Bad weather is not new. Airlines should plan for it and look after their stranded passengers.
Picture winter in Amsterdam; a storm raging and the clock approaching 11.30pm. Most people would want to be in a warm bed. But, a few weeks ago, customers of low-cost airline Flybe were stuck in a long queue at the airport with little prospect of anything but more queuing. One of them was my wife.
Her flight from Amsterdam to Exeter – along with many other flights – had been cancelled because of bad weather. Airlines can’t help the weather, but they can help how they respond. Other airlines triggered their contingency plans and staff made alternative arrangements for passengers.
But Flybe staff seemed unable to deal with all the passengers. One of them suggested that my wife should sort out her own accommodation and book her own alternative flight. This is not easy to do at 11.30pm on a Sunday in a foreign country, while hundreds of other people are trying to do the same thing. Fortunately, my wife was able to stay with a relative. But many others faced a long night. A member of staff – either through ignorance or in a bid to save the airline money – incorrectly told my wife that she wouldn’t be refunded for her alternative flight.
Flight delay compensation
The Denied Boarding Regulation states that airlines in these circumstances must offer passengers the choice of being looked after and rerouted by the airline, or having a refund. In this case, it seems that Flybe tried to shift the rerouting responsibility on to its stranded passengers.
Flybe says that it would normally have sorted out everything directly, but with so many passengers waiting, it offered them the option of making their own arrangements to speed things up. It said it would cover any additional costs.
Many of you have told us about poor experiences with a host of airlines – not just low-cost ones – when flights are cancelled. But some no-frills carriers are delighting you – Norwegian’s 78% customer score tops the latest short-haul economy table in January’s Which? Travel. Flybe gets a middling 61%.
The industry has far to go in its handling of delays and cancellations. It doesn’t fill me with confidence that only one airline has so far signed up to the new ombudsman scheme: the surprisingly keen Ryanair.