Consequences of rebooking on own

By Wayne & Leslie Elsaesser
This item appears on page 26 of the October 2018 issue.

Returning to Seattle from a European vacation on May 12, 2018, one hour before our scheduled departure from Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), we learned that our easyJet flight 8322 to London Gatwick Airport had been unceremoniously delayed four hours.

We noticed the schedule change while sitting at the gate, but there was no accompanying announcement (not even in French), no explanation and no customer support staff on hand to help.

Thirty minutes later, two easyJet representatives did appear but only to hand out preprinted easyJet EAS200 forms ("What to do if your flight is delayed or cancelled") and, for each of us, 4.50 plastic debit cards for food "anywhere at CDG."

When we asked whether, if we waited another 3½ hours, flight 8322 would depart, we were greeted with a shoulder shrug and a verbal "Peut ĂȘtre" ("Maybe"). We were told that if we opted to book another flight rather than wait, our checked hold baggage would be retrieved for us.

It didn't really matter. On our original schedule, our connection window in London was 2½ hours, so our flight out of Gatwick on Norwegian Air would have departed long before we landed. In addition, there were no other Gatwick departure options to the Western US that day that were in our price range (Norwegian, WOW, Icelandair, etc.).

We opted to try to return home straight from Paris and, utilizing CDG's free Wi-Fi, were able to book flights to Seattle via Reykjavik on Icelandair. We cadged the last two seats!

We collected our hold luggage, changed terminals and waited another five hours for our Icelandair flight. As a final irony, when we tried to use our easyJet food vouchers (at McDonald's and Starbucks), they were refused.

Back home, $2,003.75 poorer, we filled out easyJet's online expense-claim form replete with all required documentation in PDF format. Five days later, we received this response via a "Do Not Reply" email: "Having reviewed your claim, we are unable to repay any of the claimed costs under EU Regulation 261/2004."*

WAYNE & LESLIE ELSAESSER

Edmonds, WA

*EU Regulation 261/2004, subtitled "establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellations or long delay of flights…," is the European Union law that determines under what circumstances EU-based airlines (and other airlines flying from or within the EU to any locations) are required to compensate passengers when they face canceled flights or long delays.

According to 261/2004, passengers on flights delayed more than five hours can request that the carrier rebook them "under comparable transport conditions to their final destination at the earliest opportunity" or refund the ticket.

However, because the Elsa es sers'

flight was delayed less than five hours, in order to qualify for a monetary award from the airline, they would have to have continued on their delayed flight.

The amount of any monetary award is based on flight distance. At only about 300 kilometers' distance, a flight from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris to Gatwick Airport in London needs to be delayed for only two hours for passengers to qualify. In this case, Wayne and Leslie Elsaesser would have been reimbursed €250 (near $293) each, had they remained to later take the delayed flight.

Under EU rules, airlines operating delayed flights are also responsible for rebooking any passenger who misses his connecting flight due to the delay, so long as the missed flight was booked under the same reservation as the delayed flight. Since the Elsaessers purchased their ongoing Norwegian Air flight separately from their easyJet flight, easyJet would not have been required to get them any farther than London Gatwick.

It is important to note that if a delay causes a passenger to have to book new flights, then, in order for him to receive compensation, any flight changes must be done with the assistance of the airline. Because the Elsaessers booked new flights on their own, they were considered to have abandoned their easyJet flight; therefore, the airline was not legally obligated to pay them compensation for their delay.

On easyJet's website (www.easyjet.com/en/help/boarding-and-flying/delays-and-cancellations), it states, "When we have made assistance, such as hotel accommodation, available to you online or at the airport and you choose not to accept it and make your own arrangements, we will not reimburse your expense claim."

Note: Travelers who need to rebook or take a different flight but find that gate agents are unavailable might consider phoning the airline to insure the airline oversees any flight changes.

ITN submitted a copy of the Elsaessers' letter to easyJet for comment but received no response.