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‘I’ve lost £880 because Easyjet and Gatwick are bickering over who’s at fault’

easyjet gatwick flight travel chaos
easyjet gatwick flight travel chaos

Passengers are being denied hundreds of pounds in compensation for delayed and cancelled flights, caught in a blame game between airlines and airports.

Other customers have been ignored and left waiting for months despite making multiple claims in lieu of ruined family holidays and trips of a lifetime.

Britain’s airports descended into chaos at the start of the Easter holidays and have not yet recovered. Passengers have waited for hours in airports only to have their flight cancelled at the last minute, and in some cases have been left stranded abroad. But airlines have not been forthcoming with compensation.

Cancellations, charges and fees accounted for 90pc of airline refund issues in June and July, according to complaints website Resolver. Almost 40,000 complaints of this nature have been made to the service in the past year, with more than 600 made in the first three days of this month alone.

But many customers have found themselves “caught in the crossfire between airport and airline”, warned Guy Hobbs of Which?.

Mr Hobbs said: “All too often neither party accepts responsibility for delays and cancellations, and passengers miss out on the money they are owed, or find themselves chasing compensation through the courts.”

Nice France easyjet flight - John Harper/Moment RF
Nice France easyjet flight - John Harper/Moment RF

In May this year, Andres Korin, 41, was boarding an easyJet flight bound for Nice, France, after a three-hour delay at the airport. But as he and his family were queueing on the air bridge, the flight was cancelled.

“People had already boarded the plane and sat down when they cancelled it. No one could get a straight answer from easyJet on what was happening,” said Mr Korin.

It came 24 hours after a software failure forced the airline to cancel around 200 flights across the country, for which it had encouraged passengers to claim compensation in line with standard regulations.

The family postponed the holiday and a refund was issued by easyJet along with payment of £76 compensation to cover the cost of a taxi back from the airport.

But Mr Korin’s claim for £880 compensation – £220 per family member booked on the flight – was denied by easyJet, which blamed the fiasco on an “extraordinary event” outside of its control. The airline said the delay and cancellation had been a result of air traffic control issues at Gatwick, for which it was not liable to pay compensation.

An easyJet spokesman said: “We are sorry that Mr Korin’s flight was cancelled due to delays caused by air traffic control restrictions, which led to our crew reaching their maximum safety regulated operating hours.

“While this was outside of our control, we would like to apologise to customers for the inconvenience caused.”

But when The Telegraph approached Gatwick airport, a spokesman said air traffic control restrictions had only been in place for arriving flights for two short periods that day.

He added: “The impact on flights was considered low, so it would be surprising if this was the root cause of this cancelled flight.”

It is a stalemate in which thousands of passengers are caught in the middle of each year. Travellers can claim compensation once a flight has been delayed for more than three hours or cancelled at short notice, but only if it was caused by an issue within the airline’s control, such as technical problems and wear and tear of the plane.

But in the event of an “extraordinary event”, such as security, natural disasters and air traffic control issues, the airline is absolved of responsibility and customers have no avenue for compensation.

Frank Brehany, a consumer rights expert, said: “The excuse of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ is not designed to provide cover for any reason – the purpose of the defence is to cover events that could not be seen or predicted.”

Passengers claim airlines have added insult to injury by ignoring their requests for compensation for months. Mr Korin said he chased easyJet after 45 days for a response, despite the company’s terms and conditions stating it would reply within 28 days.

Mr Hobbs said the Civil Aviation Authority, the regulator, needed stronger powers and a new ombudsman was needed to mediate disputes.