Browsed by
Category: Uncategorized

If it’s September, an airline will have gone bust.

If it’s September, an airline will have gone bust.

Regular readers will remember this feature from previous versions of my blog. This year’s first candidate is Small Planet Germany, which has filed for bankruptcy this week. Now German bankruptcy law allows companies to continue operating under court-approved supervision in these circumstances, so nobody will get stranded.

The Small Planet group is structured with separate companies based in several different countries, and there is no suggestion that any of the other group companies are insolvent.

At the same time there may be an element of inter-group trading (there usually is) which might adversely affect the rest of the group. I would make sure I had airline failure insurance were I to book a ticket with any Small Planet airline, until the dust settles.

Lets hope there are no more airlines on the list this year.

Shoulder-season starts

Shoulder-season starts

What the travel trade calls the shoulder season is now well under way for Symi, with a mainly older, Northern European, selection of tourists arriving, since all over Europe children are now back at school. Some say that September tourists are trying to avoid the extreme heat of July and August – not much hope this year, the temperature is well in the 30s. Cynics say that they hope to avoid holidaying children and teachers, or benefit from slightly lower airfares.

Apart from this visible change in clientele, things remain much the same. Blue Star Ferries have their autumn timetable in force, this has been known about for many months and there’s no effect on bookings, but the island’s favourite Blue Star Patmos is back from this week onwards on Wednesdays and Fridays, replacing the Nissos Chios.

For the poster who asked about the technical specification of Sebeco, the Greek shipping enthusiast website www.shipfriends.gr has produced this (auto-translated so not perfect):

The Sebeco boat has a total length of 35m and a total width of 7.6m. It has two main Cummins 1350hp propulsion engines each and has Max. Speed ​​25kn and service speed of 22kn, speeds that were stable and fully loaded. Its total unladen weight is 76t while the laden 109t has a 220-passenger protocol. The boat has two comfortable decks. The interior lounge is divided into the main and the prive and can accommodate 112 people in luxurious coach seats while plastic seats are placed on the outside of the boat and on the sun deck. Sebeco qualifies for short boat (80Nm) as it has 5 crew cabins for 12 people, 1 passenger cabin for 2 persons and 7 WCs with comfortable antechambers. It is equipped with state-of-the-art electronic, electrical and mechanical equipment. Characteristics that highlight it in the largest Greek shipbuilding craft made of GRP.

No doubt it is the light weight enabled by the glass-fibre construction that makes her so bouncy and seasickness is far from unknown. It isn’t unknown either for the open deck seats to be closed off on the evening sailings due to excessive spray coming aboard

 

Late summer and autumn ferries

Late summer and autumn ferries

Alert readers will have noticed that the High Season timetable for ferries effectively ends on 9 September. Today ANES has announced that their ferry Sebeco will continue in operation until 31 October – previously ending on 9 September.

The timetable up to 14 October is very much the same as today, except that journeys between Symi and Rhodes each way now take an hour and 10 minutes, in the light of experience. Departure times haven’t changed.

Between 15 and 31 October the timetable changes significantly. The morning departures are still at 08:00 from Symi and 10:00 from Rhodes, but the trip to Panormitis and back doesn’t happen and she leaves for Rhodes at 13:30, returning from Rhodes to Symi at 15:15. Sunday 28 October has a one-off timetable all its own.

Here is the combined ferry timetable for 10-30 September

and here for October

Sebeco back in service, and the combined high season timetable

Sebeco back in service, and the combined high season timetable

Sebeco re-entered service yesterday after the crack in the hull had been repaired. Stories I’m hearing from passengers and from sources on Symi suggest that the cause of the crack may not be quite what the Rodiaki newspaper claimed. Let’s see what the Coastguard investigation discovers.

Here is the updated combined ferry schedule up to the 9th of September. Before anyone asks, no, I don’t know what the timetable is for the second half of September or for October. I’ve a pretty good idea, because Blue Star and Dodekanisos Seaways have released their timings, but ANES has not, so we don’t know if Sebeco will be running or not, and if she is, when. This is what the times for 10th to 30th September will look like if no Sebeco.

 

The photo is by H Rodiaki, the Rhodes based newspaper & website.

Sebeco part 5

Sebeco part 5

What a drawn out saga this is! Yesterday Sebeco left the harbour close to the shipyard she was built in, crossed the Aegean and arrived first of all at Panormitis, to be blessed, and then Yialos. She moored overnight at the location ANES always used in the past, by the bus terminus.

This morning she left Yialos about 15 minutes late, probably due to ceremonies, and arrived in Rhodes at the Tourist Port quay, at the very landward end, which as a shallow-draught vessel is possible. For those who aren’t sure precisely where this is, this is the quay in between Kolonna and Akandia that is used by ferries to Turkey and by the vast cruise ships (though they need to dock further along or run aground). Presumably this is where they intend to depart from as well, but the 10:00 departure is now 35 minutes late (more ceremonies, perhaps) and still hasn’t left.Update – I’m informed that the ship met some rocks while entering harbour and is now out of service for repairs until further notice.Later still update! The Rodiaki newspaper reports that Sebeco arrived safely, and the damage was actually caused while about to depart for Symi when a yacht “scratched” Sebeco, which in turn caused her to collide with the quayside. There are dents and scratches at the bow and on one side.

Sebeco moored at Tourist Port, Rhodes, after damage. Photo copyright Rodiaki.

At this location there is an octagonal wooden building that Sea Dreams has been using as a ticket office and the suggestion is that ANES will share the building for on the spot sales and collections of tickets booked on line. They have always had an office in Australias Street, but this has been more administrative than a sales point, even when they managed to operate 4 ships between Rhodes and Symi in the “good old days”.

