廉价航空官司记

官司由Northampton County Court决定8月13日是一个节点,12日easyJet给Vera来了电话,表示了道歉和愿意补偿新机票的差额部分,以及70镑的法庭费。今天,Vera告诉我钱已经到帐了,7个月之后,终于搞定了。

2010年11月20日,在决定了北欧和法国的圣诞节行程之后,我们买了两张12月23日easyJet自赫尔辛基飞往巴黎的机票,一共xxx.xx€,稍后又买了xx€的行李。

2010年12月23日,我们从芬兰的Rovaniemi搭乘芬兰航空飞往Helsinki,之后准备转接前往法国,有朋友在法国接我们,我们会在巴黎过圣诞。但是就在我们已经落座在芬兰航空的客舱里时,Vera手机上收到了短信,当晚的EZY3898,由赫尔辛基飞往巴黎的航班取消了。

到达赫尔辛基提取行李之后,控制区的easyJet代理告知我们必须去外面的代理解决签转问题,走出行李区,柜台已经排了好长的队,终于接触到地面服务人员,却只是被发给一张有关欧盟航班紊乱的基本规则,然后被告知4天之内的easyJet都没有多余的位子,只有自己去买票然后找easyJet报销,至于买什么公司,什么线路,什么价位,什么舱等,完全无人回答,地面建议有问题打给客服,我们打到英国,线上等了十分钟仍然没有遇到活人,于是挂断。

已经将近10点,赫尔辛基航站楼里面除了主场的芬兰航空还开着营业柜台,其余的全都关门了,排了半天又被告知第二天的芬航直飞已经卖完,遂只有转机一条出路——如果我们想在第二天赶到巴黎的话。没人提供任何帮助,我靠着笔记本和航站楼里的免费网络查了几个选择,由于easyJet缺乏替换航班的指导标准,并且第二天时圣诞夜航班量锐减,我只能在尽量低的价格和尽量少的衔接航班间做选择。最终挑了第二天最早到达巴黎的匈牙利航空经布达佩斯转机的商务舱两个位子,票价也是xxx多一个人,比汉莎的经济舱转三次到达的也便宜很多。票买好了,去地面柜台找easyJet要了宾馆券去机场的Holiday Inn睡觉,上楼之前在楼下草草解决了晚饭,免费的,easyJet提供。

1月份假期结束之后就开始和easyJet就替换航班的费用投诉,起初的几位客服看署名明显是印度人,而且回复时间非常慢,难以置信的是这轮投诉竟然持续到了2月23日并且以没有后续回复而结束。我没有得到任何实质性的意见,肯定或否定都没有。

3月28日我开始了第二轮的投诉,这次回复的客服的名字是英国人了,而且速度也都是次日回复,但是到4月12日止,easyJet确定的回复我由于替换航班是商务舱,因此不会补偿我,只会退还我的原始机票款,也就是easyJet的机票会退给我。我并没有同意这一方案,当然easyJet也没有询问我这一方案,而仅仅是直接将钱通过信用卡退了回来。

6月2日开始,我进行了第三轮的投诉,包括替换航班与原始机票的差价(因为原始航班已经退款,因此其实是替换航班全价减去已经退还的与原始航班等值的金额),赫尔辛基期间打电话产生的国际漫游通话费,以及航班取消赔偿。这次同样是英国人在回复,速度很快,在提供了电话账单之后,x.xx镑的电话费被退回,但是机票差价以及取消赔偿仍被拒绝。在这轮投诉的最后,我写信告诉他们如果这轮投诉不能使我满意,我将采取诉讼方式解决,并且询问了easyJet的注册地址(在网站上的About一栏里有,我只是提问了一下),easyJet仍然拒绝改变立场,并且提供了注册地址。

