Passengers due to fly with Easyjet this summer may end up flying on aircraft operated by Latvian-based carrier SmartLynx Airlines, after the firms signed a lease deal. But if you're unhappy with the switch and don't have a flexible ticket you WON'T be able to claim a refund more than 24 hours after booking.
SmartLynx has provided three Airbus A320 airliners for Easyjet to use over the peak holiday months, between April and October. The planes will continue to be badged as SmartLynx aircraft and staffed by a complete SmartLynx crew for the duration of the lease.
The arrangement is technically known in industry jargon as a 'wet lease' – it's common practice for major airlines to lease aircraft from other carriers at peak periods.
Easyjet hasn't yet confirmed how many flights will be switched to SmartLynx aircraft or how many passengers will be affected. But it's understood the aircraft will operate on a number of different routes, and Easyjet's started informing customers with existing bookings who'll be affected.
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How do I know if my flight's affected?
Easyjet hasn't released full details of which flights will be affected, but here's how to check:
- If you already have an Easyjet booking... You'll be emailed by Easyjet to inform you if your flight's being switched to SmartLynx.
- If you're making a new Easyjet booking... It's not yet clear whether you'll be told when booking that selected flights will be on SmartLynx aircraft (we've asked Easyjet and will update this story when we hear back). However, your confirmation email should tell you if you'll be travelling on a SmartLynx plane.
Flight numbers and departure and arrival times will remain unchanged – the only difference will be the fact you're travelling with another airline.
'I do not want to fly on this airline'
Despite this being common practice in the aviation industry, we've already heard from one MoneySaver with a prior Easyjet booking who says she's not comfortable flying with the substitute airline.
Noreen told us: "I received an email from Easyjet [that] said that our flight to Tenerife is now to be with SmartLynx.
"I do not want to fly on this airline. I would like [Easyjet] to refund my flights and [to] use a different airline altogether."
What are your rights if your flight's been switched?
If you're an Easyjet passenger who's unhappy that your flight's been switched, unfortunately your options are limited.
An Easyjet spokesperson told us: "Easyjet's usual terms and conditions in regards to refunds and changes apply to passengers travelling on the flights which are operated by SmartLynx."
These terms and conditions state that refunds are only paid on standard fares when passengers cancel their booking within 24 hours of making it – so after 24 hours, all bookings become non-refundable.
But you'll have more wiggle room if you've booked a 'flexi fare' ticket, as these allow passengers to make penalty-free changes from 24 hours after booking up to two hours before the scheduled departure time. Flexi fares also provide unlimited free date changes to your flight within four weeks either side of your original booking.
If you're not satisfied with the aircraft switch and you're unable to cancel or move your flight then you could try complaining to Easyjet via its online form or using the free online complaints tool Resolver*.
What are the rules around switching flights to a different airline?
Generally this form of aircraft switching is deemed perfectly acceptable, so long as the airlines in question have all the required licenses and comply with the European Aviation Safety Agency's (EASA's) standards.
On its website, SmartLynx states: "SmartLynx Airlines was founded in 1992 as a private airline with its headquarters being located in Riga. Latvian and Estonian air carrier certificates have been granted to the airline. Being an EU airline, SmartLynx Airlines complies with international quality standards and EASA."
A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority told us: "In peak season, carriers find they haven't got capacity, so it's totally normal for wet leasing to occur."
Thomas Cook, Monarch and Ryanair have all used SmartLynx for similar leasing contracts in the past and Monarch is planning to do so again this summer.
What does Easyjet say?
An Easyjet spokesperson said: "The SmartLynx A320 aircraft will operate a small number of Easyjet's flights this summer. They will operate with SmartLynx cabin crew and will remain SmartLynx branded.
"Easyjet has a well-established partnership with SmartLynx and the safety and well-being of our passengers and crew is always our highest priority.
"We would like to reassure passengers that they will receive the same high levels of service, safety and care as they would experience on an Easyjet aircraft."