/ Travel & Leisure

My holiday was ruined by a flight delay

Plane on runway

A flight delay can be a minor setback for your travel plans, but what if it ruins them entirely? Well that’s what happened to Dave Bartholomew, who has joined us as a guest author to tell us more…

For my wife’s 40th birthday in March this year I had decided to book a European city break where my wife and I could relax, do some sightseeing and maybe have a few beers. I thought this was an excellent idea and would earn me massive kudos. However like so many things in life, it didn’t quite go according to plan…

Flight delay

I had booked a flight and accommodation package to Budapest through Jet2 Holidays. Budapest is somewhere my wife had talked about visiting quite a lot, so my decision on the destination was an easy one.

On the morning of our flight the weather was a bit grim, sleet and snow showers mainly, but the snow wasn’t settling on the ground and we were jetting off somewhere else, weren’t we?

We went through the usual pre-flight ritual of security check, purchasing and drinking expensive coffee and then browsing in WH Smiths. We wandered to our gate and boarded our Jet2 flight bound for Budapest at approximately 8.30am. It’s at this point that things went pear shaped for us.

It turned out having boarded the aircraft, that Jet2 couldn’t secure the services of the airport’s de-icing equipment. We ended up sat on the aircraft for just under seven hours.

In that time we were given a complimentary soft drink and offered the opportunity to purchase whatever was left on the in-flight snacks trolley. We weren’t allowed off the aircraft in this time as Jet2 kept telling us that the de-icing equipment was on its way – it wasn’t.

After nearly seven hours on board, feeling anxious, fed up, claustrophobic and like I had made a hash of my wife’s birthday trip away, we both decided to ask again if we could get off the aircraft. And that’s what we did, abandoning our trip along with it.

We exited the aircraft and spent the night in Manchester, not Budapest I’ll grant you, but we made the most of it. The flight I believe finally left after a nine hour delay.

Seeking redress

Having written three letters to Jet2 since our aborted trip, we received one rather generic ‘adverse weather’ response stating that we were not entitled to any refund.

Now call us old fashioned but we would have liked a personal letter apologising for keeping us on the aircraft for nearly seven hours and acknowledging that we had abandoned our travel plans. I’d also argue that light sleet/snow in the north of England in early March isn’t really adverse weather.

In the end I took to Twitter to contact Jet2 and ask for a response to the points in our letter, we got a reply after three weeks or so that didn’t directly answer the points we raised in our letters.

I’m really disappointed with Jet2 and their handling of the situation and I would dearly love to keep on at them until a satisfactory outcome is reached. But I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll get anywhere.

But it’s hard work and time consuming trying to get your point across to them and I think I’m just about out of fight. Next time, maybe I’ll plan a trip to the Yorkshire Dales instead.

This is a guest contribution from Dave Bartholomew. All views expressed here are Dave’s own and not necessarily those shared by Which?.

Comments
Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
Member

“It’s hard work and time consuming trying to get your point across to them and I think I’m just about out of fight.” That’s it right there, Dave, what Jet2 et al count on. Reject, reject and reject again any claim, and hope we get fed up before we call on legal help. I hope you don’t give up! And get your money back to take your wife to Budapest… using another airline?

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

De-icing is a necessary safety measure, irrespective of what snow is lying on the ground. So presumably it was an essential requirement before the aircraft was allowed to depart.

You seem not to have been on your own though. “”We were due to leave for Geneva at 10:50 but didn’t board until midday – at that point we were told the aircraft was number 30 in a queue to be de-iced.” bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-35729801

The problem seems to be between the arrangements with the ground crews who de-ice. They should give a reasonable explanation as to why they were unable to arrange this in a timely way. We deserve proper explanations when things go wrong.

Profile photo of Dave Bartholomew
Member

I know de-icing is an important safety meausure. The issue isn’t the de-icing, it’s being kept on the aircraft for seven hours without being allowed off into the terminal building. Not getting an apology. Being fobbed off by poor customer services department and generally having that feeling of being taken for a ride without having actually got anywhere.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I totally understand your comments. However, if airlines do not know when they might be de-iced, having loaded, then letting passengers off again is likely to lose a slot and cause more disruption. Its a bit of a no win situation. I would expect de-icing to be carried out before an aircraft was loaded. Something seems to have gone badly wrong for many flights that day.

