queues, crowded lounges, dry #i#bocadillos#i# and watery coffee at exorbitant prices.

To add insult to injury, once airborne, Flybe cabin staff initially refused to serve on-board complimentary snacks without being given a coupon that was supposed to have been issued at the non existent priority check-in desk.

The Flybe web site lists 70 departure points in 13 European countries, but after delving further into the site, I discovered only have three shared lounge facilities outside the UK. So how viable is the ‘Economy Plus’ offer? By their own admission, they cannot fulfil their contract of sale obligations in full, which if correct; they are seriously breaching the Advertising Standards Authority code of practice.

These questions along with my personal official complaint were emailed to Flybe Customer Relations Supervisor Hayley Johnson. The content suggested that any limitations on the advertised package through choice of airport should be flagged up prior to on-line booking commitment and that a reduction in services should be matched by a reduction in price.

Her answer stated the obvious. “Some airports are unable to offer the full service, such as Alicante where we do not have an executive lounge. We are also limited to the number of check-in desks allocated to us and therefore we are not always able to offer a dedicated Economy Plus check-service.”

A later email assured me that, “points raised are being addressed.” I was also offered a refund of €52.00, representing less than 5% of the price paid for two tickets. I declared my interest as a journalist, ignored the offered refund and in the public interest requested a statement as to exactly what Ms Johnson meant by, “Address the situation.”

At the time of publication, we have not received a reply.

My final contact with Flybe was a phone call to the UK Flybe Customer Call Centre where after some hesitation, an assistant named Fraser confirmed lounge facilities did not exist in either Alicante or Malaga airports, but was pleased to inform me that fast-track security and dedicated check-in was no problem

So what sort of costs are we talking about? A recent visit to the Flybe web site produced the following. Single flight, Alicante to Southampton in early December quoted as €99.40 economy or, “For just an extra €171.00 you can upgrade to Economy Plus.” Total €270.44 one person, one way, minus luxury airport extras.

Editor’s note: Despite two EWN deadline extensions at their request, Flybe’s PR company Red Consultancy did not comment on this article.

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