Last month, easyJet cancelled around 10,000 flights from its summer schedule as staff planned a series of strikes over working conditions and pay.
Passengers from all over Europe had to reschedule their travel plans, and even those whose flights weren’t affected faced huge delays in many of the UK’s major airports due to the resulting chaos.
Other airlines including BA also had to pull flights due to strike action, as customer service staff faced a battle to get travellers to their destinations as well as dealing with thousands of refund and compensation claims.
But it seems easyJet’s passengers have been particularly disappointed. Some have accused the carrier of ignoring refund requests, refusing to book them on alternative flights, and failing to alert them of their rights to compensation.
Stranded: Damian McConville, 33, and his wife are pictured in Greece before being abandoned by easyJet when their return flight home to Belfast was cancelled twice
Consumer group Which? is now calling for an investigation into potential consumer law breaches by EasyJet, in relation to their treatment of customers.
It is asking the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to take action, claiming the disregard of consumer rights law on the part of the airline has become ‘so routine’.
Which? heard horror stories from from easyJet passengers across the UK.
Damian McConville, 33, and his wife decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary in May by taking their first holiday since the pandemic to Santorini.
But they were struck by catastrophe on their way home, as easyJet cancelled the final leg of their flight home to Belfast, leaving them stranded in Gatwick airport.
The pair were in the departure lounge at Gatwick when they heard the news that their final flight to Belfast was cancelled, at 7:20pm.
They say they were told to use the easyJet app to rearrange their flights and book a hotel, but while they were able to reschedule a new flight the next morning, there was no option on the app to book a hotel.
Passengers of cancelled flights have been left stranded in airports for hours after easyJet cut another 10,000 flights from their summer schedule due to staff strikes and shortages
The customer services desk then closed, and Damian and his wife were left to sleep on the floor until their new flight in the morning.
Damian said: ‘We received no water or food. We are both completely appalled at the lack of help, support and information we received from EasyJet staff.
‘My wife was in tears. No one should be sleeping on the cold tiled floor of an airport.’
Disaster struck again, as they received another email at 3am to say their 8.25am flight had also been cancelled.
|Less than 14 days notice of cancellation:|
|Less than 1,500km||Up to £220|
|1,500km to 3,500km||Up to £350|
|More than 3,500km||Up to £520|
|Read our guide for more information:
What are your rights if your flight is cancelled?
Unable to find any staff to assist them they booked the next available EasyJet flight at 6.30pm later that evening.
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Worried about that flight being cancelled too, Damian later made the decision to book an earlier flight home with Ryanair to get home to their two-year-old daughter.
When Damian completed an expenses form to claim the money back for his Ryanair flights from easyJet, he says his claim was rejected as he hadn’t cancelled the later EasyJet flight. The saga left him £350 out of pocket.
He also feels let down by the customer service team. He says it failed to inform him of his right to compensation, which would have totalled £880 due to the two flight cancellations.
He concluded: ‘I will not be flying with easyJet again. Absolutely shocking service.’
‘Their strategy is to make it as hard as possible for customers to claim refunds they are rightly entitled to’
Alexia Kaloudis, 24, and her partner Niall, arrived at Budapest airport for their journey home to Gatwick to find out their flight had been cancelled.
EasyJet had booked them on an earlier flight that morning, but by the time they found this out, it had already taken off.
The pair bought new flights with Wizz Air, which left seven hours later than their original flight. Alexia submitted an expense claim to easyJet the next day for £305 to cover the costs.
EasyJet took three weeks to reply, asking Alexia to resubmit her claim because of a technical error, and she applied three times in total.
Alexia’s third claim was then rejected, as easyJet said it had flights that were available within 24 hours of their original departure.
‘I have felt immensely let down by their customer service,’ Alexia told Which? ‘I feel like their strategy at the moment is to make it as hard as possible for customers to claim the refunds that they are rightly entitled to.
‘It is so seemingly impossible to actually get through to anyone and discuss your claim, I expect that many people eventually give up and lose their money.
‘That’s a disgusting way to treat customers who were negatively affected by EasyJet’s own errors. It seems that they want customers to foot the bill.
‘Overall the experience has been quite draining and frustrating, as I have been passed from pillar to post with constantly conflicting messages and stock responses.
‘The fact that EasyJet only began to suddenly take action once the national press was involved is shameful from them, because it shows that they were able to process my refund the whole time, they just wanted to put me off and make the process unpleasant.’
Airlines are required by law to offer passengers new flights to their destination at the ‘earliest opportunity’, even if this means offering them a flight with an alternative airline – which easyJet have been accused of failing to do.
Which? found that easyJet was directing passengers to the ‘manage my booking’ section of its app and website, which only allows them to rebook an EasyJet flight.
Last month the CAA promised enforcement action against any airline found to be ‘systematically letting consumers down’.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said ‘passengers must be promptly informed of their consumer rights when things go wrong and – if necessary – receive compensation in good time’.
However, Which? is concerned that disregard of consumer rights law by airlines has become a systemic problem in the travel sector – and that the CAA, with limited powers, has little ability to intervene.
The aviation regulator has since been assessing the evidence and speaking to airlines, but three months on, no enforcement action has been taken.
EasyJet didn’t pay for my expenses after I asked for a refund
Matthew Siggins was on holiday in Athens in April when he received a text and email from easyJet saying his flight home in two days had been cancelled.
He was given three options:
1. Switch to another easyJet flight
2. Choose a voucher for the full value of the original flight
3. Request a refund
Matthew asked for a refund, as the next EasyJet flight to Bristol wasn’t for another three days.
To get home he booked a flight to Corfu with a Greek airline, and then an EasyJet flight from Corfu to Bristol, cutting his holiday short by 10 hours.
But legally easyJet was obliged to book him the next available flight after his was due to depart, even if it was with another airline.
And, if this flight arrived at a different UK airport, EasyJet was legally bound to pay for his transfers back to Bristol airport.
Matthew’s new flights were £80 more than his original flight and he also had to pay for transfers and food at the airport in Corfu. But by claiming a refund on his original flight, Matthew gave up his right to claim back his expenses.
He also says he was also not informed that he was entitled to £220 compensation due to the late cancellation of his flight.
When Which? asked easyJet why it was not offering passengers the option to book alternative flights with other airlines, the firm suggested that passengers were better off booking these alternative flights themselves.
A spokesperson said, ‘We provide customers with a leading self-service tool which enables them to reroute quickly and easily on alternative flights where their flight is cancelled.
‘Where we are unable to offer a direct flight on easyJet within 24 hours, customers are able to secure flights by alternative carriers via our customer contact centres.
‘However, we generally advise passengers to book these flights themselves, as this offers more flexibility and is the quickest way to secure a seat on the alternative flight.
‘In these circumstances, we reimburse customers for the full cost of the alternative transport.’
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘EasyJet has treated its passengers appallingly, but this is just the latest example of a systemic problem in the aviation sector.
‘Some airlines routinely ignore their legal obligations because they know they won’t face any consequences.
‘With thousands more flight cancellations potentially to come, passengers face a miserable summer unless the CAA and government act on their promises to stamp out consumer rights abuses.
‘A major overhaul is desperately needed, so the government must give the CAA stronger powers so it can hit operators with heavy fines when necessary.
‘Ministers should also drop their ill-conceived plans to slash compensation rates for domestic flights.’
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