Ryanair passengers stage sit-down strike

What would travel bloggers do without Ryanair? From trying to get rid of co-pilots to arresting passengers for complaining about the sandwiches, the budget airline provides endless grist for our mill.

Yesterday more than a hundred passengers refused to leave their plane after their Ryanair flight from Fez, Morocco, to Beauvais, France, was diverted to Belgium. It was one of four Ryanair flights diverted to Liege due to foggy conditions in France. Passengers were offered a bus to their final destination, a journey of 225 miles. While passengers in three of the planes agreed to go, those in the fourth flight refused, insisting to be flown there instead. The flight had departed Fez three hours late and landed in Liege at 11:30 PM. The passengers didn’t leave the plane until 3:30 in the morning to catch a 4:30 AM bus home.

That’s the story both sides agree on. Beyond this, there are two stories. Passengers say they were then abandoned by the crew, who even left the cockpit open, and were not given any water for several hours. The toilets were also locked.

Ryanair said the crew stayed for an hour and only left when some passengers got disruptive. They also say that they would have gotten an earlier bus if they had agreed to leave.

[Photo courtesy user Yap S S via Gadling’s flickr pool]

EasyJet profits triple as budget airline attracts more passengers

Budget carrier easyJet almost tripled its profits in the past 12 months as fuel prices dropped and passengers flocked to book cheap flights, BBC reports.

The airline released figures for the past twelve months through September, revealing a profit of £154m million ($247 million). The previous 12 months saw profits of £55 million ($88 million). A total of 49 million people flew on easyJet in the past year, up 8 percent.

While a 9 percent drop in fuel prices helped all airlines, there’s been a continued shift away from national carriers such as British Airways and Air France in favor of budget carriers, and no budget airline has as much share in the European market as easyJet. The carrier now accounts for 7.6 percent of the European market.

The airline also announced it will pay a dividend for the first time in 2012, and will be buying 24 airplanes in order to expand its services.

[Photo courtesy Antony J Best via Wikimedia Commons]

AirBaltic expands, spruces up

Yesterday, Latvian airline AirBaltic launched two new routes: Riga-Madrid and Riga-Beirut.

Riga-based AirBaltic is an airline to watch. Little known in North America, the airline is notable for its low starting fares and the inclusion of most of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations on its route map. But what really sets the airline apart from the pack is its range of underserved destinations across Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East, and the Nordic countries.

These less well-served destinations include Baku, Tbilisi, and Yerevan in the Caucasus; Almaty, Dushanbe, and Tashkent in Central Asia; Amman, Beirut, Dubai, and Tel Aviv in the Middle East; and destinations like Kuopio, Tromsø, and Visby across Nordic Europe.

The catch is that most routes fly in and out of Riga, a beautiful city that is sadly not exactly top-of-mind among most visitors to Europe. While AirBaltic’s fabulous range of destinations can best be accessed from a starting-point in the Baltics or the Nordic countries, the airline’s fares for connecting flights from cities across Western Europe can also be quite competitive.

In anticipation, no doubt, of the summer traffic to come, AirBaltic also upgraded its site yesterday. The visual changes are minimal, but they go some way toward making the site more streamlined and enjoyable to peruse.

(Image: Flickr/Londo_Mollari)

JetAirways is FINE

In an airlines story faux pas, in a post this past Sunday, I inadvertently switched airlines putting Jet Airways as stopping service instead of JetAmerica. Rats! Then Zachary, a faithful Gadling reader, after dragging himself up from the floor after his heart attack from wondering if his trip to Barcelona is not happening after all, had enough energy left to pop me a comment telling me of my GRAVE error. Thanks to Zachary’s quick thinking, the post was updated almost perfectly. I left one Jet Airways in the text. Double rats! (It has since been fixed.)

Yesterday was National Get Out of the Dog House Day. In an attempt to get myself out of the doghouse, here’s a PROFUSE apology to Jet Airways and any reader who may have wondered if it was April Fools Day all over again or if life had been ruined once more by an airlines pulling up stakes. And if Gadling had lost its mind. No Gadling didn’t lose its mind. I did. But my mind has been recovered.

So to recap. Jet Airways is FINE. Jet Airways is FINE. Jet America is possibly regrouping and might fly in the future in some capacity at some location. The people who bought tickets on Jet America in hopes of an inexpensive trip out of Toledo– and a few other locations are to get their money refunded. I suggest they take the refund money and try Greyhound. Greyhound is like the post office. Somehow the package gets delivered and tickets are inexpensive to downright cheap. It may take awhile, but you’ll get where you want to go.

JetAmerica, new Ohio-based budget airline launched today

When Skybus folded last year, there were rumblings that it might resurrect but in another form. JetAmerica, a new budget airlines has just launched in Toledo. Is Skybus rising like a phoenix from the ashes? Like Skybus, JetAmerica is borrowing some of Ryanair’s strategies but unlike Columbus’s defunct airline that left behind a hole in airline service and oodles of bills is hoping to avoid Skybus’s folly.

From the description in this article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, there is a similarity that is close to what we’ve heard before except one number has been switched for another. Instead of ten $10 one-way seats on each flight, a hallmark of Skybus’s glory days, JetAmerica flights will have nine seats for $9. I hope 9 is a luckier number.

Instead of looking to Columbus for its start, Toledo was picked as a hub because the airport is no longer served by a major carrier ever since Continental pulled the plug on Toledo service last fall.

The addition of JetAmerica to the Toledo skies is welcome news. First off, people won’t have to go to Cleveland to catch a plane and the hope is that the airlines will attract more business which will help perk up Toledo’s economy.

People who live in Lansing, Michigan and South Bend, Indiana and Melbourne, Florida will also benefit from JetAmerica’s venture since they are part of the initial route set-up, as is Newark, New Jersey.

The only way I see JetAmerica working is if there is a real person on the phone for customer service questions, the flights aren’t canceled due to aircraft troubles, thus leaving people stranded because the airline doesn’t have a relationship with any others, and if the other seats’ costs are not as low or as high as Skybus’s were.

As a person who rode on Skybus once, but had plans for future flights, particularly to Newburgh, New York until the airline dissed me, buying tickets felt like some sort of strange game show. Like if I wait, will I get those $10 seats?

On a note that makes me feel hopeful that this time a budget airline launched in Ohio will succeed, JetAmerica’s first two airplanes, 737-800s are to be leased from Miami Air International until it’s clear that the airline will be a success. The flight crew will also be provided. Also, non-stop service from smaller cities is something I do think people will pay for. Tom Barlow, my good friend over at Wallet Pop has his own opinions about JetAmerica and offers more details about the business end of how this airline will work. I have my fingers crossed since Columbus is on the list for future possibilities. I’m hoping for that inexpensive non-stop to Newburgh.

Flights don’t begin until July 13, but you can book now.