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Help! Screwed by Smart Wings; need alternate AMS-PRG flight suggestions

Help! Screwed by Smart Wings; need alternate AMS-PRG flight suggestions

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Old Jan 7, 05, 11:50 pm
  #1  
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Angry Help! Screwed by Smart Wings; need alternate AMS-PRG flight suggestions

My wife and I are traveling to Prague and Amsterdam next month. When I planned the trip several months ago, I booked us flights on AA and BA from IAH-DFW-LGW-AMS and back, and on Czech low cost carrier Smart Wings roundtrip between AMS-PRG. Because I try to be frugal, I also booked us prepaid Priceline hotel reservations in both cities in advance.

Today I got an e-mail from Smart Wings saying that our reservation with them has been cancelled due to a change in their seasonal flight schedule:
DEAR PASSENGER,

In respect of the latest demand development for air transport in winter 2005 we had to optimize our flight schedule, as well as some other airlines.

We apologize for cancellation of your flight QS 026/7 Prague/Amsterdam.

Your reservation has been completely cancelled in compliance with our General Conditions of Carriage.

Your payment will be fully refunded within a few days through our card payment system directly back to your debit/credit card. Your bank may credit your card/bank account in a month following the month when the refund was made.

The amount is not possible to send through any payment order from our bank account or collect in cash in Carrierís office.

We are deeply sorry. We believe that you will select your next flight with Smart Wings again.

You will find our latest flight schedule on the web site www.smartwings.net

Thank you for Your understanding.
Poof. Just like that Smart Wings cancelled our AMS-PRG roundtrip flights, leaving us with non-refundable hotel reservations in Prague and no inexpensive way to fly between AMS and there roundtrip (at least, as far as I can tell).

We had originally paid approximately $268 roundtrip inclusive for the both of us on Smart Wings. Now the cheapest fare I can find (on KLM) is over twice that price. Ouch!

I am very, very angry with Smart Wings right now. I doubt we will have any recourse with them, however. Their Conditions of Carriage -- which I neglected to read at the time of purchase -- gives them virtually free reign to cancel flights for any reason whatsoever and leave their passengers high and dry with only the comfort of a refund provided they do so 14 days in advance. I guess Iíll have to chalk this up to one of lifeís hard lessons.

Do any of you have any suggestions as to how we can avoid paying almost $300.00 extra to travel between AMS-PRG? We are arriving in AMS on BA on Friday, February 11, 2005 at 11:20 a.m., and would need to fly from AMS-PRG sometime early that afternoon. Our Priceline reservation in Prague is from Friday, February 11 through Monday, February 14. Meanwhile, our Priceline reservation in Amsterdam is from Monday, February 14 through Thursday, February 17, so we need to fly back from PRG-AMS anytime on February 14. Is there any way I can book replacement tickets at this juncture for significantly less than $550.00 inclusive for the both of us?

Any help would be very, very welcome.

And let this be a cautionary tale to any other travelers who may consider booking reservations with Smart Wings.

Last edited by cAAl; Jan 8, 05 at 12:46 am
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Old Jan 8, 05, 12:36 am
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Hi cAAl,

you should check csa.cz (Czech Airlines). They have fares for about EUR130 + tax (about EUR60) per person and roundtrip. For me it priced out as EUR 194.51 on your dates per person. You can get an e-tix or pick up the ticket at the airport in Amsterdam. I have flown them once PRG - FRA and it was a plesant experience.
I think the website has somewhere the choice of english as language - if not, let me know and I'll try to translate...

Hope that helps
haubd

Added: Sorry, just saw the current $ - EUR exchange rate...I guess it is not significantly lower than $550...Sorry, forgot to convert it to $$$

Last edited by haubd; Jan 8, 05 at 12:41 am
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Old Jan 8, 05, 4:34 am
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I've just had a look on Smartwings' web site and it would appear that the Friday flight is still running (and selling at 80 Euros per person one way) but that the Monday one isn't. So - one option might be to fly Smartwings one way and come back some other way. In the circumstances I understand that this would not necessarily be an option that you would want to take!

