Q My sister and I were flying from Luton to Barcelona. Having circled because of fog at Barcelona airport, we had to land at Girona airport instead. But we were advised that the second engine which fuelled the air conditioning system needed essential repairs. Our options were to stay on the flight with no air conditioning, await re-fuelling, wait for an engineer to fly over to approve of the essential maintenance once it had been completed, and fly on to Barcelona. We were told that this option would take 3 hours before we would be airborne once again, plus the flight time. Our second option was to get off the plane, and make our own way to Barcelona by public transport. As easyJet had no representatives at Girona airport, we had to wait about two hours for a baggage attendant to return our luggage from the hold. Nobody from easyJet got off the plane to help advise passengers what to do. We then purchased a bus ticket to take us to Barcelona Nord bus station, which took about 90 minutes. We eventually arrived in Barcelona four hours late. Our plans for the day had to be changed because we were late, and because we were stressed and tired from our experience.
Despite the fact that we were essentially abandoned at the wrong airport, we are not entitled to compensation from easyJet. Do you think that is fair?
A Much of your story is common to weather-related diversions. The captain flies towards the destination airport, goes into a holding pattern hoping that the fog will clear, but eventually when the fuel contingency starts to run low, diverts to a nearby airport. As you discovered, if the airport is one that the airline does not usually serve, everything from refuelling to baggage handling can take an age. But because airlines cite weather-related diversions as “extraordinary circumstances,” arriving three hours late or more would not normally trigger any payment.
However, the subsequent mechanical problem may have been a good candidate for EC261 delay compensation of €250 per person. Assuming the time from landing at Girona to landing at Barcelona was over three hours, you argue the case that clock started ticking again once on the ground in Girona. The shoddy way in which the European rules on passenger compensation were drafted means that they reward inertia and penalise initiative. Had you stuck with the refuel/repair option, you could have earned enough compensation to pay for your flights. As it is, the only liability I can see from easyJet is for the bus ticket, so I suggest you ask for that expense to be reimbursed.
Every day, our travel correspondent Simon Calder tackles readers’ questions. Just email yours to email@example.com or tweet @simoncalder
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