Charters asking surcharge for returning home from Turkey

Delays of charter flights to resort destinations have become more frequent in Kazan, and tour operators have begun to ask customers for an additional payment for returning home

Charters asking surcharge for returning home from Turkey
Photo: Maksim Platonov

“We regularly receive notifications from tour operators about the postponement of the departure time of a charter flight to Antalya. Sometimes they manage to change the departure time six times," representatives of Kazan travel agencies are amazed. A little more than three weeks have passed since the opening of Turkey, and the “test run” of the flight programme to the Mediterranean coast is still going with large deviations from the schedule. A large number of charter flights are delayed for a period of 3 to 12 hours. “There is not and cannot be a shortage of aircraft equipment for Russian carriers, since international lines have not been restored to the previous volume," says Oleg Panteleyev, the executive director of Aviaport agency. Tour operators explain the frequent postponements of departures by various factors, and tourists themselves are offered to get used to them. Even an additional fee as a “departure guarantee” of 11,000 rubles does not guarantee a timely departure, Realnoe Vremya found out.

Travel agents: charters leave with a delay of 2-10 hours

The charter programme of flights from Kazan to the main Turkish resort of Antalya is being shaken, and the flights themselves are out of schedule at Kazan International Airport. A little more than three weeks have passed since the resumption of air traffic between Russia and Turkey, but recently there have been many delays and postponements of flights.

As the monitoring of the online scoreboard with flight schedule shows, up to two or three charters a day are late for several hours on average, depending on the day of departure. Some directors of Kazan travel agencies claim that not a single flight — neither to Turkey, nor to Cyprus, nor to Tunisia — took off or returned on time.

The current week turned out to be especially indicative in this regard. After the Red Wings airline twice delayed departures for 10 hours in search of a standby plane, another charter carrier's flight was delayed. On July 15, Rossiya Airlines, a member of Aeroflot Group, was forced to postpone the departure time of the charter flight FV-5827 for 4,5 hours. At the appointed time at 10:20 Moscow time, the liner took off from Kazan with a lag — at 2:51 pm Moscow time. The flight was conducted on a Boeing-738 aircraft designed to carry 189 passengers. As a result, Kazan tourists arrived at Antalya Airport late in the evening.

Charter programme of flights from Kazan to the main Turkish resort of Antalya is being shaken, and the flights themselves are out of schedule at Kazan International Airport. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Usually, the charter flights of Rossiya airline are chartered by the Russian tour operator Biblio-globus, but the “hotline” could not confirm the fact of the delay in the departure of their tourists from Kazan. The longest delay in July, according to Kazan travel agencies, was a flight to Cyprus — the departure was postponed for over 12 hours.

Every tenth tour with a time shift

Frequent postponements of charter flights in this tourist season are particularly worrying for Kazan travel agents, who have to directly explain themselves to tour buyers.

“We regularly receive notifications from various tour operators about the postponement of departure time," says the director general of the tourist company Inteltur Kazan, Lilia Savelyeva. “On average, 10% of all applications about postponements are to Turkey. The notification comes as soon as the changes are received.”

She also remembered a recent curious incident from practice, when the departure time was “shifted” six times in two weeks from the date of purchase of a tour. “But we did not worry the client about numerous postponements in advance, but only told him the final date and time of departure," she said.

“It's always been like this with charter flights," she says. “But if a tourist pays for such an option as 'a fee for a guaranteed departure', then the carrier is obliged to comply. The guarantee is taken not by the carrier, but by the tour operator. You can not charge additional payments from customers if your programme changes. The client did not choose this, it is not very good to force him to pay extra. It is sad that now regular flights are constantly updating their flight programmes, the passenger pays for everything. It is much more insulting when a client bought an early departure from Kazan and a late arrival to Kazan, as a result, he gets a late departure from Kazan and an early arrival, losing the days that he counted on as a vacation.”

Returning home with additional payment

It is much more difficult to return from a vacation from the Mediterranean coast.

The head of the agency in Kazan Drugoe Izmerenie, Yulia Kaurova, said that in her practice, flights are removed a few days before departure, and especially often the tour operators Coral and Sunmar (part of OTI holding) “shift the application”.

For example, this week she has received a notification from Sunmar, in which the operator reports that it is impossible to perform the return flight from Antalya to Kazan scheduled for July 27. Moreover, the notification comes the day before the departure from Kazan to Turkey.

“We inform you about the cancellation of the RL 8026 Antalya-Kazan flight," the text of the Sunmar telegram says.

