A family whose flight was cancelled by easyJet was wrongly told five times that there were no alternative routes to the airport they were due to fly home to, The Independent can reveal.
Once the original flight had been scrapped, the group were automatically rebooked to fly the following day to a different UK airport. When they challenged the airline and tried to assert their entitlement to a different flight under the rules covering European air passengers’ rights, the easyJet call centre repeatedly refused their legitimate request.
Hannah and Richard Bicknell, together with their 18-month-old child, were supposed to fly home from Faro in Portugal to Manchester airport in early July. But just over two weeks ahead, they were told that the original flight was cancelled and that they had been rebooked the following day to fly to Liverpool.
Britain’s biggest budget airline has been making hundreds of cancellations as it struggles with insufficient resources.
This week the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reminded airlines of their obligations in relation to the rules covering air passengers’ rights. Under these rules, easyJet should have make clear the family’s entitlement to be rebooked on a rival airline, at easyJet’s expense, on the same day as the original flight.
Yet the carrier’s call centre made the wholly unfounded assertion that, since they had been told about the cancellation more than two weeks ahead, the right to be rebooked did not apply. Mr Bicknell repeatedly raised his legal right to an alternative flight with Jet2, but was told no fewer than five times that he was wrong.
In fact, the only difference afforded by informing passengers more than two weeks in advance is that they are not entitled to cash compensation.
Ms Bicknell then contacted The Independent, saying: “It’s not suitable for us to travel back to the wrong airport, where our car and baby seat will not be parked.
“Also, we don’t want to fly back a day late from holiday, for work purposes.”
During the call, Mr Bicknell was only offered a choice of a refund, a voucher, or another easyJet flight – including one to Gatwick, 200 miles away. “We sadly have already now applied for the refund, so that we can book ourselves onto another flight home with Jet2,” Ms Bicknell said.
A spokesperson for easyJet said: “We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused by the cancellation of Mr Bicknell’s flight from Faro to Manchester. Passengers on cancelled flights are entitled to a voucher or refund or a free transfer, including on other airlines, if no alternative easyJet flight is available within 24 hours.”
This is at odds with the CAA’s view that a same-day alternative must always be offered.
The easyJet spokesperson continued: “However, in the circumstances of this case, our agents should have authorised a flight on an alternative carrier, regardless of the flight being cancelled outside of 14 days, in line with our policy, so we have picked this up with our team and are sorry for any frustration this has caused.
“We understand the couple have now taken a refund to pay for their alternative flight.”
The misrepresentation took place two days after easyJet had assured MPs on the business select committee that it adhered to the rules on air passengers’ rights.