Luckily, I was not affected by the 48-hour delay that easyJet passengers of flight U29066 (EZY9066) from Fuerteventura to Bristol had to endure. But just reading about it makes me angry.
Well, delays can occur and while it is certainly most annoying for the affected passengers, what really angers me is easyJet’s response: ‘All passengers onboard this flight will be contacted by our Customer Services team and offered £100 each in flight vouchers as a gesture of goodwill.’
They make it sound like they were generous in offering the passengers £100 flight vouchers. In reality, they are fobbing off their passengers and, it seems, are denying them the compensation they are actually entitled to.
For flights departing or arriving in the European Union, EU regulation 261/2004 applies. And according to Article 7 of this regulation, the passengers are entitled to a compensation of €400 each (as it was an intra-Community flight of more than 1,500 kilometres), and not some rubbish flight voucher.
Looking at Article 5(3) of the regulation (‘An operating air carrier shall not be obliged to pay compensation in accordance with Article 7, if it can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.’), easyJet might want to claim that the technical issues causing the delay constitute ‘extraordinary circumstances’ but they would be wrong to do so.
Plenty of court rulings have clarified that technical problems don’t qualify as extraordinary circumstances, amongst them the judgment by the European Court of Justice in Wallentin-Hermann v Alitalia from 22 December 2008 which states: ‘[T]echnical problems which come to light during maintenance of aircraft or on account of failure to carry out such maintenance cannot constitute, in themselves, ‘extraordinary circumstances’ under Article 5(3) of Regulation No 261/2004.’
The argument has since been tested further in UK courts, most notably in Huzar v Jet2 in which the Court of Appeal, after looking at various arguments at length, concluded on 11 June 2014 that Jet2 was wrong to cite technical issues as extraordinary circumstances and therefore dismissed their appeal.
So, there can be no doubt that passengers of that troubled easyJet flight are entitled to €400 each. While that money cannot truly compensate for the 48-hour ordeal they had to endure, it's the minimum that airlines pay their passengers what they are entitled to by law.