I looked at Easyjet who do fly to PRG but not from AMS. The nearest they fly from is Dortmund (DTM) near the German-Dutch border, and they have some good deals for the days you mention - but there is no way of getting there from AMS (by train) in time for the outbound flight on Friday. Easyjet to DTM might be a possibility for the return on Monday, though.

Another thought was that maybe you could somehow not take the LGW-AMS part of your outbound flight and make your way direct to PRG from one of the London airports. Probably not a good idea as it could result in your return reservation being cancelled... also, I couldn't see any cheap deals from LON for that Friday afternoon. Friday is a popular travel day at the best of times (with people going away on week-end breaks), and with this being Valentine week-end I suspect more people will be travelling than usual.

I'm afraid you may be left with no choice but to pay considerably more than you had planned to pay.... and with it being Valentine week-end I would recommend you book an alternative flight as soon as you possibly can before fares go up even more.
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Old Jan 8, 05, 7:28 am
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Try Wizzair (http://www.wizzair.com), too. They just started up last year. Nothing from Amsterdam but they do have flights from Brussels (Charleroi). That's 3 hours by train, but it may be worth it if you can save money on the airfare.

We were in Prague a couple of months ago- definitely worth it no matter how you get there!
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Old Jan 8, 05, 7:34 am
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Wizzair doesn't serve Prague at the moment (only Budapest, and various destinations in Poland).

And Charleroi (a town in South West Belgium, not a suburb of Brussels!) is about four hours from Schiphol by train.
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Old Jan 8, 05, 9:07 am
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Oops. I knew they served Prague, but I guess it's only from Budapest.
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Old Jan 8, 05, 12:02 pm
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Originally Posted by Aviatrix
I've just had a look on Smartwings' web site and it would appear that the Friday flight is still running (and selling at 80 Euros per person one way) but that the Monday one isn't. So - one option might be to fly Smartwings one way and come back some other way. In the circumstances I understand that this would not necessarily be an option that you would want to take!

I looked at Easyjet who do fly to PRG but not from AMS. The nearest they fly from is Dortmund (DTM) near the German-Dutch border, and they have some good deals for the days you mention - but there is no way of getting there from AMS (by train) in time for the outbound flight on Friday. Easyjet to DTM might be a possibility for the return on Monday, though.
Thanks for the tip. I suppose I could ask Smart Wings to honor our outbound PRG-AMS reservation, where the flight is still operational, and only cancel our return. EZ does indeed have a nice one-way fare from PRG-DTM, which with taxes would come out to approximately $73.00 for the both of us. We could then take a train from the Dortmund Hbf to Amsterdam Centraal for approximately $123.00 for the two of us. By my calculations, this would only increase our aggregate trip cost by about $60.00.

There are several downsides, however. One is that we would still be depending on Smart Wings not to screw us again (in terms of operating the Friday, February 11 flight as scheduled). Needless to say, I don't have very much confidence in them anymore. The other is that the times are less than ideal. Essentially we'd wind up burning almost one full day of our already short vacation because the EZ flight doesn't leave PRG until 4:30 p.m. and the trail doesn't arrive Amsterdam Centraal until 9:56 p.m. (and that's assuming that we can make a 1:16 minute connection from our arriving flight at DTM to the train at Dortmund Hbf). I guess it would be helpful to know if that 1:16 minute plane-to-train connection is realistic. Does anybody know far Dortmund Hbf is from the airport?
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Old Jan 8, 05, 12:22 pm
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Originally Posted by cAAl
I guess it would be helpful to know if that 1:16 minute plane-to-train connection is realistic. Does anybody know far Dortmund Hbf is from the airport?
According to EZ's information page about Dortmund, here are our apparent transportation options between DRT and a couple of nearby train stations:
By coach

A shuttle bus operates from the central bus station at Dortmund main train station directly to Dortmund airport. It starts at 4.30 in the morning at the station, the last bus from airport to the station runs at 22.30. Journey time is approximately 25 minutes. Price is 5 Euro per adult and 2 Euro for children between 6 and 14 years, kids under six years are free of charge.

