Blue Air exit causes travel chaos, rivals launch rescue fares for stranded pax
After Blue Air’s decision to suspend operations left thousands of passengers stranded in airports across the world, rival airlines Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air and Irish budget airline Ryanair rushed to fill the gap in the market by offering low-fare rescue flights.
Wizz Air launched a special webpage for stranded Blue Air passengers on September 7, 2022, the day after Blue Air suspended all its services. The Budapest-based airline also provided a special tariff for rescue flights, starting at around $49.
No stranger to rescue flights, Dublin-based Ryanair is offering low-fare tickets available until October 31, 2022. However, Ryanair implemented some purchase limitations with stranded passengers able to purchase low-fare tickets only until midnight on September 9, 2022.
3,000 stranded while government pledges $1million for rescue flights
At least 3,000 passengers were stranded in various foreign countries when Blue Air ceased flying, according to Romanian media.
On September 7, 2022, in response to the situation, the Romanian government decided to delegate the country’s flag carrier Tarom aircraft to operate rescue flights to return residents home. Transport Minister Sorin Grindeanu confirmed to Romania Insider that once Romanian authorities collect all necessary data about the stranded passengers, the government will allocate around $1.01 million (RON 5 million) for special flights.
So far, more than 2,098 Romanian citizens, currently stranded in the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom, have submitted a request to the consular office of Romania for a flight home.
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What happened to Blue Air?
The chaos was caused after Blue Air decided to suspend all flights on September 6, 2022, in response to its accounts being seized by the country’s Ministry of the Environment for not complying with its financial obligations to suppliers and failing to pay an almost $2 million fine.
The fine was imposed by the National Authority for Consumer Protection (ANPC) in mid-July 2022. At the time, the ANPC accused the carrier of breaching EC Regulation 261/2004, arguing that Blue Air was running promotional campaigns and collecting money for flight reservations, before canceling flights. A Romanian watchdog also urged the airline to return around $12.8 million (€13 million) for tickets on 11,000 canceled flights between April 30, 2021, and April 30, 2022. The low-cost carrier was ordered to return money to customers within a maximum of 10 days.
However, Blue Air disagreed with the fine and accused the ANPC of incompetence and said it would take the dispute to the local court.
The airline also argued that it was unable to make payments to its partners, including suppliers, because the government had seized its accounts.
"Due to an unforeseen situation consisting in the seizure of all the accounts of the BlueAir company by the Ministry of the Environment for non-payment of a fine, the airline company BlueAir Aviation is forced, being unable to pay any supplier, to suspend all flights scheduled to depart from Romania,” Blue Air said in its statement.
Blue Air to transfer flights to newcomer AirConnect
According to a statement given by Blue Air, seen by Romanian media, the low-cost carrier suspended all operations out of its four hubs - Bucharest Otopeni (OTP), Bacau (BCM), Cluj Napoca (CLJ), and Iasi (IAS) - until at least September 12, 2022.
The day after the suspension, the airline decided to outsource its domestic flights scheduled after September 12 to Romanian airline AirConnect, which currently operates a single leased 7.9-year-old ATR 72-600 turboprop.
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