After easyJet cancelled the last flight of the night from Nice, a family had to spend the night outside the city’s train station and pay almost £1,500 for a long train journey home.
A month later, the airline offered them less than £50 to cover their costs.
On 10 August easyJet, Ingrid Foster, her husband Russell, their daughter Sylvie, 14, and her friend Libby, 15, were waiting for their evening flight at 9.45pm.
Initially they were told there was a two-hour delay. But then EZY3104 became one of the hundreds of flights that easyJet has cancelled this summer, leaving more than 150 passengers stranded.
When an airline cancels a flight, the European air passengers’ rights rules require it to find an alternative departure as soon as possible.
The family, who live in Leicestershire, were told no easyJet flights were available for five days. But both British Airways and Ryanair had direct flights the following day. The airline made no effort to book them on one of those services.
All European airlines are required to provide accommodation for stranded passengers. But easyJet declined to do so – even though Nice is a major hub for the airline, with hundreds of hotels nearby.
Instead easyJet told passengers: “We're very sorry but due to extremely high demand at the moment in Nice, we're unable to find a room for you. Our staff will do everything they can to make your wait in the terminal building as comfortable as possible.”
Not knowing the area, the four were unable to find rooms. “We spent the night sitting outside Nice railway station,” said Ingrid Foster. “We were abandoned by easyJet.”
“We got the train back next morning at great expense: TGV from Nice to Paris, Eurostar from Paris to London and finally a train London back to Grantham.”
The family spent £1,498 on tickets and other expenses and submitted a “comprehensive and detailed claim” through the post to easyJet’s head office.
After hearing nothing for three weeks, Ms Foster called the airline. “After a half hour on hold, I was told they were not able to trace our claim as we had not done it online though the website.”
She then uploaded all the required information, including the receipts from train bookings. The rail journey alone had cost them over £1,400.
Some days later, easyJet said that her claim had been “finalised” and promised a payment of £46.92 – covering some (but not all) of the meals they had had to buy on the journey.
A note added: “In order for me to proceed further with your claim I need to understand how you travelled to your final destination.”
Ms Foster said: “I am not sure what they require as I sent the Trainline receipts.”
After The Independent intervened, easyJet sent Ms Foster an email saying: “As a gesture of goodwill, I would like to reimburse the cost of all your expenses in the form of a bank transfer.”
Yet the airline said it was paying only €100 (£89), leaving them £1,400 out of pocket.
When The Independent intervened for a second time, the full claim was paid.
A spokesperson for easyJet said: ““We are sorry Ms Foster’s flight from Nice to Stansted was cancelled because of air traffic control restrictions caused by adverse weather.
“This meant the crew due to operate the flight reached their maximum legal operating hours and our standby crew had already been utilised.
“Unfortunately because of a shortage of hotel availability in the area, we asked passengers to make their own arrangements for accommodation and meals and we would reimburse costs.
“Because alternative transport options were also in short supply we advised passengers that should they make their own arrangements, they would be reimbursed.
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“We would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused to her as a result of the disruption and the wait she has faced in settling her expenses. We advise passengers to submit their receipts online.”
But easyJet said it was not obliged to pay cash compensation for the cancellation. The airline told Ms Foster the grounding was necessary to “reduce our programme to minimise the amount of disrupted flights”.
Out of 212 departures from Nice on 10 August on dozens of airlines, only three were cancelled: all on easyJet, to Gatwick, Luton and Stansted.