Trip Planning: The dangers that lurk behind new ferry and air routes
Travelling around Europe, we are so often struck how the start dates advertised by new transportation operators are all too frequently hopelessly optimistic. On the whole, Europe’s rail companies are pretty good when it comes to sticking exactly to what they say in their pre-launch publicity. But airlines and ferries much less so, for the late delivery of a first aircraft or ship to a new venture can so easily lead to delays.
Over-optimism on the part of a new venture’s promoters, difficulties in securing regulatory approval, and under-capitalization are all potential pitfalls for which even the most lavish PR show cannot compensate. Some ventures never get going at all. Air Vardar, Air Maxi, and GetJet are just three of many European airlines that went bust before having flown a single revenue flight.
Planning your trip to Europe
So, as Cheapos plan their spring and summer travels around Europe, it is just worth checking on carrier details. If your itinerary relies critically on a new air or ferry route in its opening week or two of operation, just be aware that all may not go absolutely according to plan.
And if a flight or sailing is canceled, while the operator will usually quickly refund your fare, you may be left with a gaping hole in your travel schedule that can only be filled at very high cost. Those cheap promotional fares on offer from a wannabe airline or start-up ferry company may look great on paper, but if the venture folds or the launch is postponed, you may rue the day you opted for the new kid on the block.
Even well established carriers are not immune to such start up problems. In late 2008, Ryanair was due to launch a new Edinburgh base, but just a fortnight before starting a raft of new routes from the Scottish capital, delays in aircraft delivery forced the Irish carrier to defer its Edinburgh launch by six weeks.
False Starts: Two topical examples
This week has seen a few false starts as some carriers were just a shade too optimistic in their plans for new services. We mention just two here, by way of example. Fastnet Line announced that its new ferry link from Ireland to Wales would debut on March 1, 2010 – St David’s Day, always a treat in Wales. That was deferred after a last-minute glitch.
Some companies really specialize in false starts. Would-be ferry operator Euroferries has confidently promoted its claim to be the leading fast ferry operator on the English Channel. The company does not actually own a single vessel. Euroferries was due to debut on the Ramsgate (England) to Boulogne (France) route in March 2009, but has thrice delayed its start date since. Press reports late last year suggested that Euroferries would eventually set sail on March 1, 2010, and the publication of a timetable effective March 1 on the company’s website gave credence to those reports. But March 1 has come and gone without any ferry operations.
The bottom line
So the moral of this tale is that the misplaced optimism of others can all too easily wreck a traveler’s best laid plans. Check, check, and check again. And on the eve of departure try and ascertain if the service really will start as planned. It is often best to check by phone, as companies needing to postpone a launch are often slow in updating their websites. Bad news spreads too quickly on the internet.