Britain’s biggest budget airline has apologised for misleading passengers about their rights when flights are cancelled.
A week after it resumed flying, the carrier has started notifying travellers about thousands of cancelled flights.
But the airline has told some passengers whose flights have been cancelled that their departure has merely been changed – even if it has been switched to a different airport or is leaving a day and a half later.
A passenger named Lisa, from Buckinghamshire, was booked with her family of five to fly from Luton to Malaga on the morning of 6 July.
Lisa was sent a standard email headed: “Important changes to your upcoming easyJet flight.” The message did not mentioned that the original flight had been cancelled, but instead indicated it had been switched to Tuesday evening.
“Flight consolidation,” where airlines combine lightly booked departures, has long been part of passenger aviation. But there are strict rules about how airlines must handle the practice.
Cancellation is deemed to have occurred ”where the planning of the original flight is abandoned” and travellers are invited to join a separate departure.
Under European air passengers’ rights rules airlines, customers whose flight is cancelled must be offered a choice between a full cash refund and an alternative flight.
The refund must be include the return leg, even if it is still going ahead. If the closest alternative flight is on a rival carrier, the cancelling airline must pay for it.
Neither of these options was offered to Lisa. The message from easyJet stated that if she was “Not happy with the changes”, there were only two options: to switch to another easyJet flight or accept a voucher valid for a year.
Eventually she spoke to easyJet customer services.
“I explained on the phone that my flight has changed by 33 hours with a new flight number,” Lisa told The Independent.
“As my original flight has been removed from the timetable it must have been cancelled. I would therefore like a refund that I am legally entitled to. But I was told I was not entitled to a refund.”
After The Independent contacted easyJet, the airline admitted it had failed to offer the full range of legal options.
A spokesperson said: “We are trying to get as many customers to their destination as possible with fewer flights operating over the summer.
“In some cases this will mean moving customers to an alternative airport or date, however to be clear if this is not suitable for them they will be entitled to a refund and this should have been set out as one of their options.
“We are very sorry this has not happened correctly and are now correcting this to ensure the communications being used by our customer service team display this as an option.”
The airline has also said that if easyJet has no suitable alternative flight within 24 hours, passengers may rebook on another carrier and claim back the cost.
A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said: ”Consumers who have seen their flights cancelled are entitled to a full refund, or the option of alternate travel where this is possible, including through other airlines.
The CAA says it is looking into the case and “will consider whether any regulatory action is required to protect consumer rights”.