If you follow my Twitter stream, you’ll have heard all about the recent travel problems we had on our recent trip to Malta. It started on our way out, where we were deboarded from a RyanAir flight which couldn’t take off from Luton because of the snow. After a few hours we were given our luggage back and told that we were pretty much on our own in terms of sorting our alternative travel arrangements. We could always get a refund on the flight, but being stuck in an airport between home and your destination isn’t all it’s cracked out to be (with 2 3-month old babies and a 3-year old may I add). Eventually I found an alternative flight from Bristol, bought new tickets (as RyanAir’s website wouldn’t let me transfer the flight) and we caught a combination of buses, trains and taxis to get from Luton to Bristol. I won’t bore you with all the attempts we made to speak to a RyanAir representative, but let’s just say it was akin to trying to build a snowman in summer in Dubai.
Our return flight was just as eventful, We checked in for our FlyBe flight in Gatwick, only to be told 7 hours later that it was cancelled. This time at least there was a FlyBe desk where they recommended we book a flight with an alternative airline, so we eventually got home with Aer Arann from London City; again carting 3 kids, a pram and a ton of luggage all over town. Again, I’m leaving out all the aggravation and frustration of the experience to focus on the specifics.
So, EU Regulation 261/2004 covers passenger rights and deals with issues around flight cancellations, delays and other issues. The bit that interests us in this case is specifically around cancellation of flights. The EU directive speaks of 2 rights that passengers have. They have a right to a choice of a refund, re-routing to the destination at the next possible date, or rerouting to the destination at a later date. They also have a right to claim for compensation based on a table of values. The right for compensation is waived if the cancellation is due to exceptional circumstances, which snow disruption is quite clearly an example of. However, my understanding is that the former right, that of refund or rerouting is still covered by the Directive, and the airline is responsible for communication, accommodation and re-routing costs to get the passenger to their destination.
With this in mind, I’m currently writing to both FlyBe and RyanAir with details of our travel disruption and the additional cost we incurred to get to our destination. What do you think? Will they honour EC Regulation 261/2004, or will I have to escalate to the Air Transport User’s Council?