Forgotten passengers of easyJet flight EZS1366
On Friday July 4th 2014 the passengers of easyJet flight EZS1366 arrived at the aéroport Nantes-Atlantiques to catch their plane to Geneva that was scheduled to take off at 21:35. Little could this passenger and her fiancé have imagined that what was supposed to be a quick return flight would soon turn into the most unorganized customer service disaster they have ever experienced.
It all began shortly after arriving when we were told that because of a “problème technique” they had to wait for a different plane to undertake the flight, which was then to be taking off around midnight. You can imagine that people were already becoming upset, which is understandable, however we tried to understand and accept the long wait that was ahead of us. We were given a piece of paper that we were to take to a bar in the airport to have some kind of food/drink that was not really specified. We imagined, given the time of day and the fact that our flight would be more than 3 hours late, that we would be given a sandwich and a drink or something similar. Too good for easyJet customers in our situation, apparently, because all we were given was a simple bottle of water or a can of Coke. After buying dinner, we returned to the waiting area that had been prepared for the passengers of the flight, where we were told around 11pm that there would be no flight that night. I should specify that this message was not delivered in the form of an official announcement to all the passengers in question, but instead an easyJet worker entered the room and when asked by a handful of passengers what the current state of the situation was, told only those customers that the flight would not be happening that night. The rest of the customers found out by word of mouth from other customers. This was to be a recurring theme throughout the night, and as you can imagine it was incredibly frustrating and, frankly, unprofessional and cowardly on the part of the employees. Everyone had the same questions, but instead of keeping everyone up to date by making regular announcements, they chose to let people stand in a never-ending line, ask their questions, then go off to report the answers to other passengers.
The first “solution” was to fly to Lyon (on an existing flight on which there were not enough seats for everyone) that night, then take a bus to Geneva. Nothing was to be reimbursed. Everyone quickly left the room in which we had been waiting and moved through the now empty airport to a customer assistance desk where only three people were working. We all formed a line, however we had no idea why we were standing in line: was it to get on another flight? Was it to find out about getting in a hotel that night? Was it to be refunded? We were, once again, left wondering and trying to figure things out amongst ourselves. The first announcement that was made was for a flight that would be leaving on Sunday night for Geneva, however there were only 10 places left on that flight. As expected, the crowd became upset and started yelling, as this is hardly a solution for the situation. Some people quickly asked to be placed on that flight, others, obviously, were unable to wait that long. Additionally, the rumor had begun to circulate that the airline would only pay for one night in a hotel, despite the fact that the next available flight was on Sunday evening. Later that night we were told the airline would, in fact, pay for both nights if passengers accepted to wait till Sunday night. A pregnant woman was not given any kind of attention or priority and was completely ignored when asked to be given a seat on the next flight. Two mothers with small children were, however, given priority for the flight to Lyon and then on the bus to Geneva the following morning.
At that point, many people were becoming disgusted: the only proposed solution was a flight leaving on Sunday night for Geneva with only ten seats available. People began asking if they could cancel the flight, book a train ticket or rent a car in order to get back to Geneva and if those expenses would be covered by the airline. We were told repeatedly that if passengers cancelled their flight and paid for another means of transportation that the additional costs would not be covered. At this point, buying train tickets for two people on such short notice would have cost 300 euros. So if you do the math, we paid about 300 euros for the round trip flight. The first half of the trip would not be reimbursed because easyJet (miraculously) was able to fly us to Nantes in a timely, efficient manner. So we would only be given the 150 for the cancelled return flight, but we would have to pay 300 for train tickets. So because of the incompetency and horrible customer service of easyJet, we would have to spend 150 euros more just to get back to Geneva. Waiting till Sunday seemed like a risky idea, since apparently the airline did not find it more logical to simply bring an empty plane to Nantes specifically for the stranded passengers who were supposed to have left on Friday night, instead they found it acceptable to simply find empty seats on existing flights that were few and far between.
