Flight delays and cancellations are extremely common this summer. You probably would not guess the type of dangers that passengers face in this situation: theft, loss of money or lack of accommodation for the night. Here are some passenger nightmare stories.
In recent weeks, hundreds of passengers have been stranded at airports in London, Rome and Paris due to flight delays and cancellations. They complained about having to wait for several hours, not being informed about the reason for the delay/cancellation and even being refused to get a refund after the incident.
As we previously reported, the Hungary-based low-cost airline, Wizz Air left several passengers at the Paris-Orly airport without proper assistance in June. Soon after, the low-cost airline revealed that the reason for the cancellation was the air traffic control labour shortage, due to which their flights suffered delays, and their colleagues could not fly back to Budapest before the airport’s closure. Still, the incident caused many difficulties for several passengers.
A Hungarian couple recalled that they got back to the airport for the second time because their flight had been cancelled by WizzAir the previous day. Still, they were told late in the evening that their flight would be further delayed. The inconvenient situation turned into a real nightmare after the couple was robbed at Charles de Gaulle Airport. All their documents, bank cards and cash were stolen. Regarding the flight cancellation, the airline informed them in a text message at the Paris airport that they would be reimbursed. However, later on, they were refused to get reimbursement due to „exceptional circumstances.”
However, not only the compensation, but in certain cases the promised service (accommodation due to flight delays or cancellations) fails to go through. Several passengers reported that the French staff at the Paris airport tried to help them, collecting their contact details and promising them accommodation, but nearly two hours later they said they could not provide it. The stranded passengers needed to take care of their own accommodation, otherwise, they would have spent the night under the stars. The passengers did not receive any information on reimbursement or compensation which was later rejected on the grounds of exceptional circumstances.
An unusual case was reported by the Hungarian news portal Noizz. The case happened last week on the Budapest-Mallorca Ryanair direct flight when it turned out before departure that there were more passengers than seats. When the last passenger boarded the plane, the cabin crew noticed that someone could not take a seat. As a result of the overbooking, the boarding passes of two passengers showed the same seat. What is quite surprising is that the overbooking had not been noticed before at the check-in desk, only after all the passengers got on board.
The staff then asked the passengers if anyone would like to volunteer to get off. The cabin crew even offered 250 euros for a volunteering passenger who would agree to be transferred to Mallorca the following day. Despite this substantial sum, none of the passengers volunteered, and the flight was already an hour and a half late. Eventually, after a phone call to a supervisor, the crew chose the unlucky person, a young man travelling alone, who was led off the plane. According to witnesses, the situation was very distressing.
Another extreme case was revealed by a Hungarian family who wanted to return to Budapest on 22 June on an EasyJet flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport but their flight was cancelled. The concerned passengers were navigated by airport staff to the EasyJet desk, where they received a brochure with information about the options. They were told that they could book an EasyJet flight for 24 June, two days later. Still, no information was given as to the reason for the cancellation. By this time, the passengers received several emails from the airline including their apologies and information on their refund policy.
As an alternative, some passengers bought a ticket on the Wizz Air flight from Orly Airport the same evening, which finally took off with a negligible delay. Allegedly, the reason was the lack of air traffic controllers in Austria and Switzerland. Eventually, one-half of the Hungarian family returned home with this flight. However, several passengers – including some members of the separated family – needed to figure out another solution due to the lack of seats on the Wizz Air flight. In the end, the remaining 8 people took a Ryanair flight home from an airport 100 kilometres away from Paris. They still do not understand how it was possible to buy three batches of tickets in one hour, at three different prices – reported by the Hungarian news portal Index.
The passengers concerned have also claimed a refund from the airline. Not surprisingly, this also resulted in an incomprehensible situation. Although they received a refund, two families were credited with half the original price and one with a third, for no reason. The claim for EU reimbursement was rejected for all of them, referring to exceptional circumstances.
One of the most basic forms of passenger compensation is a refund of the ticket price, which can be offered in three ways. They can refund the amount paid for the ticket – and, in the case of a connecting flight, transport the passenger to the airport of departure as soon as possible – rebook the flight, or change the booking to the date of the passenger’s choice. If the airline does not offer to rebook the flight or return the passenger to the airport of departure at the earliest possible time, they will have to refund the amount paid for the ticket. If, on the other hand, the passenger is not given the choice between a refund and rebooking, but the airline decides to refund the ticket price at its own discretion, the passenger has the right to ask for an additional refund to cover the difference in the price of the new ticket.
It is important to note that if the passenger has bought two separate tickets for the outward and return journey with different airlines, the refund will only be available for the flight that was cancelled. Alternatively, if the two flights operated by different airlines are part of a single return ticket, a refund can be claimed if the outward flight is cancelled, or the passenger can choose to receive a full refund (return) or rebook on another flight.
The amount of compensation can vary from EUR 250 to 600, depending on how far the passenger is travelling. The former can be claimed for journeys of up to 1500 kilometers. Between 1500 and 3500 kilometres, the compensation is EUR 400, while over 3500 kilometres the maximum is EUR 600. However, there are also exceptional circumstances that exempt the airline from paying compensation.
According to EU legislation, such exceptional circumstances include decisions taken by air traffic management systems, political instability, adverse weather conditions, safety risks, unexpected safety deficiencies and strikes affecting the airline’s operations. Or, regarding the cancellation of the Paris flight, „such extraordinary circumstances, which could not have been avoided despite all reasonable measures.” – written in the official letter of Wizz Air.
However, EU law also states that airlines must provide assistance at the airport if the passenger decides to rebook or return to the airport of origin. This assistance includes food and drink, accommodation (if the flight you have rebooked departs the next day), transfer between the airport and accommodation, two phone calls, telex, faxes or e-mails. However, if this assistance is not provided and the passenger pays for all the above, the airline must reimburse the costs. All receipts and invoices must be submitted.
According to Index, in the upcoming months, further flight delays and cancellations can be expected at several European airports due to strikes by airlines and ground handling staff at some locations, as well as technical problems. Employees on strike are generally demanding higher wages and improved working conditions. Labour shortages can also pose issues as air traffic has more or less returned to its normal flow as the coronavirus epidemic subsided. These factors can cause flight cancellations, delays and slow security checks during the summer period.
Source: index.hu, noizz.hu