Profile photo of Glenavil
Member

If you read the below it may help you revisit your claim.

Profile photo of Glenavil
Member

I have recently successfully claimed from Thomas Cook Airlines for a 7hr delay due to insufficient de-icing machines at Manchester airport. Initially their prescribed route of claiming failed and I was stone-walled.

I completed the county court claim forms and gathered evidence to supportive fact that the weather conditions prevailing on that day, had been forecast for over 48 hours, therefore it was not the weather which was the cause of the delay but their failure to prepare for those conditions.

I obtained the email addresses of Thomas Cook Airline individual solicitors from the law societies website and sent the proposed county court claim directly to those solicitors. The £940 was paid within 48 hours, having been told by their customer service, I had no basis for a claim.

Equally the CAA were totally unhelpful and ineffective. They are paid and funded by airlines, a nice cosy arrangement; so no guessing whose side they come down on.

Profile photo of Glenavil
Member

The following may assist someone;

1. My full name is , born aged 58 yrs. I reside at . I am currently and for the past years, have been employed by as a . I am married to my wife , aged 58yrs, who works as a for the . Neither I nor any members of my family have any criminal convictions of any kind whatsoever. I also hold a commercial pilots licence issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

2. On 29 February 2016, I booked flights with the Defendant for my wife and myself, to fly from Manchester Airport to Banjul, Gambia departing on 4 March 2016, returning on 11 March 2016, for the purpose of a holiday. The Defendant’s booking reference for the flight is ; I produce the booking confirmation as (exhibit NF1 ). I booked accommodation for the holiday in the resort separately.

3. The flight, operated by Thomas Cook Airlines Limited, flight code; “MT2422” on 4 March 2016 was scheduled to depart Manchester airport at 10:55hrs. Having checked in online, my wife and I arrived at Manchester Airport in good time for the flight; we dropped our case at the bag drop and proceeded to the departure lounge, arriving there at about 10:00hrs.

4. At about 10:25hrs, boarding of the aircraft began for the flight. At about 10:50hrs, with all passengers boarded and seated, the captain of the aircraft (who informed us his name was Frank) made an announcement over the aircraft intercom, stating whilst he was ready to depart, he required that the aircraft be de-iced for the flight and that this would result in a departure delay of about 25 minutes.

5. There then followed a series of announcements from the flight deck with various deadlines, which came and went none were fulfilled. At about 12:00hrs, passengers were informed by the captain that there was a considerable queue for de-icing, that our aircraft was 14th in line to be de-iced, with each de-icing taking about 15 minutes to complete. This deadline also came and went without any delivery of the service required or promised; namely that the aircraft be de-iced in readiness for flight. It is inconceivable that the Defendant did not know of the delays in de-icing services prior to our boarding and this amply demonstrates the contempt, which it holds for its customers. I have a witness who was on the Defendant’s Barbados flight, scheduled to depart at around 09:00hrs that day, a Mrs , she will supply a witness statement. Mrs B was kept on the aircraft until about 16:00hrs that day, then taken to a hotel for an overnight stay. Mrs B was informed that there was no de-icing fluid to de-ice the aircraft and that their crew was out of duty hours with no alternative crew available. Undoubtedly therefore, as early as 09:00hrs that day and in all reality a lot earlier, the Defendant was aware of the serious difficulties, which it was in. However, it failed to truthfully notify its customers of the true situation throughout that day. Choosing instead to cause stress, anxiety, distress and loss of enjoyment to its customers by being “wholly economical with the truth”.