Sebeco part 4 – on the move

Sebeco part 4 – on the move

Looks like tomorrow really is the day!

Sebeco is currently passing Syros at 20 knots on her way to Symi from the shipyard.

And while we now have:

a timetable for the next 8 weeks; online booking and the fares;

we STILL don’t know definitely the departure point in Rhodes, and where in Rhodes people are supposed to exchange online booking confirmations for actual tickets.

Sebeco Part 3 – at last the timetable and a start date.

Sebeco Part 3 – at last the timetable and a start date.

After successful sea trials on 3 July, and hopefully tidying up all the paperwork, ANES released the timetable for Sebeco for the period 11 July to 9 September today. It will be the same every day:

Dep.Port Departs Est.Duration Arrives Arr.Port
Symi 08:00 1 Hr 09:00 Rhodes
Rhodes 10:00 1 Hr 11:00 Symi
Symi 14:30 30 Min 15:00 Panormitis
Panormitis 16:00 30 Min 16:30 Symi
Symi 16:45 1 Hr 17:45 Rhodes
Rhodes 18:30 1 Hr 19:30 Symi

As you can see, there’s an evening sailing from Rhodes every day, and a morning sailing from Symi to Rhodes every day, along with a set of sailings in between targetting daytrippers but available to anyone.

On line booking is not yet available, but may well pop up any time soon since ANES does have online booking for all its other services. Updated 9 July – it’s available now at the ANES website

What don’t we know yet (but will hopefully find out in the next 24 hours)?

Fares   Updated 9 July – €13 one way Symi -Rhodes or Rhodes – Symi

Departure point in Rhodes

Departure point in Symi (I’m guessing near the bus terminus)

I’ve seen photos and video, and she appears to have a combination of airline-style seats in two air-conditioned cabin areas, plus open deck seating. Top speed looks good – will need to be given the timetable.

And no, I don’t know what happens from 10 September onwards, let’s get the service started first!

So tonight looks like the last Symi II Sunday evening sailing of the year.

 

Tripsta

Tripsta

Have you booked flights through the online bookers Tripsta or AirTickets? If you have, there is a potentially serious problem. Tripsta/AirTickets is a Greek-based company, but sold flights worldwide through the internet. They seem to have been very good at getting people to pay them for tickets, but much less effective at paying the airlines for them. As a result they ran up an airline debt of €59 million for May 2018 alone, with no funds available to meet this. They agreed a settlement plan with the airline trade association IATA, which would have meant the outstanding balance was paid off by 2020, and in the meantime new bookings were only allowed against company or customers own credit cards, so no further debt could accrue.

Now Tripsta/Air Tickets has claimed that its main supplier, the Global Distribution System (GDS) company Travelport has pulled the plug on it. Most Tripsta staff have been fired, and a subsidiary Travelplanet24 is now only selling ferry tickets.

Greek travel agency news and information service GTP reports on the issue here and here

Despite public statements that some staff have been retained to deal with refunds and rebookings, internet discussion groups are full of passengers complaining that they cannot contact the company at all.

What’s my advice?

  1. If you have a confirmed booking though one of the Tripsta companies, check that it still exists and that you can access it through the airline website. Keep checking every day or so as sometimes what appears to be a firm booking is actually an unconfirmed reservation, and at some point the airline computer system will come along and clean up unconfirmed reservations. Check in on line at the earliest time possible.
  2. Don’t even think about trying to change or cancel a confirmed booking made through this company. Just live with what you’ve got, or write it off to experience, unless the airline is willing to do this directly for you (and many will not be).
  3. If you have paid Tripsta for a flight and it isn’t confirmed, contact your credit card company or bank and ask them to charge the amount back. This may or may not be possible depending on regulations in your country of residence. You’ve little or no chance of getting anything back from Tripsta.
  4. Don’t make ferry bookings through Travelplanet24 – there’s no guarantee that this subsidiary will be able to meet its obligations to ferry companies – though I’m not saying that it can’t, why take the risk?
  5. Don’t make flight or ferry bookings through online resellers at all in future. Book directly with the airline or shipping line if you want to do it on line, or if you need agency services, call in and talk to a real live travel agent. That way you log out or walk out with a confirmed booking, terms and conditions are explained, you don’t end up paying for things you don’t want, or not getting things you do want (like baggage allowances, or seat reservations).
  6. If you think online resellers are cheaper – think again. Tripsta didn’t buy blocks of seats cheaply from airlines and resell them to eager travellers, they waited until someone had spotted a price on their website and asked them to make a booking, and then logged on to Travelport to make the actual booking. Often the price on Tripsta’s website was out of date, or didn’t include hold baggage, and the customer ended up paying more than they expected, indeed more than they would have paid if they’d gone direct in the first place.
  7. If you still insist on ignoring this advice, at least look to see the registered address of the online reseller and work out how you could get redress if things go wrong, before using them. Some countries have historically poor consumer protection and/or financial conduct rules. On this front, exactly the same situation occurred in 2014 when another Greek online ticket seller, airfasttickets, failed to meet its obligations due to lack of liquidity.
Sebeco Part Two

Sebeco Part Two

The Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy has granted Sebeco a ferry route licence for Rhodes-Symi for the period 8 July to 30 September, for daily service. What we have yet to discover is:

What’s the timetable?

What’s the fare?

Where in Rhodes will it leave from?

Will the ferry be ready to enter service on 8 July?

How many people does the ferry hold?

Thanks to fellow-blogger Adriana we know that the ticket agent for this ferry on Symi will be Lakis Travel.

I’ve been asked about the technical specification of Sebeco, and all I can say is that I have absolutely no idea, and ANES have yet to release any details at all, which is surprising, you’d expect a series of information releases to gain press coverage and build up interest.