EasyJet 'misled' passengers during Gatwick shutdown

Chaotic scenes at Gatwick Image copyright Ryan Bateman
Image caption A total of 41 flights were cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday

EasyJet has been accused of misleading passengers over their legal right to hotel rooms after a suspension of flights caused disruption at Gatwick.

Forty-one flights were cancelled and 26 diverted due to a problem in the airport's control tower on Wednesday.

A letter in which EasyJet said it could not offer accommodation was described by compensation claim experts as a bid "to shirk legal responsibilities".

The budget airline said the letter was written in error by its contractor DHL.

DHL apologised for the "confusion and inconvenience this may have caused".

Under EU law, airlines do not have to compensate passengers for delays if they were the result of "extraordinary circumstances".

However the regulation - known as EC261 - stipulates passengers are entitled to refreshments and accommodation.

Image copyright Ryan Bateman
Image caption The letter said the cause of disruption was classed as "extraordinary"

Ryan Bateman, 37, slept in the airport after receiving the letter when his flight to Berlin was cancelled on Wednesday night.

He said: "I looked at hotels but the cheapest was around £750. Everything around there was gone.

"I just sat in the airport and resigned myself to sleep there. There was still quite a few families there and some of the staff were handing out blankets."

He added: "I got about four hours sleep before a stag do woke me up."

Paloma Salmeron, of compensation claim website AirHelp, said she was "outraged, but sadly not surprised, by the airline's blatant attempt to shirk its legal responsibilities".

Lawyer Coby Benson, of Bott and Co, said he believed the letter was "misleading and does not fully inform passengers of their rights".

He said: "It doesn't make it clear that passengers can claim [accommodation] costs back from EasyJet."

EasyJet said it had directly booked 200 hotel rooms and the letter was issued in addition to information on an app and a leaflet.

A spokesman said the letter was written "with good intentions" but "did not make it clear that accommodation costs and expenses would be reimbursed by EasyJet".

He said: "In order to prevent this happening in the future EasyJet will provide our ground handlers with a letter which makes it absolutely clear."

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