自4月12日第二次投诉结果不满意时,我就开始研究英国有关这些问题的法律诉讼方式以及案例。航空公司的相关案例可以在一个叫Flightmole的论坛上看到,easyJet也有专门的子栏目:http://flightmole.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=14,欧盟有关航班不正常的解决条款全文则可以在欧盟委员会网站上下载,Regulation 261/2004在这里:http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2004:046:0001:0007:en:PDF。看了一部分例子之后,我坚信我一定可以要到替换航班的差价,并且我确实也不是为了享受商务舱才买的匈牙利的票,决定的背景、动机都非常理性和正常。Google一些关键词之后看到英国有小额诉讼的建议程序,简单到不出家门动动手指上个网就可以把别人给告了,只是网上码子空间有限,对我这样写东西喜欢臭长臭长的人来说是在不爽,如果写不下就得自己打出来寄给被告和法庭。地址在这里:https://authenticate.gateway.gov.uk/sidp/SignIn.ashx?gwv=1.0&gwrealm=urn%3aMoJ-Services-PTL. 使用说明在这里:http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/MoneyTaxAndBenefits/ManagingDebt/Makingacourtclaimformoney/DG_195688,当然这个小额诉讼也是可以到各个郡法庭去起诉,只是如果有网络,为何不用呢?

7月在英国过了几乎一整个月,但是二人世界总是很有吸引力,搞得我直到在英国的最后一天才想起来官司这事儿一定得给办了,于是打开软件,把和easyJet的最后一轮投诉重新梳理并以严肃的语气写了一遍,网上开了一个官司,我的起诉书洋洋洒洒4页打好,配了一些附属的文件支持我的观点,1等邮件寄给法院和easyJet。由于Vera不论如何也还是在英国住,所以整件诉讼都是以她的名义开展的,包括诉讼书,诉讼的注册,都是她的名字,当然,在展开诉讼的时候,也按照诉讼标的的金额,由Vera同学用卡交了70镑的诉讼费。

7月25日注册的诉讼,26日寄出诉讼文件,Vera同学8月1日收到easyJet和法庭寄来的两封信,easyJet无非还是那一套,说我们不是经济舱,不支持要求,但是署名仍然是客服,根据我在网上看到的案例,诉讼都是由easyJet的法务部门来处理,因此这封回信肯定是easyJet收到我们的起诉书以后以为还是投诉就按照投诉处理了。法庭的来信则是告知收到了诉讼请求,并且已经正是转给easyJet,按照法庭动作的日期7月29日,easyJet有14天来回应,也就是8月13日之前要以庭外调解回应我或者以承认或答辩回应法庭。

8月12日早上,easyJet的法务顾问给Vera来了电话,表示知悉没有补偿我们的替换航班非常震惊(这句表态明显装13),他同意我们关于补偿航班的诉讼请求,但是解释了一下航班取消的原因仍然如他们客服先前所表示的是由于“特殊情况”引起,因此不能同意我们的没人400欧的赔偿,来电话的人同时也表示70镑的诉讼费easyJet愿意承担。Vera要他发邮件过来我们做决定,稍后就是电邮以及一份格式协议,我的名字在协议中也出现了,Vera on behalf of 我,但是就是这两遍名字,居然还有一个被拼错了,联想起前一阵在英华论坛上看到有人说英国人为什么死活拼不对中国人名字,无论你怎么一个一个字母念他都写不对,哎~协议由我们两个人签署,并且再请一个见证人签署之后连同账户信息返回给easyJet,就等10日之内收钱了。

400欧没人的赔偿我没有再坚持,尽管我认为航空公司理应有备份机组和飞机来应对连锁的延误,但我确实没有把握在出庭的时候说服法官,况且一旦开庭,我在法国大概没法和Vera一起上庭,而我的航空运营的知识是她一时半会儿无法全部掌握的,算咯,见好就收。

