Here is the story:
- My family (me, wife and two daughters) were travelling on flight EZY2086 from Tel Aviv to London on 11 Feb 2013.The flight was due to leave Tel Aviv at 19.25, but we did not board until 19.15. Boarding completed at about 20.00.
- The plane was stationary for a further two hours at Tel Aviv. There was no power on the plane meaning unbearable heat. The pilot provided minimal information, saying only that he was waiting for a mechanical component to be brought to the plane that would enable him to start the engines and the aircon. He implied that this was a standard procedure, but I know enough about aircraft to know that an A320 does not require such a device when working properly.
- The plane eventually left about 22.00.
- After an uneventful flight at about 02:30 (Israel time) the pilot announced that we would shortly be landing. I glanced out of the window and could see clearly from the landscape that we were not in the UK.
- Just ONE MINUTE before touchdown (at 02:40) the pilot announced that we were actually landing in Amsterdam to refuel. He said he was not sure he could land at Luton because of bad weather and that in any case he had run our of fuel. He said that as soon as we refuelled we would be on our way, but that we would have to wait (as in Tel Aviv) for the 'starter motor' to be brought to the plane.
- With the engines switched off we again sat in sweltering heat without any information for 90 minutes. My daughters discovered through phone calls and the Internet that there were no problems at Luton airport and that our 'arrival' there was being shown as 00.45 (02.45 Israel time) even though it was now 01:45 Luton time.
- After 90 minutes (now 04:15 Israel time) the pilot announced that 'due to a whole set of bad luck - mechanical failure, fuel shortage, weather and the fact that the crew now had exceeded their working hours', we would have to overnight in Amsterdam, but that we would leave 'early in the morning'. Yet I have since discovered from my cab driver - who waited in vain at Luton until 03.15 (05:15 Israel time) - that even at that time they were being told to expect the flight to arrive at 02:45 Luton time.
- The pilot then announced that there were no buses to take us to the terminal building, and later he said they had found one bus which could take 60 passengers at a time. We waited a further 60 minutes in the stifling heat inside the plane (we had been on the plane for about 10 hours in total). When we eventually got to go the bus we had to go out into the freezing cold.
- When we arrived in the terminal it was complete chaos. The local staff there said that there was 'nobody answering the phones at EasyJet' but that we could go to a particular airport hotel. They told us we would have to collect our luggage and pay for our own taxi to get there.
- The final straw came when we were told (at 04.10 Dutch time, 05:10 Israel time) that the flight would not leave until 15:00 Dutch time (16:00 Israel time) on 12 February.
- In fact the flight actually did not leave Amsterdam until after 17:00 on 12 February - arriving in Luton nearly 20 hours late. I found that out from other passengers - my party took different action (see below) which meant that we also missed out on the fun and games at the hotel where I understand some people had to wait a further 3 hours just to check-in.
- From the minute we touched down in Amsterdam my daughters were in state of total distress. They had only reluctantly gone on the trip because we had to attend a family bar mitzvah. My eldest had an important work meeting on 12 Feb and my youngest had already missed crucial days of school (final year A level) and could not afford to miss another day. They were traumatised and in tears. When we discovered that the earliest we would be leaving with easyJet was 15:00 we had no option but to try to find an alternative way back to London earlier (I also had to get back to work, and my wife had a hospital appointment on the afternoon of 12 Feb).
- We tried several options of early flights to London but they were all full or very expensive. We discovered a KLM flight AF5182 operated by Air France leaving at 08.00 (Dutch time) that had some spare seats but these were priced at 402 euros each. The KLM ticketing staff could see that my daughter were in distress and eventually offered us the tickets at a massive reduction of 230 euros each, which I paid. We took the flight and arrived at London City airport at 08.15. In addition to the cost of the extra flights I had to pay for the taxi that travelled to Luton in vain.
- When I checked my email after arriving home (there was no free wifi at Amsterdam airport and in any case my phone battery was very low) I discovered a message from easyJet (sent 02:58 UK time on 12 Feb) titled "Important travel information!". Here is what it said:
As you are aware, we have diverted to Amsterdam due to Luton being closed for snow clearance and as a result, our crew running out of available duty hours to continue from Amsterdam. Our colleagues in Amsterdam will assist you through the airport. Accommodation has been provided for you at NH Schiphol Airport Hotel, roughly 1mile from the airport. Due to the time of day, no shuttle service is available, so you are welcome to take public transport or a taxi. Please keep your receipt and claim back via easyJet Custom Service. We can confirm the arrangements for your flight tomorrow are as follows: EZY9988 Amsterdam to Luton, Estimated Departure Time of 15:00 Amsterdam time with arrival in Luton at 15:10 UK time. While the weather in Luton is outside our control, we would like to extend our most sincere apologies for the inconvenience this night stop will cause to your travel plans.
Yours sincerely, easyJet Customer ServiceIn fact I have discovered that not a single other flight into or out of Luton on 11 Feb was cancelled or even delayed due to snow (there was barely any snow that day). Nor was there any problem at any of the other London airports (Gatwick, Stanstead, Heathrow, City or even Southend). If there really had been snow at Luton then the pilot could have landed at any one of these airports (except City whose runway is too short for an A320). The problem was, as the pilot openly stated, they did not have enough fuel to reach the UK. And the inability to refuel quickly was due to the mechanical failure, as the pilot openly stated, that also caused the delay in Tel Aviv.
The reason why easyJet are trying lie about 'snow' being the cause of the delay is because this would enable them to avoid paying automatic compensation of 600 Euros per passenger under a 2009 EU regulation, that mandates such payments to each passenger delayed more than 3 hours (on a flight of this distance) where the airline is to blame for the delay.
I filed an online complaint to easyJet on 12 Feb and sent a recorded delivery version on 14 Feb. I asked for the money I had spent on the KLM tickets and the taxi to be refunded but I also had another urgent concern I wanted them to address. We travel to Tel Aviv frequently and have booked again for the whole family for another bar mitzvah on 7-10 March 2013. Due to the experience we suffered this time both my daughters now refuse to travel on those flights with easyJet. I therefore wanted to know if I could cancel those flights and get a refund.
I got an automated response to my online complaint saying that they would respond within 5 days. They never did. Nor did they acknowledge my letter (even though I know it was delivered). After several wasted phone calls to their 0845 customer services number we finally spoke to a 'supervisor' who simply trotted out the 'snow' excuse and said they would not refund a penny in compensation, and nor would they refund the cost of the next flight seats.
No apology, no compensation, no 'customer service' at all. Just a bunch of lies based around a bogus story which conflicts with the facts seen and heard by 180 witnesses on the flight. I also feel that the behaviour of the captain on the flight was extremely disappointing in failing to keep us properly informed of what was happening during the many delays.
I will now have to sue easyJet for my losses. I will be happy to hear from other passengers who were on the flight.