Britain’s biggest low-cost airline has apologized after a passenger promised compensation for volunteering to leave an overbooked flight and her claim was twice denied.
Jo Webb has been booked to fly from Bristol Airport to Faro in Portugal in June. As passengers waited to board, easyJet staff revealed a smaller aircraft than planned was being used.
Mrs. Webb tells The Independent: “They waited until boarding to tell us that the aircraft type had changed and asked for 30 volunteers to be picked up.
“I thought about it, but friends were waiting in Faro, so I decided not to volunteer.”
The smaller aircraft, seating 150 instead of 180 passengers, was used because no member of the cabin crew was available. By using an Airbus A319 with the rear row of seats removed, easyJet can only deploy three cabin crew instead of four.
Ms Webb continued: “We boarded. Done, all good – until the crew realized that there was an extra passenger without a seat on board.
“Cout long discussions. Someone would have to be offloaded – and the longer that process took, the more likely it was that the crew would hit their legal time limits and the entire flight would be cancelled.”
At this point, around 10 p.m., the flight was already severely delayed because there were many families with small children on board.
“As a solo traveler with no checked baggage, I decided to do the decent thing,” Ms Webb said.
“When I got off, I got applause from the whole plane.
“The warm glow lasted until I got back to the gate, where I was told I would have to fend for myself.
“I had to stay in a hotel in Bristol and make my own way to Gatwick the next day, which cost me a day of my six-day holiday.”
Ms Webb then applied online for her expenses and cash compensation, but was told: “You were not denied boarding on commercial or operational grounds.
“These are the only two conditions under which you can request a refund. Therefore, we have rejected your claim that you sent to us.”
Ms Webb tried again, and this time she was told: “You opted for the free flight change option and made the changes for the next day. Unfortunately, we cannot reimburse you for any costs incurred for this reason.”
she said The Independent: “I am angry. I’m lost for words. So I have at least £250 out of pocket, lost 24 hours of my holiday and my claim is being rejected?
“Personally, I not only saved my own flight from cancellation, but also the return flight from Faro.
“That’s a lot of passengers who would have asked for compensation.
“But instead of thanking me, easyJet denied my request.”
To The Independent Speaking to Ms Webb, an easyJet spokesman said: “Unfortunately some passengers were unable to travel on flight EZY6009 from Bristol to Faro on 1 June as the aircraft scheduled to operate the flight had to be downgraded to a smaller one due to a crew member not being able to able to act.
“Under the circumstances, we always strive to seek in advance volunteers willing to not travel in exchange for compensation and alternative travel arrangements, and would like to thank passengers for their volunteer efforts.
“Unfortunately, an isolated agent error at the airport resulted in Ms Webb’s booking not being updated to confirm that she had volunteered and therefore her claim for compensation was not visible to our account team.
“We are therefore in contact with her to further advise her on the process to obtain her refund, compensation and expenses. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.”
Aircraft downgauging is not the usual cause of overbooking, where more tickets are sold than there are seats available on the aircraft. In such cases, however, the same European passenger rights rules apply to overbooking, which oblige airlines to seek volunteers before offloading anyone against their will.
On Friday Broadcaster Mhairi Stuart tweeted a video Applause on an easyJet flight as two volunteers exit an overbooked plane.
That BBC Radio Scotland The presenter said: “So two people removed from the plane, then these two volunteered to go instead. I promised a flight tomorrow.”