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EasyJet ‘should face investigation’ over cancelled flight chaos

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EasyJet has been reported to the aviation regulator over potential consumer law breaches after it cancelled thousands of flights and is accused of not informing passengers about their compensation rights.

Passengers of Easyjet who had their flights cancelled have claimed they were “kept in the dark” about their legal right to hundreds of pounds in compensation and the chance to be rerouted with other airlines.

Travellers told consumer champion Which? that they were left to sleep on the airport floor or buy expensive new flights home after cancellations.

Passengers told the campaign group they were “unable to get any help from staff” and claimed they felt “abandoned”.

As a result, Which? confirmed it has reported EasyJet to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), asking the regulator to investigate and “take action to protect passengers and their rights”.

However, Easyjet “strongly rejects” the claims made by Which?.

‘Absolutely shocking service’

Among the stories shared with Which?, a husband and wife slammed the “absolutely shocking service” they received from EasyJet as they made their way home from celebrating their wedding anniversary in Santorini.

Damian McConville, 33, and his wife slept on the floor at Gatwick because no hotels were available and EasyJet had cancelled their connecting flight. They awoke at 3am to find their rescheduled flight had also been cancelled. They claim EasyJet did not inform them of their right to compensation that could total £880.

In another case heard by Which?, Alexia Kaloudis, 24, from Surrey, said she was “passed from pillar to post” by EasyJet as the airline failed to reimburse her for alternative flights she was forced to buy. She was celebrating her partner Niall’s 30th birthday in Budapest and had to buy new tickets with a different airline after EasyJet cancelled her flight home. Three claims she made for £305 were rejected and she only got her money back after she went public with her story.

And Matthew Siggins, who was on holiday in Athens in April, received a text and email from EasyJet saying his flight home in two days had been cancelled. He requested a refund as he claimed he was not advised of his right to be rerouted with a different airline and the next EasyJet flight to Bristol was three days away. He also claimed he was not told by EasyJet about his right to compensation (£220) due to the late cancellation. By claiming a refund on his original flight, he unknowingly gave up his right to claim back expenses.

Airlines are required by law to offer to re-book passengers onto the earliest available flight to their destination if their flight is cancelled, even if it is with another airline.

Which? claimed the airline instead referred customers to the app and website section “manage my booking” which allowed them to re-book with EasyJet only – something the airline has said is untrue.

‘Disregard of consumer rights law’

As well as highlighting the problems with Easyjet, Which? alleged that “disregard of consumer rights law by airlines has become so routine that it demonstrates a systemic problem in the travel sector”.

Three months ago Which? reported British Airways to the CAA, claiming it left passengers “significantly out of pocket by not advising them of their compensation rights and failing to reroute them at the earliest opportunity with rival carriers”.

And last month, the CAA promised enforcement action against any airline found to be “systematically letting consumers down”.

However, to date, no enforcement action has been taken against British Airways, prompting Which? to state: “The CAA, with limited powers, seems powerless to intervene”.

As such, it suggested the government should make it mandatory for airlines operating in the UK to sign up to the Alternative Dispute Resolution system and establish a single, statutory-backed ombudsman scheme to ensure travellers can enforce their rights without having to go to court.

‘Passengers face a miserable summer’

EasyJet has been under fire for some time, having already axed thousands of flights this year, with further cancellations in the busy summer holiday period expected.

The budget airline also faced further scrutiny after its chief operating officer Peter Bellow resigned earlier this week “to pursue other opportunities”.

But the airline is not alone in cancelling flights. Yesterday British Airways cancelled another 10,300 short haul flights scheduled between August and October.

Air France, KLM, Loganair, Wizzair, Eurowings, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Tui Airways and Eastern Airways have all cancelled flights in the past month.

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.”

He added: “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.”

‘Committed to helping our customers’

EasyJet said Which?’s allegations were “unfounded” and the company “strongly rejects” the consumer group’s claims.

The airline issued the following statement in response: “While we are of course very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers when their flights have been disrupted, we are compliant with the regulations and take our obligations under the regulations seriously.

“Customers are able to secure flights by alternative carriers via our customer contact centres or book themselves and then claim back the cost from us. This information is clearly displayed on our delays and cancellations help page which customers receive a link to.

“We are committed to helping our customers as much as possible and have extended the opening hours of our customer service team so they are available to customers for longer over the summer peak.”

Anna Bowles, head of consumer enforcement at the Civil Aviation Authority, said: “We understand and appreciate the impact it can have on customers when flights are delayed or cancelled. This is exactly why there are rules in place to protect consumers in these circumstances.

“We thank Which? for its continued engagement regarding compensation. We will review its latest evidence thoroughly and will respond accordingly.”