Budget airline Flybe wanted actors to fill empty seats to avoid penalty charges

31.3.2008   (Daily Mail)

A budget airline advertised for actors to pose as passengers in an attempt to
avoid a £280,000 commercial penalty for having too many empty seats.

Flybe also laid on extra flights, offered the public free trips and placed its
own staff on stand-by to fly in case seats were not filled.

The company took the “unusual” steps after failing to reach agreement with officials
at Norwich International Airport.

In the resulting row, airport bosses attacked Flybe for pointlessly damaging
the environment and the airline branded airport officials “intransigent and greedy”.

Environmental campaigners reacted with horror. “This is madness,” said Tony Bosworth
of Friends of the Earth. “How can it possibly make financial sense to lay on extra
flights and pay people to go on them?     If the Government is serious about climate
change it must tackle the rapidly growing impact of aviation emissions.   Ministers
must abandon their airport expansion plans and investigate the crazy economics
of an industry where it can pay to needlessly pollute.”

Flybe, which is based in Exeter, explained last night that it has an agreement
to fly 70,000 passengers from Norwich each year.

Over the past 12 months it had actually carried 136,000 – but failed to reach
a specific target of 15,000 on the Norwich to Dublin route and faced a £280,000

Although the airline was just 172 passengers short, attempts to reach a compromise
over the payment failed. With the deadline of midnight tonight approaching, Flybe
laid on extra flights, offered 200 free return tickets, placed an advertisement
for ‘extras’ on an actors’ website and warned staff to prepare to fly to Ireland.

Its appeal on a website called StarNow said extras aged 16 and over would be
paid more than £80 a day.  It said: “You will be boarding an aircraft and flying
to Dublin and then flying back into Norwich airport.   There may be up to three
flights each day.”

The airport’s managing director Richard Jenner said: “It doesn’t seem to be in
the spirit of the agreement. But more than anything our concerns are about the
unnecessary impact on the environment.

“One of the reasons we like to have Flybe here is that they say they are also
concerned about the environment.”

A Flybe spokesman said last night it had not needed to use actors but was still
ready to fly its own staff if there were not enough fare-paying passengers on
today’s two special flights.   He said the airline would “offset” the extra carbon

Budget airline Flybe wanted actors to fill empty seats to avoid penalty charges