Fight to the Death — Way to Claim Back Money from easyJet

The Northampton County Court decided that 13th August would be the last day that easyJet should reply my claim. Vera received a call from easyJet morning 12th August, and was expressed apology and willingness to refurbish the outstanding amount of our replacement ticket in addition of £70 court fee. And Vera told me today that money has been received. Well, 7 months later I have to mention, it finally comes to an end.

20th November 2010, after scheduled our itinerary in Finland and France during our Christmas vacation, we bought two easyJet tickets from Helsinki to Paris on 23rd December at a cost of xxx.xx€ and week later an addition xx€ for one piece of luggage.

23rd December 2010, when we were set to take off from Rovaniemi on a Finnair flight to Helsinki and then connect to Paris as planed, Vera received a message from easyJet as we were sitting down in cabin saying that our flight on easyJet, EZY3898, has been cancelled.

Upon arriving at Helsinki, we picked up our luggage and proceed to ground staff, the staff in luggage area told us to get to terminal desk for help as she can’t do anything. So we went out and find the desk where a long queue had already been. easyJet representative simply gave me a leaflet of brief information about EU regulation on flight disruption and told all passengers that flights in consecutive four days has been full. Passengers on cancelled flight should rebook themselves and seek refund afterward from easyJet. No guidance on which airline, which route, which class and which price we should plan our re-route, we were asked to call customer service directly for answer but after holding the line for our ten minutes without reaching a human being, we hang up.

That was almost 10pm, all counters except host carrier Finnair had closed, after another patient-killing queue we were told that they have sold out all seats on direct flight to Paris in coming day and we have to transfer—if we want to get to Paris next day. Receiving no assistance from easyJet and finding fewer flights were operating on the day of Christmas eve, I used my laptop and free wifi in terminal to make a quick decision based on low price and less connection and we finally settled on a Malev Hungarian flight to Paris via Budapest but in business class. However, the price is only a little more than xxx€ each, cheaper than Lufthansa economy with two connections. Signed up for accommodation at easyJet, we checked-in at Holiday Inn at Helsinki Airport and after finished free so-called-dinner-with-almost-nothing-hot at Holiday Inn, sleep—so exhausted.

I started contacting easyJet right after I finished my holiday in the beginning of January, asking for reimbursement of my replacement flight. The customer representative replied me initially are no doubt from India, judging by their Hindi names, and very slow in reply. This round of complain lasted incredibly to 23rd February without concluding to any meaningful decision or comment, no affirmation, nor rejection.

I started my second round of complain and this time I got reply from English along with a speedy reply normally in second business day. However until 12th April, easyJet confirmed that because I re-routed us to biz class, they would not reimburse me the replacement flight but only refund me my original tickets, say the easyJet tickets. I didn’t agree to this solution largely because I was even not asked for the idea of this option but simply got my credit card refunded without my consent.

Since 2nd June, I lodged my third round of complain, asking for reimbursement of replacement flights, 400€ compensation each for cancellation and our roaming telephone bill when we called customer service in Helsinki. Again, it’s English replying me and they refunded a £x.xx telephone bill after I sent them my monthly bill from telephone company but they hold their stance that no reimbursement of replacement flight and no compensation. In my last reply, I informed them that I would proceed to legal action if I’m not conclude to satisfaction and asked for registration address of easyJet (which can be found at ‘About’ page but I just ask for it for no reason). They were rigid and provided me the address.

I started looking for cases relating to similar lawsuit in UK since my complain reply turns negative since 12th April. Similar cases can be found from a forum called Flightmole in which easyJet has a separate section: http://flightmole.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=14. The regulation from EU 261/2004 regarding flight disruption can be found from EU website at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2004:046:0001:0007:en:PDF as well. After reviewing a portion of cases, I certainly believe I am entitled for the reimbursement of replacement flight, as I’m not choosing it for comfortable, the motivation and background are all very rational and reasonable. After Googling some key words, I found there is simple process for small claim in England and people even do not need to step out to file the claim but just need some typing jobs. Although the limited space in online application is a bit annoy for those guys like writing wordy word such as me but I just need to print it out and mail to court and defender, easyJet, directly then it’s okay. The online court claim page can be found here: https://authenticate.gateway.gov.uk/sidp/SignIn.ashx?gwv=1.0&gwrealm=urn%3aMoJ-Services-PTL. With instructions here:http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/MoneyTaxAndBenefits/ManagingDebt/Makingacourtclaimformoney/DG_195688. Of course people could visit county court to file the claim but since it can be done online, why not?

