It happens rarely, but it’s an unwelcome surprise just the same:
You think you’re flying on your chosen airline, only to learn that you will be taking off on another carrier—possibly one you’ve ever heard of. That’s what happened recently to scores of passengers, who were expecting to fly a new Norwegian 787 Dreamliner between London and New York, but were informed that they’d be traveling on a plane owned by Spanish charter line Wamos Air, because a damaged jet had to be taken off line for a few weeks. Norwegian has had a few of these switcheroos, but it’s hardly the only airline that occasionally has to rustle up a substitute plane to keep its schedule going. Most carriers, after all, don’t have several spare planes sitting in the hangar.
Most carriers, after all, don’t have several spare planes sitting in the hangar. These substitutes most often occur when airlines have to take a plane out of service due to a mechanical problem that can’t be resolved quickly, or when new planes on order aren’t delivered on time. The names of these understudies are pretty obscure; in addition to Wamos, which was formerly known as Pullmantour, others include Portuguese leasing company Hi-Fly, which operates an all-Airbus, mostly wide body, fleet.
So what, if anything, are passengers entitled to? If they’re still getting to where they’re going on time, then they may not be entitled to anything, but most airlines, like Norwegian did, offer refunds or other compensation. And plane switches can happen at large, legacy lines, too—even if it doesn’t involve using another carrier’s fleet, to the consumer, it can be just as jarring. When American Airlines substituted an older 777 for a newer Dreamliner on its Los Angeles-Shanghai route last year, for example, a number of premium fliers complained because it was effectively a downgrade in comfort upfront.
In effect, they weren’t getting what they were paying for. As several sharp-eyed passengers noted (after combing through the airline’s contract of carriage), American customers do have the right to cancel without penalty or to request a rerouting in the event of “a substitution of equipment not acceptable to the passenger.” So it’s advisable to check your own carrier’s policy on your rights if a similar situation arises. (The Department of Transportation did not respond to my requests for comment on whether any government consumer rules apply.)-Interesting no?
Article credit: Conde Nast Traveler
Photo credit: CNTraveler