这个结果其实应该算作庭外和解,我没有赢,easyJet也没有输,最后我将在收到钱之后撤诉,诉讼不进入判决,也就不会生成有关easyJet的诉讼纪录。我唯一的遗憾也就是若我在起诉过程中不提出400欧的航班取消诉求,easyJet是否会因为不希望官司走入判决阶段而愿意在庭外给予我更多一些的补偿来同样寻求庭外和解。因为一旦判决,整个案例的全部信息就将公布可查,我也可以披露全部信息,对于其它收到取消困扰的客人来说也就是可借鉴的判例了,easyJet也许是不愿意有这样的结果的。

我没有想到我人生中的第一个官司居然是在英国打的,但我确实自始至终坚信我占据优势,接触和沟通的过程中有理有据,也有礼貌,尽管语气非常严肃和坚定,但双方的态度仍然都是建设性的,我相信easyJet的客服也是在很好的进行着他们的工作,尽量回绝索赔也是廉价航空可以理解的生存理念。只是那次圣诞旅行最后回法国的easyJet航班,一个1月1日早晨从伦敦Gatwick飞回Toulouse的航班,也成了我和easyJet的最后一桩交易,从2010年10月26日到2011年1月1日,一共飞了7次easyJet,我本可以飞8次,但经历了这次取消之后, 我不会再飞廉价航空。

从航班取消到最终的庭外和解协议,这是个很全新的体验,两个外国人,其中还有一个不住在英国,却可以轻轻松松的打完一场官司,没有头疼和任何烦恼,过程本身亦不恼人,各方的态度都很好。走在英国各处,都可以看到“我们很严肃的看待言语攻击”之类的警告,我常说中国的“吵架”一词在英文里没有翻译,因为无论是debate还是argue,都是争论,而中国的吵架的一般形态包含了大量的人身攻击和污言秽语,这在英国是无法想象的,就事论事,我只是要回我的机票钱,人和人也是一样,指出对方的错误,并不需要诋毁对方的人格。

最后附上我的诉讼书,很抱歉双方的和解协议是不可以透露给第三方的,所以我就不贴在这里了,不过我要回了我理应得到的部分。

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On 23 Dec 2010, we travelled from Finland to France, as we were preparing to take off from Rovaniemi, Finland to Helsinki on Finnair and then take easyJet to fly to Paris CDG, we received a message from easyJet saying our flight from Helsinki to Paris CDG was cancelled. Since we have already sat in Finnair cabin and were setting to take off, we had to wait until we arrive at Helsinki to settle this cancellation.

Upon arrival in Helsinki, we were given a leaflet from easyJet indicating a general information on flight disruption but the information only suggest us to change date or route on easyJet website. The easyJet representative at airport also suggested us that all EZY flights on consecutive days were full until New Year. Using our laptop and free wifi of Helsinki Airport, we found easyJet doesn’t allow us to re-route online to other airlines to fly to Paris CDG. So we returned to representative for more information. The representative informed us that we could buy ticket from other carriers ourselves and request refund from easyJet later. But the representative failed to answer the questions regarding what airlines and route were available from Helsinki to Paris and how much and which type of ticket easyJet will agree to refund, a guideline which is not mentioned on easyJet’s website (Carrier’s Regulations: http://www.easyjet.com/EN/Book/regulations.html#namechanges) either. As we insisted that we need to know this information, the representative suggested us to call easyJet customer service number 08706000000 to get an answer but the representative didn’t provide any telephone card or method of communication. After holding on line by customer service line for 10 minutes and 29 seconds without able to reach a representative, we hanged up the phone and failed to get a clear answer of re-routing guide line.

Now at this stage, easyJet breached REGULATION (EC) No 261/2004 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL as according to:

Article 5(2) When passengers are informed of the cancellation, an explanation shall be given concerning possible alternative transport;

BUT: we were not given full information of concerning possible alternative transport.

Article 9(2) passengers shall be offered free of charge two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails;

BUT: we were not offered free communications.

