British watchdog and consumer advice experts Which? have called on the UK’s aviation authority to investigate Swiss low-cost airline EasyJet, stylised easyJet, and whether the carrier has broken the law when handling the influx of flight cancellations over the past couple of months. 

Mounting pressure

This week has been nothing but stressful for the popular low-cost carrier. easyJet saw its COO, Peter Bellew, resign earlier this week to “pursue other business opportunities.” The departure of the company’s COO puts tremendous pressure on CEO Johan Lundgren to keep the carrier afloat amid this difficult summer season. 

Now, British consumer watchdog Which? has called for the UK’s aviation authority – the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – to investigate the carrier with suspicions that easyJet did not make its customers aware of all the options available to them once their flight had been cancelled. 

easyJet
EasyJet has struggled with flight cancellations and delays as the demand for air travel ramped up. In June, the carrier cancelled 1700 flights. | © SkyNews

Under regulations imposed by the CAA, once a flight is cancelled passengers are entitled to receive a full refund and compensation, an alternative flight with the airline, or another suitable flight from another airline paid entirely by easyJet. Airlines are legally required to offer all of the affected passengers at the “earliest opportunity”.

Crucially, Which? believes that easyJet had reserved to offering refunds and failed to make their passengers aware of their other rights such as alternative flights and compensation. According to Which?, easyJet directed passengers to the “managing my booking” section of their app and website which only allows passengers to rebook on an easyJet flight. 

In some cases, passengers were left stranded and had no choice but to arrange their own flights back to the UK.

Editor of Which? Travel, Rory Boland, commented on the matter:

“easyJet has treated its passengers appallingly, but this is just the latest example of a systemic problem in the aviation sector – some airlines routinely ignore their legal obligations because they know they won’t face any consequences. With thousands more flight cancellations potentially to come, passengers face a miserable summer unless the CAA and government act on their promises to stamp out consumer rights abuses.”

Boland continued:

“A major overhaul is desperately needed, so the government must give the CAA stronger powers, so it can hit operators with heavy fines when necessary. Ministers should also drop their ill-conceived plans to slash compensation rates for domestic flights.”

Boland and Which? also believe that the UK government must give the CAA stronger powers to impose heavy fines on offending operators when necessary. 

Last month, the CAA promised enforcement action against any airlines that are found to be “systematically letting consumers down.” 

Anna Bowles, head of consumer enforcement at the CAA, commented on Which? filing a complaint against easyJet:

“We understand and appreciate the impact it can have on customers when flights are delayed or cancelled. This is exactly why there are rules in place to protect consumers in these circumstances. We thank Which? for its continued engagement regarding compensation. We will review its latest evidence thoroughly and will respond accordingly.”

Meanwhile, easyJet has argued against the claims made by the consumer giant, labelling them as “unfounded”:

“This claim is so we strongly reject it. While we are of course very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers when their flights have been disrupted, we are compliant with the regulations and take our obligations under the regulations seriously. Customers are able to secure flights by alternative carriers via our customer contact centres or book themselves and then claim back the cost from us. This information is clearly displayed on our delays & cancellations help page which customers receive a link to.”

easyJet, via a spokesperson, continued:

“We are committed to helping our customers as much as possible and have extended the opening hours of our customer service team so they are available to customers for longer over the summer peak.”

Have you had a flight cancelled by easyJet? Were you offered all the options legally available to you? Let us know your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

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