How a simple week end in France has now transformed in a long travel through three countries (Image: WalesOnline)

The collapse of the cheap airline has consequences way beyond the cash

Initially published on LancsLive.

I’m one of these Flybe customers panicking over their cancelled plane tickets.

My group of friends have been planning a special getaway weekend in May for six months now.

We come from different parts of France and the UK, so getting us all together at the same date is a pretty rare deal.

To prevent any trouble, at the end of February I had booked my return plane tickets to Lyon with Flybe, as usual, for a total amount of £155.89.

Easy peasy – or so it seemed.

On March 5, all of that went awry.

When I learned the company had suddenly collapsed, I panicked: how was I going to get to the getaway weekend I wouldn’t miss for anything in the world? Will tickets be as cheap as they were a month ago? Will I get my money back?

But beyond money lay a long-lasting problem: how will I visit France simply now?

Here’s the thing: among all the companies, Flybe was by far the most practical to travel to France.

Not only did they serve several airports in the country, and not just the capital like most companies, but there was no stopover, and one could easily go anywhere in France from the UK in more or less an hour and a half.

But with Flybe collapsing, forget about all that.

Travel nightmare, hello.

As I rushed onto several plane companies’ websites, I realised there was basically no simple alternative: no company is serving Lyon without a three hour stopover to Paris, whatever the price.

Then began a logistical nightmare with my friends, which ended up in a kind of messy solution: I will now arrive in Paris a day before I had planned, sleep at my friend’s, and hop onto a five-hour car trip with them to Lyon.

To come back to the UK, I’ll have to take a train from Lyon to Geneva, and then take a plane back to Birmingham.

What should have been an easy direct flight back and forth has now transformed into a full adventure through France and Switzerland. How charming.

At least, the total amount for these new tickets was not too far off what I had initially paid – except we’re renting a car to go south, adding £70 to my initial budget.

Of course, I had to resolve this issue extremely quickly, as every Flybe customer was frantically buying all the other options.

Then came the other challenge: getting my money back.

As I looked through Flybe’s website , no proper information was given, apart that business had ceased immediately and advice not to travel to airports, as well as a redirection to the Civil Aviation Authority’s website.

It seemed like the company didn’t want to get involved with angry customers, as the email address they provided for further information simply didn’t work.

FlyBe obviously doesn’t want you to contact them

Among dozens of options, the CAA site read:  “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.”

I concluded I had to contact my bank. As I went through my banking application, I was presented with a form that was virtually impossible to fill in with a phone.

Now what?

Frustrated and deceived, I decided to go to my bank in-person to have this Flybe business resolved once and for all.

The banker was very nice and helpful but was as lost as I was, and had to read instructions for a good 10 minutes before beginning the procedure.

Of course, he asked if I contacted the company first before turning to them as part of their policy, and I felt more frustrated than ever: it looked like neither Flybe nor my bank wanted to deal with this issue, and purposely misled the customer under a heavy procedural madness.

It took a full half-an-hour to fill the form together with a profusion of details – it seemed the only thing they didn’t ask was my astrological sign.

After it was done, I was told the money will be back in my bank account within 28 days.

But after all of that, I feel like other procedural obstacles will lie between me and the £155.89 I paid.

However, I won’t let myself be distraught: after all, I am not responsible for the collapse and there is no way I’m paying my travel twice.

I just hope another low-cost company will take over the Flybe destinations – if not, coming back for Christmas will be a whole new costly nightmare.

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