Without knowing the guideline of re-routing and without able to leave Helsinki to Paris on easyJet until New Year’s Day, we were forced to find out solution ourselves. So we tried to book a ticket online ourselves. By that time, the only direct flight between Helsinki and Paris CDG by Finnair next day had sold out. We found tickets to Paris CDG via Rita on Air Baltic that were cheapest at that time but we couldn’t book it online so we approached Finnair ticket service and the staff there checked it for us and replied that there was only one seat left so we can’t book for two. We were then offered by Finnair ticket office a set of choices on Lufthansa, British Airways and etc but all of them were around 1000 euros per person on economy class. For example, the full price of Finnair from Helsinki to Paris CDG is 1068€ if booked in just one day advance. The price of Lufthansa with one transfer starts from approx 850€ and 900€ with two transfers also if booked in just one day advance. Meanwhile, the Finnair ticket office also suggested us that there was a Melév Hungarian flight to Paris via Budapest that is much cheaper than most others but was a business class ticket. We returned to easyJet representative for clarification on whether this business class ticket is appropriate for re-routing but failed to get any comment and were again referred to customer service line.

Acknowledged that these two tickets on Melév Hungarian were last two tickets on its flight, we booked it and left Helsinki next morning.

We then filed our first complaint on 1st January requesting refund of re-routing tickets. However after round of exchange of email and three and a half months wait, we were declined the request by easyJet in that “easyJet does not consider travel via business class as comparable conditions”.

In a 6th June reply from easyJet Customer Service, easyJet again mentioned that “I understand that the ticket which you purchased may have been more cost effective but it is stated in our terms and conditions that we cannot reimburse you for any airline tickets other than an economy class. ”

This assertion from easyJet is definitely groundless and implausible. The definition of “comparable conditions” is not defined at easyJet website, nor the easyJet leaflet we received at the time of cancellation at Helsinki airport. It is not clearly informed by easyJet representative at Helsinki Airport, nor we were offered means of communication to contact customer service helpline to get an answer. Even we tried to contact helpline ourselves, we failed to reach a representative after 10 minutes wait and failed to be informed this definition. To make it clear, on 6th June, we again checked easyJet’s Terms and Conditions (Effective 12 November 2009) and help page carefully searching the website by keywords “reimburse” and “refund”, there are 41 results for “refund” and 1 result for “reimburse” in easyJet’ Terms and Conditions and in help page there are 3 results for “reimburse” and 26 results for “refund” but none of them ever expressed a minimum extend of similar meaning to the so-called “comparable condition is economy class” which we were informed by easyJet when we were claiming for refund. Therefore we were obviously in a circumstance of not acknowledging easyJet’s definition of “comparable conditions” nor we were informed by easyJet of its definition of “comparable conditions”. Furthermore, we were not choosing Malév Hungarian business class for luxury but the choice is based on a rational decision that it is the cheapest ticket that was available to us and as we were forced by easyJet to take a risk to make re-route, which is the risk should not be borne to us, we decided to take the risk at the lowest price.

According to Article 8(1) of EU Regulation 261/2004, passengers shall be offered choice between:

(a)     — reimbursement within seven days, by the means provided for in Article 7(3), of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant,

— a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity;

(b)     re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; or

(c)     re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats.

It is actually the obligation of easyJet, which in our case should be easyJet’s representative in Helsinki airport, to offer re-route option if we opted for not to terminate our trip and request a refund.

As easyJet had already infringed the the EU regulation on air carrier’s obligation to offer re-routing to customer, easyJet now further infringed our rights on declining our request of refund. Clearly, there is no ground for easyJet to cite internal rules that are not accessible by public to decline our request of refund.

Moreover, we have observed that both Paris CDG, Helsinki airport and the route between two airports remained open between 23rd December and 24th December, 2010. Among seven flights operated from Paris CDG to Helsinki between 0:00CET 23rd December and 23:59CET 24th December 2010, the EZY3897 was the only flights that was cancelled. And EZY3898 was the only flight operated from Helsinki to Paris CDG that was cancelled during same period.

