Thursday, February 22, 2018

Travellers' plans up in the air as EZjet grounded

The Facebook page of low-cost Guyana carrier EZjet was burning up last week with complaints from disgruntled customers after it was grounded following a mandate by the United States Department of Transport(US DOT) for it to cease flights between New York and Guyana.

EZjet had announced on its website on Facebook page on November 9 that it was temporarily suspending its operations "due to financial hardship created by its vendors and agents owing EZJet as well as some mismanagement".

In outlining its position, the budget airline, which began flying earlier this year between Guyana and the major north American cities of New York and Toronto, accused both Swift Air and Dynamic Airways of bilking it out of around US$2.3 million in unpaid fees and fuel costs.

According to posts on the EZjet Facebook page, EZjet and Swift Air have been in dispute since October 23 when Swift Air issued EZjet with a notice of cancellation, alleging that the Caribbean airline owed the Arizona-based company money. A charge that EZjet hotly contested, stating in turn that Swift Air in fact owes EZjet over US$630,000 in open invoices as well as another US$200,000 for amenities provided to passengers such as hotel, meals, and other charges relating to delays that were attributed to Swift Air. EZjet said it has consistently asked Swift Air to pay these invoices as the funds were needed to pay for EZjet's continued operations but Swift Air has not paid the invoices nor responded to the cancellation dispute.

The Guyanese owned airline explained that, on November 2 and 3, Swift Air, which owns and operates the aircraft that the Guyana carrier leases, abandoned EZjet's passengers at JFK airport in New York and then in Georgetown to take another job of flying the Boston Celtics basketball team within the United States.

EZjet also said on November 7, Swift Air also off-loaded already onboard passengers at Port of Spain, and then stranded JKF-bound passengers in Georgetown, in order to fly their empty aircraft to Buffalo, New York, again utilising EZjet's fuel and airport services to do so. The airline said after the aircraft took off, Swift Air contacted the US DOT and the Travel Industry Council of Ontario in Canada and notified them that it intends to stop flying although no advance notification was provided to EZjet.

As a result, suggested EZjet, on November 8, the DOT sent an email indicating that "EZJet Air has failed to act consistently with the requirements of 14 CFR Part 380. In the circumstances presented, we are requiring that EZJet Air Service Express must immediately cease advertising and operating flights filed under PC 12 119." The Guyanese airline attributed this development to the DOT having received "false and misleading information from Swift Air" and that "Swift lied to the DOT in order to protect itself from the liability of having to return all US passengers that they took to Guyana."

EZjet stated that it has written to the DOT stating the facts and challenging Swift Air and is currently awaiting a reply.