A few days ago it was announced that in the 2023/24 winter flight schedule, some routes from Germany that were previously marketed by Condor as their own flights were to be handed over to its sister company Marabu. This triggered outraged reactions from affected passengers.
Since Marabu Airlines does not have its own reservation system, but relies on its sister company Condor, which acts as a so-called general sales agent, the Aviation.Direct editorial team has received an enormous number of emails in the last few days from customers of the German holiday airline complain that they had explicitly and consciously booked with Condor and were now confronted by email telling them that they should not fly to the Canary Islands with the airline they had actually booked, but with the Estonian Marabu. The Bulgarian European Air Charter operates the flights from Stuttgart.
At first glance, the allegations of the affected passengers are quite serious, because one affected person writes that they had booked German quality with a German airline for a lot of money and would now get “something inferior, old from Eastern Europe” without being asked. If he and his family had wanted to fly with a “shabby low-cost airline, then the competition would have been even cheaper.”
Furthermore, numerous Condor customers complain that the additional services they have already paid for, such as luggage, seat reservations or the transport of dogs, have been canceled by Condor and that they have to “re-book these with Marabu”. However, the service center of the German holiday airline is not able to do this and, according to those affected, says that you should try again shortly before departure.
Cancellation of the contract free of charge is not always possible
From a legal perspective, the fact that Condor is rebooking to its sister company Marabu Airlines is not that easy for passengers. Although a transport contract from A to B has been concluded with Condor, the airline is not obliged to actually provide this service itself. They can commission a subcontractor to actually carry out the work at any time, but they remain the contractual partner of the traveller. There is a very extensive clause on this subject in the General Conditions of Carriage.
The Air Passenger Rights Ordinance also stipulates that airlines must provide alternative transport if they cannot fulfill the contract of carriage themselves - for whatever reason. The well-known 14-day period is only relevant for possible compensation payments, but not for the right to alternative transport. Strictly speaking, the rebookings that Condor makes on Marabu Airlines are substitute transportation.
The question of whether this is such a significant unilateral change to the contract that entitles you to withdraw free of charge with a full refund is not so easy to answer. It depends on the specific individual case, because, for example, you could certainly cancel if you purchased a business class ticket from Condor but are rebooked to Marabu economy class. This would be a significant contractual change that those affected certainly do not have to accept. Significant changes to flight times could also be an opportunity for a possible withdrawal from the contract. However, it always depends on the individual case, so you should seek advice from consumer protection advice centers and/or a lawyer if you do not agree with the rebooking to Marabu Airlines.
“Due to capacity bottlenecks, Condor resorts to Marabu”
Some allegations made by its customers were sent to the airline Condor in a summarized and anonymized form and at the same time a number of questions were asked. When asked exactly what role Condor plays at Marabu, a spokeswoman replied as follows: “Marabu is part of the Attestor company. To found Marabu, Attestor relied on two partners right from the start: on the operational side it was the Nordica Aviation Group; on the commercial side, Condor, whose majority owner is also Attestor, was a sister airline with sales as general sales agent hired. Condor therefore sells Marabu flights on their behalf via its own, already successfully implemented sales structures. This is standard practice for many airlines.”
The media representative explains the conversion of the affected flights from Condor to Marabu to Aviation.Direct as follows: “Due to capacity bottlenecks caused by the fleet rollover at Condor, Condor is using Marabu capacity in the winter flight schedule 2023/24, which begins in November. in order to offer a stable flight schedule despite the ambitious renewal of the entire fleet. After the entire long-haul fleet has been replaced by the beginning of 2024, the short- and medium-haul fleet will also be modernized immediately afterwards. A fleet rollover of this size and in this short period of time demands everything from the Condor organization on the ground and in the air, especially when it comes to retraining all flying personnel on the new aircraft.
When asked why the flights were initially sold as Condor connections but were later switched to its sister company Marabu Airlines, the company replied as follows: “The publication of Marabu's winter flight schedule was postponed due to the airline's teething problems at the beginning of the summer delayed. As general sales agent for our sister airline, we have of course followed Marabu's operational performance over the last few months and also proactively supported the implementation of solutions, for example as part of the task force that was created at Marabu, in order to sustainably improve punctuality and stability. These measures are now bearing fruit and we are convinced that the focus that Axel Schefe as CEO will continue to place on Marabu's operational performance in the coming weeks will contribute to further improving flight schedule stability. This is particularly important with regard to the autumn holidays, but of course also for the winter.”
When asked about the problem regarding additional services, the Condor spokeswoman explains: “Due to the significant improvement in punctuality and the foreseeable continued stability in the flight schedule, it has now been possible to determine which Marabu capacities Condor will reliably rely on in the winter flight schedule. This decision was made later than usual to reliably ensure that travelers do not have to undergo another schedule change. Travelers are currently being proactively informed by Condor that their flight is operated by Marabu. For this purpose, fixed processes are stored in the systems. However, due to a systemic error, some bookings resulted in an error in any special services booked. It may therefore happen that customers are first informed about the use of Marabu and then about the special service, such as seat reservation, which is simply transferred to the flight with Marabu if Marabu offers it. If this is not the case, for example when transporting animals, travelers will automatically receive their money refunded. Travelers who want to cancel their flight completely can do so free of charge. Guests can contact Condor customer service for all matters relating to the booking.