After cancelling hundreds of flights ahead of Storm Dennis, easyJet has asked a passenger to pay more than £400 if she wants her holiday in the Canary Islands to begin only four days late, rather than five.
Samantha Wylie, her husband and children aged five and seven were booked on easyJet’s flight from Gatwick to Lanzarote on Saturday 15 February.
Their flight was one of around 100 easyJet services to and from the Sussex airport that were cancelled pre-emptively on Saturday as Storm Dennis approached.
Under European air passengers’ rights rules, Britain’s biggest budget airline should have booked the family a flight the same day on a rival carrier, either from Gatwick or from another airport.
Instead, easyJet offered only a choice between a refund and transferring to an alternative flight on one of the airline’s services.
The first available flight offered to Ms Wylie was for Thursday 20 February.
“This was a whole five days later, so an appalling alternative,” she said. “But I decided I had better go ahead and salvage something of my non-refundable accommodation.
“I was worried if I waited any longer to make my decision or look into other options, I was risking even those flights no longer being available to rebook on, or the website crashing again and being inaccessible.”
But after making the transfer, Ms Wylie spotted that four seats on easyJet’s Gatwick-Lanzarote route a day earlier were being advertised for sale on the airline’s website.
She asked to switch to the Wednesday flight to save a day of the family holiday. But easyJet said she would have to pay £406 to make the change.
“I explained that all I’d ever wanted was to get to my destination as soon as possible but they were intransigent in their refusal even though it would have been at negligible cost to themselves being one of their own flights.”
An easyJet customer services manager told her she had used up her one option, saying: “You have already chosen and made use of your free transfer for your outbound and return flight.
“We have to ensure we allow everyone who was disrupted an equal opportunity to make best selection at the time of their free change option.
“If you would like to change your flight to the 19 February from Gatwick to Lanzarote, at the time of the call, the fare difference was £406 to change your four flights.”
Ms Wylie declined the offer, saying: “I didn’t feel I could risk being out of pocket on the £400 on top of the potential £1,000-plus accommodation charges.”
A spokesperson for easyJet said: “Ms Wylie was rebooked on the next available flight free of charge at the time of her flight’s cancellation.
“We recognise that on occasion seats on an earlier flight could become available after a customer has already rebooked on an alternative flight. We are sorry for the frustration this has caused Ms Wylie and are reviewing our approach to customers transferring in these circumstances.”