At this point I began to have the impression that we were deliberately being left in the dark, people would then get frustrated with waiting and just give up, buy train tickets or another plane ticket out of their own pocket and leave. In a world where people assume that everyone has a smartphone with 4G and hundreds of euros just sitting around for such a disaster, the airline was just stalling for time hoping people would figure out a solution on their own, therefore saving the airline money by having fewer expenses to reimburse. This is completely unacceptable. An airline, even a low-cost airline, is paid by customers to deliver a service. If the airline is unable to deliver that service, it is the responsibility of the airline to find a timely solution. Furthermore, customers should not be expected to find alternative travel plans on their own, nor should they be expected to pay for expenses incurred because of the cancelled or delayed flight. If our flight had been on time, we would not have purchased food in the airport, we would not have purchased a train ticket to return home, we would not have purchased food in train stations the following day: all of these constitute expenses that we should not have had to cover. Passengers should not be financially punished for an airline’s inability to perform the service they are paid to perform.
So to get back to the story, we ended up buying train tickets for 300 euros after the airline changed its story yet again and finally accepted to reimburse train travel since it was clear that they would not be able to put everyone on a plane. Again, I can’t understand why they would not fly a plane to Nantes the next morning for all of us, but what is important is that now trains would be paid for, in theory… Many of us wanted some kind of guarantee in writing that these expenses would, indeed, be reimbursed. We were told that one of the representatives had been on the phone with some director who had said that the train tickets would be reimbursed. We were supposed to just believe this, as no one would give us anything in writing or in the form of an email as proof that we were all told that if we bought train tickets they would be reimbursed. Could I go to the ticket desk of an airline, ask for a ticket, and instead of paying could I just give the airline my word that once I arrived at my destination I would then pay for the ticket? The answer is obvious.
In the end, we were finally bused to a hotel at 1:30 am. Two passengers agreed to fly to Lyon the next morning, a handful chose to wait until Sunday to get on the next easyJet flight to Geneva, and the rest of us had to book train tickets (again, something the airline should have done for us) and spend the entire following day traveling by train. Julien and I finally arrived in Pontarlier Saturday at nearly 7 pm. Because if was the first day of summer vacation for students, the train was completely full. I managed to find an empty seat, but Julien had to stand in the train for the first hour until the train made a stop and some people got off.
It seems that the 150 euros of the return flight we never took will be reimbursed, however we are still not sure about the 300 euros we spent on train tickets. Yet another thing I reproach the airline for is that it is up to the passengers to harass the airline for reimbursements. The airline should contact the passengers, ask for receipts, calculate the total to be reimbursed and then do so within a very short delay.
Many people, including passengers on the cancelled flight that night, say that’s what you get for choosing easyJet or any low-cost airline. I don’t agree with this at all. I don’t expect luxury, tons of legroom, free checked bags, or free refreshments on board when I fly low-cost. I do, however, expect the airline to handle things in an appropriate way when things go wrong. I expect, when a flight is cancelled, that the airline pay for all additional travel expenses passengers incur with a smile on their face and with a sincere apology. I expect to be given a meal when forced to wait in an airport for 4 hours after the initial time of departure of my flight. I expect to be informed about solutions and to be told when things change. We paid easyJet to fly us back to Geneva. EasyJet did not fly us back to Geneva. The totality of the money we had to pay to get back to Geneva should be, must be, reimbursed by the airline that was unable to perform the task we paid for. Low-cost or not, the way the cancellation was handled was utterly unacceptable and easyJet should be ashamed to treat its customers in such a deplorable way.
One final detail: the whole time we were stuck in the airport waiting for answers and trying to figure out how to get back home, not once did an employee apologize to us, not once did I hear an employee apologize to another passenger, not once did the airline employees act as though they were sorry for what had happened because of their incompetence.
This page was launched as a fun experiment by myself, as an individual. I wish to write about my up and coming browsing and purchasing experience with easyJet and would also like to hear about other people who have purchased or shopped at easyJet.