6. Once a delay of three hours had been reached, I requested from one of the air hostesses on our aircraft that a call be made to a taxi driver we had booked to pick us up from the airport at Banjul. The hostess made enquires and then invited me onto the flight deck. There I met the captain who again called himself Frank. I explained that under the Denied Boarding Regulations, I was entitled to two telephone calls and that I wished that the taxi driver be called to ask him not to wait, as we were unsure as to if or when we would arrive. The captain explained that he had contacted company operations and that they had told him not to facilitate the call because if they did it for one passenger, they would have to do it for all. I pointed out to him that it was a legal requirement and a legal right. He responded by shrugging his shoulders and saying I have to do what the company tell me to do. In the event, when we arrived in Banjul, the taxi driver had waited the six hours for us and required 1000 Dalasi (£20) waiting time, which we paid. Taxis do not give receipts in Gambia but I have his card and telephone number for confirmation of the above.

7. My wife and I were effectively kept prisoner on the aircraft with no refreshments and no toilet facilities as they had failed. Engineers were on and off the aircraft for a considerable time seeking to repair the toilet problem. At about 15:00 hrs, a large swell of passengers were asking to be allowed to disembark, having now spent some 4 hrs 30 mins trapped on the aircraft. Their requests were met with broadcasts from the flight deck that, (1) The terminal could not cope with the influx of people if they were allowed to depart the aircraft and (2) What would happen if the de-icing truck arrived and they were not on the aircraft ready to depart?

8. At about 16:10hrs, all passengers were disembarked from the aircraft back into the terminal building. Neither the aircraft crew nor the Defendants appointed ground-handling agents informed us of why we were being disembarked or what was going to happen to us. We were totally uninformed throughout the whole situation by the Defendant, its servants or agents, having been held on the aircraft for some 6 hours. There was a total lack of respect, care or attention for us as customers.

9. At about 16:50hrs, there was an announcement over the airport public address for all passengers to re-embark the aircraft. My wife and I arrived at the departure gate at 16:58hrs; I could see the aircraft and a de-icing truck alongside it, spraying the aircraft with fluid. I took a photograph of this, which I produce as (exhibit NF2”).

10. The delay of over 6 hours together with a total lack of truthful, meaningful or relevant information from the Defendant, its servant or agents caused my wife and I considerable distress, anxiety and apprehension. It totally ruined and overshadowed the first days of our holiday; causing a loss of enjoyment. We did not know if we would depart that day and we were kept totally in the dark as to what was going to happen to us.

11. Our son is an airline pilot, working for based at Stansted airport. On that same day, he flew an aircraft for his company to Banjul on behalf of “Gambia Experience Company”. He departed Gatwick at about 10:30hrs and arrived in Banjul at about 17:00hrs. Not having seen him for a few months, we arranged to meet him, along with his crew that evening and booked a table at a restaurant for dinner to do so. Other than sending him a series of text messages of our delay for him to receive on landing, we were unable to inform him that we would not make dinner that evening. This was very disappointing and upsetting, as we had arranged the flight for this reason. With the benefit of hindsight, we would have been better served driving to Gatwick airport and flying with our son.

12. Having re-boarded the aircraft, it departed Manchester at 17:42hrs and landed at Banjul airport at 23:30hrs. The aircraft was scheduled to arrive at Banjul at 17:20hrs. This represents an arrival delay of 6 hours 10 minutes.

13. As the flight distance from Manchester to Banjul is more than 3500km, under EC Regulation 261/2004, each passenger is entitled to 600 euros compensation from the Defendant.

14. I made early formal complaint to the Defendants resort representative on 8 March 2016, by completing “Customer Feedback Form” serial No 150086, which I produce as (exhibit NF3). I have received no response whatsoever from the Defendant to that completed form.
15. We arrived back in the UK on 12 March 2016. At 08:54hrs on 15 March 2016, I submitted by e-mail to the Defendant, a formal request for compensation in accordance with EC Regulation 261/2004. This claim is produced as (exhibit NF4).

16. The Defendant responded by e-mail on the same day at 09:36hrs, (exhibit NF5). The Defendant denied the claim on the following terms; A full investigation has been carried out to find out what the cause of the delay was and we can see that the flight was delayed due to circumstances that were completely beyond our control. This investigation shows that the root cause of the delay was due to adverse weather.

17. I responded at 16:19hrs the same day, (exhibit NF6). I asked if it was the Defendants final decision on the matter and pointed out that the decision was perverse and totally at odds with the reality of what had occurred on 4 March 2016.

