Oddly Enough

Airline hires temps to fill plane

An aircraft prepares to land at Heathrow airport in London March 11, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Flybe has given the term low-fare airline an entirely new meaning: it is paying 172 people to fly back and forth across England and the Irish Sea to help it meet a target for passenger numbers at Norwich airport.

Flybe was narrowly falling short of a target to deliver at least 15,000 passengers on the Dublin-Norwich route in the 12 months ending on Monday, which meant it would have to forego a 280,000 pound ($550,000) rebate from the airport.

After the airport rejected a request for a partial rebate for almost hitting the target, Flybe hired 172 temps for 30-40 pounds each, plus a free bar and in-flight entertainment, though it admitted “it probably sounds like an early April fool.”

But Richard Jenner, managing director of the airport in eastern England, called the British carrier’s move “ludicrous” and said the target had to be met by regular fare-paying passengers.

“The ludicrousness is on the Norwich side who in essence have tried to hold us to ransom, putting at risk routes into Norwich,” Flybe Chief Commercial Officer Mike Rutter replied in a joint interview with Jenner on Irish public broadcaster RTE.

Reporting by Andras Gergely; Editing by Jon Boyle