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Beware name confusion as airline collapse strands pax

February 19, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email


The abrupt collapse of British regional airline Flybmi has stranded hundreds of passengers throughout Europe, the chaos being compounded by name confusion with another, entirely separate airline which is operating normally.

British Midland Regional Limited, which operates as flybmi, is the carrier that has stopped operations. It is headquartered at East Midlands Airport in North West Leicestershire, and until operations ceased, it had bases at Aberdeen, Brussels, Bristol, East Midlands, Newcastle and Munich.

It is not connected with Flybe, styled as flybe, another British regional airline based in Exeter, England, the largest independent regional airline in Europe.

flybe is just fine, though there have been thousands of inquiries.

flybmi is not fine – it has ceased operations. flybmi operated 17 regional jet aircraft on routes to 25 European cities. Its code-share partners are Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Loganair, Air France and Air Dolomiti.

The fact that flybe and flybmi both style their names in all-lower-case lettering (fashionable a few years ago) adds to the confusion.

A statement issued by flybmi confirmed that all its flights had been cancelled.

Is Brexit partly to blame?

It said: “Customers who booked directly with flybmi should contact their payment card issuer to obtain a refund for flights which have not yet taken place. Customers who have booked flybmi flights via a travel agent or one of flybmi’s codeshare partner airlines are recommended to contact their agent or airline for details of options available to them. Customers who have travel insurance should contact their travel insurance provider to find out if they are eligible to claim for cancelled flights and the procedure for doing so.”

A spokesperson for flybmi put part of the blame on Brexit, saying:

“It is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement today. The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU’s recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme. These issues have undermined efforts to move the airline into profit.

“Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe and lack of confidence around bmi’s ability to continue flying between destinations in Europe. Additionally, our situation mirrors wider difficulties in the regional airline industry which have been well documented.

flybmi Embraer ERJ-135

“Against this background, it has become impossible for the airline’s shareholders to continue their extensive programme of funding into the business, despite investment totalling over £40m in the last six years. We sincerely regret that this course of action has become the only option open to us, but the challenges, particularly those created by Brexit, have proven to be insurmountable.

“Our employees have worked extremely hard over the last few years and we would like to thank them for their dedication to the company, as well as all our loyal customers who have flown with us over the last six years.”

Flights operated by flybmi served Aberdeen, Bristol, Brno, City of Derry, Dusseldorf, East Midlands, Esbjerg, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Jonkoping, Karlstad, London Stansted, Lublin, Milan Bergamo, Munich, Newcastle, Norrkoping, Nuremburg, Oslo, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Rostock/Laage, Saarbrucken and Stavanger.  The airline carried 522,000 passengers on 29,000 flights in 2018.

Passengers are mainly British and many will be better protected than Australian consumers would be in the same circumstances. There are plenty of options.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority advises:

Advice to Consumers

If you booked directly with British Midland Regional (FlyBMI) and paid by credit card you may be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and should contact your card issuer for further information.  Similarly, if you paid by debit or charge card you should contact your card issuer for advice as you may be able to make a claim under their charge back rules.

If you purchased travel insurance that may include cover for scheduled airline failure, known as SAFI, you should contact your insurer.  If you did not book directly with British Midland (FlyBMI) and purchased your tickets through an intermediary, you should contact your booking or travel agent in the first instance.

Negative response letter

Passengers who booked directly with the company via either a credit, charge or debit card may alternatively be able to make a claim against their card provider. Some card providers will ask for a negative response letter confirming the position. Passengers may also be able to make a claim against their travel insurer. (The negative response letter will be published shortly)

Direct booking with an airline

If you paid the airline directly by credit card you might be protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. You should check with your card issuer for further advice. You may have similar cover if you paid by Visa debit card and should check with your bank.

Booked through an Airline Ticket Agent

If you booked your ticket through an airline ticket agent you should speak to the agent in the first instance; they may have provided travel insurance that includes Scheduled Airline Failure cover.

Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI)

Some airlines and airline ticket agents will offer customers either a specific Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI) policy or include similar protection within a broader travel insurance product. The type of protection provided may vary depending on the type of policy taken out. A policy may simply cover the cost of the original tickets purchased or any unused portion, or the additional cost of purchasing new flights, such as new tickets for travel back to the UK.

Booked with an ATOL holder (Package Holiday)

If you have booked flights or a trip that includes flights with a travel firm that holds an ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) and received confirmation that you are ATOL protected, the travel firm is responsible for your flight arrangements and must either make alternative flights available for you so that your trip can continue or provide a full refund. If you are abroad, it should make arrangements to bring you home at the end of your trip. Contact the ATOL travel firm for more information.

Written by Peter Needham



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