Easyjet passengers with May half-term flights can swap them for 'anytime, anywhere' trips

After Britain’s biggest budget airline was criticised for making cash refunds difficult, it is now making a “Martini” offer to passengers.

Tens of thousands of travellers with advance reservations on easyJet over the late May half term have been told they can swap them for a flight “anytime, any place, anywhere” – echoing an old slogan for the vermouth.

In the most extreme case, the existing booking could be switched to a ticket costing 23 times as much.

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At the start of the coronavirus crisis, easyJet chose to remove the option for passengers whose flight was cancelled to claim a refund online. Instead, travellers who wanted their money back – as European air passengers’ rights rules specify – were told to call the overstretched call centre.

Passengers are being sent emails that begin: “We’re getting in touch regarding your upcoming trip. We really hope to be able to fly you for it, but recognise that government travel restrictions and safety guidelines continue to evolve.

“As a result, we haven’t cancelled your flight yet, but we do understand you might be thinking about whether or not to travel regardless.

“Your booking falls within one of our peak periods, so as an exclusive offer, we’re giving you the opportunity to now transfer your flight to anywhere across Europe, at any time, for free.

“You can transfer onto any of our school holiday, public holiday or peak flights without having to pay any fare difference.”

The Independent has found some extremely high fares for which the deal is available.

A £40 return flight from Glasgow to Belfast can be exchanged for a £894 trip to Cyprus and back. The Gatwick-Paphos link costs 23 times as much on key summer Saturdays.

Ski flights are also tempting targets. A mid-morning flight from Luton to Geneva on Saturday 13 February, coming a week later in mid-afternoon, currently costs £699 return.

A one-way ticket costing £20 could be exchanged for a late-summer hop from Faro in Portugal to Gatwick on Saturday 29 August costing €535 (£467), 23 times more valuable than the original.

Travellers whose plans are uncertain can instead select a voucher valid for a year, which will have an added £10 incentive.

In common with many other airlines, easyJet has grounded its entire fleet of 337 aircraft and has no firm plans for starting flying again.

Anyone who wants a cash refund will need to wait until their flight is officially cancelled by easyJet. They will be able request a refund online.