08/16/2010

easyJet (Suisse) annulations, delays and diverted flights : ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

This last week has been absolutely awful for many passengers of easyJet Switzerland: flights cancelled, diverted late at night or operating hours behind schedule. It is high time that the Swiss Civil Aviation Office OFAC read the riot act.


This summer in general, and the week beginning on Monday 9 August in particular, have been nothing less than a horror story for many passengers booked with easyJet Switzerland flights. Numerous flights have been cancelled or have operated hours behind schedule. Two flights, returning on Saturday night from Ibiza and Split respectively, would only have arrived so long after the 0h30 airport closure time that they were diverted to Lyon (meaning a night transfer in a bus from Lyon to Geneva).

There have also been several incidences of an aircraft being unable to operate for extended periods. On Tuesday 10 August the aircraft flying to Lisbon turned back soon after takeoff and did not fly again for over a day. On Friday 13 August an aircraft which returned to Geneva just after 17h was apparently unable to be used for a Lisbon flight that evening. On Saturday 14 August an aircraft flying to Berlin in the morning had to make an emergency landing somewhere else and did not return to Geneva until late Sunday afternoon. Finally, on Sunday morning an aircraft that had been in Geneva overnight only made its first flight of the day just after 10h.

All of the above meant that on the morning of Sunday 15 August, even after the arrival of the overnight flight from Heraklion, only six of the ten Geneva-based aircraft were able to leave in the early morning, but the schedules required nine. Result: delays and cancellations.

On Sunday evening the dismal performance of easyJet was the subject of a report in the Swiss Romande news program at 19h30. This was followed by an interview with Jean-Marc Thévenaz, director of easyJet Switzerland, recorded on Thursday 12 August and broadcast in the program Mise au Point.

This latter interview was, of course, too early to try to excuse the weekend problems. Instead, we heard all excuses about snow in winter, the ash cloud and air controller strikes (which, curiously, did not seem to affect other airlines). However, in this blog I am talking about the Summer, not the Winter and Spring.

The interview also blamed things on the extraordinary growth of air traffic this year, beyond all expectations. It is unclear how this statement matches the fact that easyJet summer schedules, like those of other companies,  were established right at the start of the year. What is clear, however, is that, as reported in the Swiss Romande news program at 19h30 last Thursday, easyJet is the company having the worst record of punctuality, with easyJet Switzerland (48% of flights over 15 minutes late) even behind easyJet United Kingdom (only 42%!).

For July the figures are even worse for easyJet Switzerland, with 63% of flights delayed more than 15 minutes and 25% of flights over an hour late. There were 57 commercial flights which took place in the 30 minute time period after midnight, reserved for flights exceptionally behind schedule: 54 of these were easyJet.

It was also stated that easyJet are trying to create "breathing space" in the middle of the day, to be able to absorb morning delays. If this means not trying to cram so much flying time to every aircraft then fine, but if it means simply trying to schedule first departures earlier (and don't forget to tell the passengers!) then rather less fine and less effective (since most flights are scheduled early already).

It was actually nice to hear Mr Thévenaz admit what has been obvious for months, and in flat contradiction of a written submission of the airport to OFAC in April 2010, that there is currently no spare aircraft in Switzerland. At a meeting of the official Geneva airport consultative committee on air traffic nuisances, when I specifically asked the airport director where was this spare aircraft, I was told "probably in Basel". It is clear that this submission could be likened to (in modern parlance) an "untrue fact". However, when it becomes a true fact it may still not be enough to cater for all problems, since they may frequently involve more than one aircraft and flight.

Just to remind people what Mr Thévenaz would have had to excuse if he had been interviewed after this abysmal week, the cancelled flights on the Saturday and Sunday consisted of "there and back" flights to Barcelona, London Gatwick (both morning and evening on Sunday), Lisbon, Bordeaux and Rome. I won't even try to list all of the very delayed flights, but some are particularly interesting. The flights of easyJet United Kingdom to Edinburgh and Bristol on Sunday were four and six hours late because easyJet Switzerland "borrowed" the incoming aircraft to do return trips to Nice and Porto respectively (were the passengers told this, or anything, and did the Bristol passengers enjoy leaving only just before midnight?). They may also have borrowed a UK-based aircraft which arrived at Nice, in order to do a flight to Geneva and back: 5 hours delay for the Geneva-Nice flight: even more for the Nice passengers of the borrowed aircraft. Finally, the last return from Amsterdam just managed to beat the airport closure time by two minutes!

All of the above, combined with a number of other occasions on which an aircraft of the easyJet Switzerland fleet has been unavailable for hours or days, and what appears to be a significant increase (from last year) in the number of flying hours that the company is trying to allocate to each aircraft, suggests that easyJet Switzerland has gone beyond the realm of what is reasonable. On busy days, particularly Friday nights and weekends, delays and cancellations are frequent. It can also be suggested that the aircraft are perhaps not standing up well to the strains, especially since these strains can very significantly reduce the available hours for the night-time maintenance.

M Thévenaz says that this summer has been exceptional. Unfortunately, I and many disappointed passengers will fully agree with that statement!

08:17 Posted in easyJet anecdotes | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: easyjet, geneva, airport, cancellations, delays, edinburgh, bristol | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

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