Chaos at Bucharest airport as Blue Air flights grounded

Chaos at Bucharest airport as Blue Air flights grounded
Blue Air has suspended flights from Romanian airports between September 6 and September 12.
By bne IntelliNews September 7, 2022

Romanian private low-cost airline Blue Air announced that because its bank accounts were seized by the Ministry of Environment, it will not operate any flight departing from a Romanian airport effective September 6 until September 12.

The announcement, not published officially or efficiently communicated to passengers, created chaos at Bucharest Airport and concerns among passengers expecting either to depart or return home over the next week. 

Flights arriving from abroad were operated as planned on September 6, the company claimed.

Minister of Environment, Tanczos Barna, confirmed on September 6 the seizing of the company's accounts by the Environment Fund (AFM), under his supervision, for a claim of RON28mn and refused to unblock the accounts — a move recommended by Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca. Barna urged Blue Air to resume flights immediately and reschedule its debts to AFM.

Minister of Transport Sorin Grindeanu announced that the government will allocate RON5mn to the flag carrier Tarom to send aircraft to bring home the Romanians affected by Blue Air's decision.

As passengers tried to find alternative routes, they took to social media to vent their frustration. 

“It seems that I am staying in Madrid! I don't have a return flight now. Tarom fully booked, Blue Air cancelled,” wrote one would-be flier stranded in Madrid on Twitter.  

“Hopefully everything is temporary and they [Blue Air] really come back on 09/12…” tweeted another. 

Another frustrated traveller quipped: “Promotion at BlueAir, for 2 canceled flights you have a canceled flight.”

Blue Air has been under pre-insolvency procedures since July 2020 and is seeking a capital injection from investors.

The company blames its financial problems on the Consumer Protection Agency (ANPC), which, it said, “instigated the buyers to no longer buy Blue Air tickets” thus allegedly generating losses estimated at €5mn — a value that is not far from the RON28mn (€5.6mn) owed by the company to the AFM.

The consumer protection agency recently slapped a €2mn fine on Blue Air for the huge amount of flights cancelled over the past year and its failure to properly compensate its customers.

This prompted a public spat between the head of the ANPC, Horia Constantinescu, and the airline that escalated abruptly in July after the former alleged that the low-cost carrier planned to close down operations and was therefore avoiding reimbursing money to passengers on cancelled flights. Blue Air responded by claiming that ANPC had suggested an “amicable” solution that, it said, looked more like a bribe, 

Notably, Blue Air said that APC’s recent negative comments blocked the discussions held in London with interested investors.

In related news, Ryanair grasped the opportunity and launched a preferential offer to Blue Air customers that book a replacement flight by September 9.