By train

Trains travel between Dortmund and Holzwickede train station eight times per hour.

A courtesy bus operates between Holzwickede station and the airport. It runs at regular 15-minute intervals between 05:00 hrs and 23:00 hrs from Holzwickede station, taking approximately 5 minutes to the terminal.
If we take the shuttle bus, we'd have 1 hour and 16 minutes to get from our plane onto our train at Dortmund Hbf, from where we would continue to Amsterdam Centraal.

Alternatively, if we take the train from Holzwickede to Amsterdam Centraal, we'd have to get on our train at Holzwickede station by 6:33 p.m., leaving us only 43 minutes total from plane-to-train.

I don't know if we will have enough time to deplane, clear customs, grab our connecting bus, get to the departure train station, and board our train on that tight a schedule. Obviously there are later trains, but they all add at least one hour to the journey time. Has anybody made a DTM to Dortmund Hbf or Holzwickede connection, and if so, do you have any ideas as to whether or not either of these connections is do-able?
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Old Jan 8, 05, 6:47 pm
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In a bind you could always take the train, which would take about 11 hours and a change of train in Berlin. The trip could be very pleasant, however, and there are several good daytime connections.

Last edited by Track; Jan 8, 05 at 6:51 pm
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Old Jan 30, 05, 8:34 pm
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Question SmartWings Often Cancels Reservations??

Complaints about SmartWings cancelling reservations can be found on the Fodors, Frommers and Rick Steves web sites. That, along with this thread started by cAAl, is causing my family some concern for our May trip in which we depend upon SmartWings to get us from Prague to Paris to catch a flight on another airline.

Has anyone else had reservation-cancellation problems with SmartWings?
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Old Jan 30, 05, 9:44 pm
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Originally Posted by Middle_Seat
Complaints about SmartWings cancelling reservations can be found on the Fodors, Frommers and Rick Steves web sites. That, along with this thread started by cAAl, is causing my family some concern for our May trip in which we depend upon SmartWings to get us from Prague to Paris to catch a flight on another airline.

Has anyone else had reservation-cancellation problems with SmartWings?
I often fly through PRG and, as far as I can tell, most Smartwings flights run on time. I think you shouldn't be too worried, but do check schedules a few weeks before the trip.
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Old Jan 30, 05, 11:20 pm
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Originally Posted by graraps
I often fly through PRG and, as far as I can tell, most Smartwings flights run on time. I think you shouldn't be too worried, but do check schedules a few weeks before the trip.
The problem isn't SmartWings' punctuality which, as far as I can tell, is pretty good. The problem is that the airline has a documented penchant for reallocating their limited number of aircraft with no advance warning and then cancelling affected reservations, refund the passengers' money, and leaving them high and dry. The result is almost certainly a greatly increased cost to the passenger, as it was in our case, because airfares generally get more and more expensive as the date of travel nears. Because of this, I would recommend not booking with SmartWings, because doing so puts you at their mercy and they are not merciful at all.
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Old Jan 30, 05, 11:25 pm
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point taken cAAl.
Anyway, I am puzzled as to why anyone would want to fly SmartWings, or anyone else for that matter, when they can get on board a CSA plane.
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Old Feb 16, 05, 7:03 pm
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Originally Posted by graraps
I am puzzled as to why anyone would want to fly SmartWings...when they can get on board a CSA plane.
To save money. I found this thread because I was trying to learn more about Smart Wings. I am trying to book flights AMS-PRG-AMS about 3 weeks from now and Smart Wings is $100 less roundtrip than CSA.
Sorry I found this thread too late to offer any suggestions to the original poster. Another alternative would have been to take a train to Dusseldorf or Cologne...CSA flights to Prague are much cheaper from those cities.
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Old Feb 17, 05, 5:40 pm
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New EU Law Will Help?

I heard just a fragment this morning about a new EU law that will penalize air carriers that cancel flights. Will this help the SmartWings situation?

Middle_Seat (with SmartWings tickets for May)
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