Therefore according to EU Regulation 261/2004,

Article 5(1)(c) In case of cancellation of a flight, the passengers concerned shall have the right to compensation by the operating air carrier in accordance with Article 7 SINCE:

  1. We WERE NOT informed of the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled time of departure; and
  2. We WERE NOT informed of the cancellation between two weeks and seven days before the scheduled time of departure and WERE NOT offered re-routing, allowing US to depart no more than two hours before the scheduled time of departure and to reach OUR final destination less than four hours after the scheduled time of arrival; and
  3. We WERE informed of the cancellation less than seven days before the scheduled time of departure BUT WERE NOT offered re-routing, allowing US to depart no more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach OUR final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival.

We are entitled for a compensation of 400€ each in that our cancelled flight is longer than 1500 kilometers and longer than 3 hours.

According to EU Regulation 261/2004:

  1. As under the Montreal Convention, obligations on operating air carriers should be limited or excluded in cases where an event has been caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Such circumstances may, in particular, occur in cases of political instability, meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, security risks, unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier.

Clearly in either Paris CDG or Helsinki Vantaa or route between two airports, there was no political instability, no security risks, no unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier, also we need to mention that the meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned should not be cited by easyJet as the reason of cancellation of flights as all other flights before and after easyJet’s cancelled flights were carried out and both airports and route in between remained open to air traffic at that time.

We should also mention in advance that easyJet should not try to extend the definition of extraordinary circumstance to its limit to include crew over duty time. As adverse weather impacted majority western Europe airports late December last year, easyJet should foresee the possibility of crew over duty time from the beginning of delay occurred due to air traffic control under adverse weather condition. Therefore stand-by crews should be available in case a shift of crew was over their duty time after a consecutive delays earlier same day. When cancellation indeed happened after this knock-on effect, it is actually easyJet’s internal management issue on human resource and could not be blamed as an extraordinary circumstance.

In a sum, we claim that easyJet shall refund our re-route ticket of xxxx.xx€ on xxx.xx€ each and pay flight cancellation compensation of 800€ on 400€ each.

Rounds of emails were exchanged before filing this claim and after three and a half months discussion, easyJet already refunded our original easyJet tickets of xxx.xxEUR total without our consent on settlement. And on a new round of discussion in June, although we were again declined the refund of re-route ticket, easyJet refunded our telephone charge of £x.xx upon our request.

Therefore we still insist on requesting refund of re-route ticket and cancellation compensation. However, according to Article 8 of EU Regulation, we are only entitled to make one choice between reimbursement of original ticket and re-route, we would like to surrender the early reimbursement of original easyJet ticket which was refunded without our consent and we would like to have that amount deducted from our total claim here.

In conclusion, we request easyJet to:

  1. Refund ticket of Mr. xxx/xxx on Malév Hungarian from Helsinki via Budapest to Paris CDG at xxx.xx€ and ticket of Ms. xxx/xxx on Malév Hungarian from Helsinki via Budapest to Paris CDG at xxx.xx€;
  2. Pay 400€ cancellation compensation to Mr. xxx/xxx and 400€ cancellation compensation to Ms. xxx/xxx;
  3. Deduct early refund of a total of xxx.xx€ from total amount of claim listed above.
  4. The interest of money listed above since we first filed our complaint to easyJet.

The total amount of money of 1, 2 and 3 above is xxxx.xx€. Based on the currency rate on 24th July 2011, the equivalent amount in British Sterling is £xxxx.xx.

Because it is the intentionally ignorance from easyJet on our reasonable request that led us to proceed to legal process, we would also like to claim the interest on money we are claiming. Based on interest of 8 per cent per year and calculate from the date we filed our first complaint to easyJet which is 1st January 2011, the interest can be calculated by:

£xxxx.xx*8%/365days*xxxdays=£xx.xx.

So the total amount we are claiming is £xxxx.xx.

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