I spent almost the entire July in England but forgot this matter as we enjoyed our life… okay, you know we had roughly only four months time together after we married two years ago… until the day I set to go back to France. Submitted my claim, print out my four-pages claim as well as some supporting documents then send it to easyJet and Northampton County Court as is assigned. Since Vera is living in UK so the claim is filed under her name, including the claim file, the application and of course the £70 court fee according to the amount of claim. I thought I might owe her some good evening dress if I lost this lawsuit…

The claim was filed on 25th July and we sent all documents on 26th, Vera received two mails from easyJet and court respectively. The easyJet’s one is still cliché saying that they reject us because we flew on biz class and the letter is signed by customer services so I believe they simply treated it like a complain but not a lawsuit as it is clear in other cases online that reply from easyJet against a lawsuit should be signed by a legal advisor. The one from court informed that they received claim and also sent it to easyJet and according to their action, easyJet is bound to reply within 14 days, which is before 13th August.

Morning 12th August a legal advisor called Vera expressed his unhappiness and shock upon hearing us not been reimbursed our replacement flight, an expression I believe is very hypocritical and arrogance (they should express this feeling to their customer service division rather than to frustrating passengers). He agreed our request of reimbursement of re-route flight but still emphasized that the cancelation is due to extraordinary circumstance so he couldn’t agree our request for 400€ compensation. The same guy also offered the court fee of £70 to us. Vera asked for an email and later decision. The email with attached release form came shortly after in which both Vera’s and my name appeared several times (as Vera on behalf of Me, I suppose that because the replacement tickets was bought using my card). However as my name appeared only twice, one is misspelled. Recalling only one week earlier I came across a thread in a Chinese forum complaining that Romanized Chinese name has been misspelled repeatedly no matter how Chinese read their name letter by letter and now this is happening to me and the writer of this release made this mistake even when he or she could simply copy my name from my claim file…sigh… The release should be signed by both of us in addition to a witness and including the witness’ address and occupation and then return release to easyJet along with Vera’s account information. The money will come within 10 days.

I didn’t stick on 400€ compensation. Although I certainly believe airlines should have back up fleet and crew in case of cascading delays. A severe delay from Madrid to Paris has nothing to do with a planed Paris to Helsinki therefore extraordinary circumstance should not be quoted as excuse. But I’m not certain I could persuade the judge during hearing no need to mention as I’m living in France and most probably would not attend hearing together with Vera and her lack of professional knowledge of aviation industry. So I’m satisfied now.

The result is actually an out of court settlement, I didn’t win nor easyJet lose. I will withdraw my claim after I received money and no judgment is required anymore therefore no record of lawsuit against easyJet to be searched by people. My only regret after receiving this proposal of settlement is that I have no idea that if I didn’t demand 400€ per person cancellation compensation, would easyJet be willing to offer a bit more than refurbishing re-route ticket to reach a settlement out of court as well instead of agreeing my claim and conclude to a judgment? Since I believe easyJet would not want to have the suit come to the stage of judgment, after which the entire case will be able to be searched and reached by public, which would eventually benefit, in any extent, those who were also affected by flight cancellations and failed to get their money. Would it be? I don’t know…

I certainly didn’t expect my maiden lawsuit to be in UK despite I certainly believe I’m going to win it. Both sides remained polite and exchanged reasonable viewings although the wording is serious and strong but contributive effort can be found throughout. And I certainly believe that easyJet customer service is doing their job, that is, to turn down request for compensation to maximum extent, which is one of their surviving laws apparently. After the easyJet flight from London Gatwick to Toulouse on first day of year 2011 I never fly them again. I flew seven times on easyJet between 26th October 2010 and 1st January 2011, I could flew eight times in same period but I won’t fly any budget airlines anymore after this cancellation.

The experience since the cancellation of flight until this out of court settlement is absolutely a fresh experience. Two foreigners, my wife and I, the latter one even not residing in UK, can go through a lawsuit in such a simple fashion, no headache and bother. The process is not bothering either as both party remains in good manner. Traveling around UK I found sign of “We treat extremely serious towards verbal abuse” and similar quite often, I always said that I have no idea how to translate Chinese “Chao Jia” into English as I feel either debate or argue or quarrel are all the activity of exchanging different ideas no matter how severe the one idea is against the other. But in Chinese, “Chao Jia” usually accompany with so much verbal attack on opponents’ character and including a lot of bad language, which is incredibly in UK. The disagreement on a particular issue is simply a matter of that issue, I just need to claim back my money, and so does disagreement between peoples. To pointing out counterparts flaw doesn’t require an attack on their personality.

At last I attached my claim here. Sorry as settlement is confidential I cannot disclose it here but nevertheless I got the money long overdue to me.

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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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