18. The Defendant replied at 10:47hrs on 17 March 2016, (exhibit NF7) and the Defendant failed to answer the question asked, namely; “Was this their final decision on the matter”. Within that same exhibit I responded at 11:21hrs, asking for an answer to my question.

19. Having received no reply, I sent a further e-mail (exhibit NF8) at 11:12hrs on 19 March 2016, seeking an answer to my question, I received no reply.

20. After further telephone requests, on 24 March 2016, the Defendant acknowledged receipt of my initial witness statement and exhibits NF1-10 and confirmed that they stood by their original decision, (exhibits NF11 -12).

21. It is respectfully submitted, that in view of the factual matters and the following reasons, that the Defendants response of; “A full investigation has been carried out to find out what the cause of the delay was and we can see that the flight was delayed due to circumstances that were completely beyond our control. This investigation shows that the root cause of the delay was due to adverse weather”, is totally disingenuous, misleading and untruthful.

22. I produce (Exhibit NF9) which is a true and accurate copy of the “METAR” (Meteorological Actual Report) and “TAF” (Terminal Aerodrome Forecast) issued by the Meteorological Office, for Manchester Airport (Code: EGCC). The time validity for these reports is from 00:00hrs on 3 March 2016 to 23:59hrs the same day.

23. On the “TAF” section of the report at page 4, it can be seen that a Meteorological forecast was issued at 04:59hrs on 3 March 2016, some 30 hours before my flight. The validity period of the forecast report was from 06:00hrs on 3 March 2016, until 12:00hrs on 4 March 2016; this encompasses a period in excess of 24 hours before my flight. On the penultimate and last line of the report it states; TEMPO 0400/0412 2000 RASN BKN004 PROB30 TEMPO 0406/0412 0800 SN BKN001=. Decoded this report reads; Temporarily between 00:00hrs on 4 March until 12:00hrs on 4 March visibility will be reduced to 2000metres with rain and snow with cloud at 400 feet. There is a 30% probability that temporarily between 06:00hrs on 4 March and 12:00hrs on 4 March, visibility will reduce to 800metres with snow and cloud at 100 feet.

24. Each of the further four “TAFS” issued by the Meteorological Office throughout the rest of 3 March 2016, at 11:02hrs, 13:29hrs, 17:03Hrs, 23:00hrs, make it abundantly clear that Manchester Airport may be subject to snow and ice meteorological conditions. In (exhibit NF10) true and accurate copies of the “METARS” and “TAFS” issued by the Meteorological Office for the time period 00:00hrs on 4 March 2016 to 23:59hrs on 4 March 2016, there are two further “TAF” warnings before my flight, issued at 05:03hrs and 08:04hrs of the meteorological conditions which could be expected at Manchester Airport.
25. The cause of the delay for our flight therefore, it is respectfully submitted, is that the Defendant, its servants or agents took no or insufficient care / attention and or made no or insufficient preparation to ensure that the aircraft was prepared for flight given the repeatedly forecast meteorological conditions from 30 hours previously. By these forecasts, the Defendant had been given more than sufficient time to obtain or to ensure that their servants or agents had obtained the requisite supplies needed to deal with the number of flights it intended to operate that day in those forecast conditions. The Defendant manifestly and demonstrably failed to do so.

26. It can therefore be seen that the delay was due to circumstances that were entirely expected, foreseen and foreseeable, also reasonable measures required to prevent the delay were wholly within the control of the Defendant its servants or agents. The truth of the matter is that the Defendant, its servants or agents failed to take reasonable measures to prepare appropriately for the forecast meteorological conditions.

27. At no point or time on 4 March 2016, was Manchester Airport closed to aircraft due to adverse weather. The photograph (exhibit NF 2) demonstrates that snow was not an issue; the only issue being that the Defendant failed in its duty of care to me, in that it failed to respond appropriately to the forecast meteorological conditions.

28. Further, one could reasonably expect wintry conditions at the latitude of Manchester Airport, at the time of the delay; in winter. The meteorological conditions at Manchester Airport on that day were not “extraordinary circumstances”.