The tour operator offers three options for returning. First: transfer of tour dates (departure-arrival) for one day in advance without changing the cost. And also two more related to recalculation. In particular, the agency is offered either to return the money for one shortened day, or the tourist will have to pay an additional day more. The recalculation is based on the “tariff” of 242 c.u., which is not justified in any way. If you calculate in euros, then at the current exchange rate, the agency either has to return about 22,000 rubles to the client for returning a day earlier, or the tourist himself must pay 22,000 for a day later.

Realnoe Vremya failed to promptly contact the tour operator, no response has yet been received to the publication's request. Charter flights on these tours are operated by Red Wings airline.

The head of the travel company Intel Kazan, Lilia Savelyeva, agrees that it may be more expensive to return than to fly to Turkey. According to her, there was an incident in her practice when a client was also offered to postpone the time of return to Kazan for a day, but due to his high official status, he could not stay for a day.

“As a result, I had to urgently buy tickets for a regular flight from Istanbul, paying 73,000 rubles for the flight (there are no direct regular flights from Antalya)," she said.

The tour operator did not compensate the client for the costs. According to her, some operators offer to pay in advance a “departure guarantee” of 11,000 rubles for two, but still it does not save from delays.

Last-minute tours are offered 5 days before departure, but with non-departure insurance. Those who do not have a vaccination do not risk buying without a PCR test. Photo: Ilya Repin

Tour operators of “the big three”: departure time is determined by airlines

A large flow of tourists from Russia has really poured into Turkey. On July 6, Turizmdatabank analytical centre published data on the number of arrivals to Antalya with package tours. According to their data, more than 1,25 million people arrived at the main Turkish resort as part of package tours, or with an increase of 256%. The leadership in the rating of tour operators in terms of the number of tourists sent belongs to Anex Tour, TUI, and Odeon (OTI). They are followed by Pegas Touristik, Joinup, Tez Tour, MPI Turkey, Biblio Globus, and DT Touristik.

The Kazan representative office of Anex Tour reported that the transfer of the departure time of flights from Kazan Airport was observed during two weeks of July. The flights were shifted by an average of 2-3 hours. Tourists were warned about changing the departure time in advance — at least a day in advance, as required by law.

“There has not been a single case of postponing a flight for more than 10 hours in our practice," said Zaur Gadzhiev, the director of Anex Tour representative office.

If the PCR test expired due to a delay, the tour operator asked the airport to be more loyal to tourists whose 72-hour period has expired. According to him, since mid-July, the departure schedule has stabilised, and flights leave strictly on schedule.

“The departure times of charter flights are coordinated by airlines," the TUI press service told Realnoe Vremya. “It can be shifted within a day. Tour operators, for their part, always inform agents and customers that the stated departure time of a charter flight can be adjusted.”

Neither the tourist operator nor the carrier report on the reasons for the postponements. According to the press service of the airport, the charter airline can change the departure time on its own initiative, but it is obliged to coordinate with the tour operator and the airport.

“A charter flight is a commercial air transportation of passengers, baggage, cargo on the basis of a freight contract with the charterer retaining the right to change the schedule of the aircraft in agreement with the air carrier and the airports of departure and arrival," the airport's response to the request of our publication says. “Thus, the departure time can be changed at the initiative of the customer. While regular flights are operated strictly according to a regulated schedule.”

However, regular flights have also been postponed this week. On July 15, there was a delay in the departure of the flight KL 127 to Simferopol, which is operated by a charter carrier, and on July 16 — of the flight RG 862 to Yekaterinburg of Rusline Airlines (involved in charter flights).

“The high tourist season is approaching, so the major airports of Moscow and Kazan are overloaded, charters are serviced after regular flights," explained the head of Companion-SP, Sergey Pasechnik.

There is no shortage of liners, there is a shortage of slots

It would seem that after the lockdown, airlines are interested in catching up and flying as often as possible without cancellations and postponements to sold flights. But there is still no discipline or punctuality.

According to the executive director of Aviaport agency, Oleg Panteleev, there may be special reasons in each specific case, but in any case, there is no shortage of aircraft equipment for Russian carriers and there cannot be.

“International lines have not recovered in the same volume, and there is even competition for the right to embark on a flight," he noted. “Of course, airlines operate in a tight flight schedule, but there are backup planes to close the broken chain of flights. But if an airline 'disrupts' several flights during a week, it means that it ventured into an excessive number of flights that it is unable to perform.”

According to him, the delays may be due to a shortage of free slots at airports that cannot simultaneously accept a large number of flights. For example, if Antalya Airport is capable to accept 105 direct flights a day, then Kazan Airport — 45. One way or another, but the abnormal phenomenon with the regularity of transfers can be explained by all sorts of factors, but in fact, tourists are simply offered to get used to them.

Luiza Ignatyeva
Tatarstan