29. It has been held (Paterson v British Airways) that de-icing is part and parcel of the everyday aircraft procedures that one would expect to see at an airport, in the winter, at the latitude of Manchester Airport. De-icing is an indispensable procedure for the operation of an aircraft; airlines are regularly faced with situations arising from the use of de-icing and de-icing causing delay is not outside of the normal categories of airport services. The de-icing of an aircraft therefore cannot be classed as “extraordinary circumstances”.

30. The unconscionable flight delay was entirely predictable and entirely preventable by the Defendant, its servants or agents, having exercised reasonable measures, care and or attention to the meteorological reports and forecasts (which were available 30 hours before our flight) and acted accordingly upon them. I seek to rely upon the reported case of Siewert, judgment being handed down on 14 November 2014.
It was stated; By way of derogation from Article 5(1) of Regulation No 261/2004, recitals 14 and 15 and Article 5(3) of that regulation state that an air carrier is to be exempted from its obligation to pay passengers compensation under Article 7 of Regulation No 261/2004 if the carrier can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken, namely circumstances which are beyond the air carrier’s actual control (judgment in McDonagh, EU:C:2013:43, paragraph 38 and the case-law cited).
Article 5(3) of Regulation No 261/2004 must be interpreted strictly since it constitutes a derogation from the principle that passengers have the right to compensation (judgment in Wallentin-Hermann, C‑549/07, EU:C:2008:771, paragraph 20). Moreover, not all extraordinary circumstances confer exemption and, in addition, the onus is on the air carrier seeking to rely on them to establish that they could not, on any view, have been avoided by measures appropriate to the situation — that is to say, by measures which, at the time those extraordinary circumstances arise, meet, inter alia, conditions which are technically and economically viable for the air carrier concerned (judgment in Eglītis and Ratnieks, C‑294/10, EU:C:2011:303, paragraph 25).

31. I would also seek to rely upon the Court of Appeal decision in Jet2.Com v Huzar 2014. Which assisted with defining “extraordinary circumstances”, as; something that the nature or origin of the event or events which cause the problem must not be inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the carrier and that it should be beyond its actual control. The de-icing of aircraft is a normal inherent event in the operating of aircraft, in winter, at the latitude of Manchester Airport. The de-icing of aircraft is an activity, which is wholly within the control of the Defendant its servant or agent.

32. The Defendant having had sufficient time and opportunity, has never proven or submitted any evidence whatsoever, to suggest that they took any steps to avoid the situation, which caused the delay, which was totally within their control or that of their servants or agents. Also, as previously explained the delay was entirely avoidable and preventable by the Defendant and or its servants or agents taking the reasonable measure of acting on the meteorological forecasts and ensuring that sufficient de-icing fluid and vehicles were available for their scheduled flights on that day. The weather was not the cause of the delay but rather the Defendants failure to prepare for those conditions, which are usual conditions in winter, at airports at that latitude. It is therefore respectfully submitted that no “extraordinary circumstances” existed and that compensation is due to the Claimant in accordance with the regulations.

33. I would therefore respectfully ask that the Court order the Defendant to pay me the sterling equivalent of 1200 euros compensation in accordance with EU Regulation 261/2004 and the costs of this action.

34. Alternatively, the Defendant failed in its duty of care to my wife and I, this caused us to suffer stress, worry, anxiety and loss of enjoyment of our holiday. I seek compensation from the Defendant of £950 for the breach of duty of care and the costs of this action.

I believe that the facts stated in this statement are true

Profile photo of Glenavil
Member

This was their response to the above and the exhibits;

Without Prejudice
31 March 2016

Our Reference:
261/JP

Mr and Mrs N v Thomas Cook Airlines Limited
Dear Sirs,

We refer to your email dated the 28 March 2016 and your telephone conversation today with Rebecca Symondson-Powell.

Firstly may we apologise for the delay to your flight, and the inconvenience this has caused you, further we are sorry that you are disappointment with the service you received from our customer relations department in response to your complaint.

Due to your unfortunate experience to date we are keen to resolve your claim swiftly and avoid the need for issuing court proceedings.

We have now investigated the circumstances of your flight delay and can confirm that you and your wife are entitled to compensation for the sterling equivalent of 600 euros each pursuant to Article 4 (3) and Article 7 of EC Regulation 261/2004 (the Regulation).

Therefore we hereby offer to settle your claim for the sum of £951.76 (£475.88 each) in full and final settlement of your claim for compensation, this is the sterling equivalent of 1200 euros based on the current exchange rate.

We note that you incurred the addition £20 expense for the taxi waiting for you in resort as a result of the delay, we are happy to include this in addition to the compensation offer.

Therefore, we would be grateful if you could please respond to Joanna Powell at *** to confirm if you are willing to accept our offer. Should our offer be accepted we would be grateful if you could please ensure that all payment details are included within your response to prevent any delays with payment.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Kind Regards
Joanna Powell
Legal Counsel

The Thomas Cook Business Park Coningsby Road
Peterborough
PE3 BSB

Thomas Cook Airlines limited
Hangar One
Western Maintenance Area Runger Lane
Manchester Airport
M90 SFL

Let’s go

Profile photo of DerekP
Member

Thanks very much for posting all this detail – I think others may find it very helpful if they want to write effective cases for compensation.

These days, I don’t often fly anywhere other than on business, i.e. between Birmingham and either Glasgow or Edinburgh. As I get paid for travelling time, I can afford to be somewhat stoic about delays. Nonetheless, I do find it annoying that the airline often “drip feeds” information to passengers, e.g. a foreseeable delay of several hours will be announced by releasing an incremental series of ~30 minute delays to the flight ETD, rather than by giving us the bad news all in one go. I’d much prefer the latter, especially if I have colleagues expecting to meet me at the airport – or at the hotel after my arrival.

Profile photo of Dave Bartholomew
Member

Thanks for posting this Glen, something I have read with great interest. I’ll certainly give this a go.

Profile photo of Glenavil
Member

This was their response to the above and the exhibits;

Without Prejudice
31 March 2016

Our Reference:
261/JP

Mr and Mrs N v Thomas Cook Airlines Limited
Dear Sirs,

We refer to your email dated the 28 March 2016 and your telephone conversation today with Rebecca *********

Firstly may we apologise for the delay to your flight, and the inconvenience this has caused you, further we are sorry that you are disappointment with the service you received from our customer relations department in response to your complaint.

Due to your unfortunate experience to date we are keen to resolve your claim swiftly and avoid the need for issuing court proceedings.

We have now investigated the circumstances of your flight delay and can confirm that you and your wife are entitled to compensation for the sterling equivalent of 600 euros each pursuant to Article 4 (3) and Article 7 of EC Regulation 261/2004 (the Regulation).

Therefore we hereby offer to settle your claim for the sum of £951.76 (£475.88 each) in full and final settlement of your claim for compensation, this is the sterling equivalent of 1200 euros based on the current exchange rate.

We note that you incurred the addition £20 expense for the taxi waiting for you in resort as a result of the delay, we are happy to include this in addition to the compensation offer.

Therefore, we would be grateful if you could please respond to Joanna …..at joanna…………. to confirm if you are willing to accept our offer. Should our offer be accepted we would be grateful if you could please ensure that all payment details are included within your response to prevent any delays with payment.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Kind Regards
Joanna Powell
Legal Counsel

The Thomas Cook Business Park Coningsby Road
Peterborough
PE3 BSB

Thomas Cook Airlines limited
Hangar One
Western Maintenance Area Runger Lane
Manchester Airport
M90 SFL

Let’s go

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Whilst I am very happy indeed that Glenavil’s contributions will be aired again, and be so relevant, it does seem slightly remiss not to have extended this Conversation piece with a direct reference to the successful outcome of Glenavil’s tactics.

If he had not been kind enough to re-post them then this would be a very much poorer Conversation. Given the few days since Glenavil’s post has Which? Travel asked for details of the de-icing delays at Manchester, number of trucks available for it, passenger and flight numbers delayed.

That information would be de icing on the cake.