Posts tagged “Compensation claim

Finally, a win against CityJet

Last July, I flew in to Paris from Lima, Peru with Air France to connect with a CityJet flight back to London City Airport. I checked in as normal at Orly airport on 4 July and made my way airside.

No indication anything was wrong

At check-in there was no indication anything was wrong

Noting that the information board didn’t yet have a gate number, I took a seat and read a magazine. After a while, I thought it would be wise to check if the flight had been allocated a gate and was puzzled to see that fifteen minutes before the scheduled take-off slot, the flight had disappeared from the screens. There were no CityJet ground staff around and after asking a few airport employees, I decided to go back landside to find out what was going on.

At the check-in desk, I managed to find out that the flight had been cancelled “for technical reasons”. I was told that there was no way I’d be able to get back to London that evening as the Heathrow and City flights were all full. The CityJet employee was apologetic but when asked for a solution, gave a Gallic shrug and basically told me there was none. A couple of businessmen in the same predicament joined me and received the same treatment. Eventually, a supervisor was called who repeated that there was “no solution”. Eventually, after some heated debate, he acknowledged that it was CityJet’s responsibility to get us back to the UK and suggested that we go on standby for the following morning’s flight – but that it was possible we wouldn’t be able to travel as the flight wasn’t showing sufficient spaces.

To cut a long story short, the only way of a guaranteed return to London was to take the train to Gare du Nord and take Eurostar at our own expense – and under EU rules, claim compensation for the cancelled flight. To do this required the return of our checked luggage. At first, we were told it was waiting on the carousel, but it wasn’t and no member of ground staff knew where it was. Having booked a Eurostar ticket on the understanding I’d be able to leave the airport pretty much immediately, I then had a nail-biting wait for the luggage to be tracked down followed by a mad dash across Paris. I caught my Eurostar train with five minutes to spare.

My Eurostar journey was a very pleasant experience

My Eurostar journey was a very pleasant experience

Back in the UK, I submitted my request for compensation. Having been given a slip of paper at Orly with a handwritten note reading “ticket of the flight can be refound (sic)” I didn’t envisage any issues, even if it had been incorrectly dated as 4 June. I filled in the relevant form from CityJet’s website, attached scans of the relevant receipts and tickets and waited for a response.

Airlines should give you a written notification of a flight cancellation

Airlines should give you a written notification of a flight cancellation

Nothing happened for several weeks, until I received this reply on 21 August:

Dear Mrs. Hammond Johnson,
Thank you for contacting CityJet.
We write in response to your email regarding your flight incident and we would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused on this occasion.
Having studied your file, we inform you that the incident was due to a technical issue. Such cases are considered as extraordinary events for which we cannot be held liable according to the European Regulation 261/2004.
We therefore regret to inform you that we cannot agree to your compensation request.
We hope your subsequent journeys with us will be to your full satisfaction.
Kind Regards,
CityJet Customer Care

Not to be fobbed off, I visited the Which? consumer guide website, which suggested that there was a relevant court case appeal being heard regarding Jet2. Basically, if the appeal went in the customer’s favour rather than that of the airline, technical issues would no longer be classified as extraordinary and I would be entitled to 250 euros in compensation. I decided to wait it out. In November, I read online that the ruling was what I’d hoped for and so I used the Which? template to create the following letter:

24 November 2014
Dear Sir/Madam,
Reference: WX024
I am writing to you in connection with the above flight on which I was booked to travel on 4 July 2014.
The flight was supposed to depart from Paris Orly at 1710, but was cancelled fifteen minutes prior to take off.
When I tried to get compensation under the EU Denied Boarding Regulation 261/2004, I was told I was not eligible because the cancellation was caused by an extraordinary circumstance.
Technical problems are not extraordinary circumstances unless they are the type that you could not expect to encounter when operating a flight.
The decisions made in the Wallentin-Hermann vs. Alitalia case 2009 and Jet2 vs. Huzar case 2014 have confirmed that routine technical difficulties are not extraordinary circumstances. Although Jet2 appealed the ruling, the decision was upheld in November 2014.
I am entitled to the sum of 250 euros compensation and look forward to receiving the sterling equivalent within the next 14 days.
I attach a copy of the ticket and previous correspondence I have had with your airline,
Yours sincerely,
Julia Hammond Johnson

Ensure any written correspondence can be tracked

Ensure any written correspondence can be tracked

I posted it recorded delivery as suggested and waited. Weeks passed and I heard nothing. I sent an email to CityJet requesting an answer to my letter. The following day, I received this reply:

Dear Mrs. Hammond Johnson,
I write in response to your email from Saturday, January 31, 2015.
We take into consideration all the emails sent to you previously from our colleague Veronica on the 21 August 2015 regarding your request for the compensation of your flight cancellation.
At that time as per the European Regualtions EC261/2004 technical issue was classified as Extraordinary events which was not eligible for any compensation. Your compensation request was denied in August before the decision regarding technical issues was amended. Therefore your case was close in August 2014 and the decision was made in November 2014.Taking into consideration the European Regulations at that time you are not entitle to any compensation.
On this occasion we must deny your request for compensation.
Yours sincerely,
CityJet Customer Care

Unimpressed by CityJet’s attempts to wriggle out of their legal obligations, I sent this terse reply:

As you are well aware, the ruling in November applies to flights going back up to six years. You are therefore not legally entitled to deny my request for compensation under British and EU law. I am quite prepared to take this to court and to the media, neither of which would do anything good for CityJet’s image.
Please reconsider the request. Surely 250 euros is better than the negative publicity which would be generated. I have no intention of dropping this matter.
Julia Hammond Johnson

It did the trick. I received this email response almost immediately:

I write in response to your email from Tuesday, February 03, 2015 whereby you explain you have experienced a flight cancellation.
We are pleased to inform you that we agree to offer you the full compensation amount of Eur 250.00.
In order to answer to your request, we would be grateful if you could send us the following documents by responsding to this email
•Complete bank details including the IBAN (International Bank Account Number),
•Swift code / BIC,
•the full name of the Account holder,
•bank name including address
We are looking forward to read from you.
Yours sincerely,
CityJet Customer Care

It made me chuckle – the first line of Kaminee’s response giving the impression that no previous correspondence had taken place. I did as I was asked and was promised compensation within 21 working days. I am pleased to report that the money was credited to my account on 4 March, eight months to the day after the flight cancellation. Other than the fact that the value of the euro has taken a nosedive against the pound during that time, I am happy with the result. Together with the refund I received last July from Opodo (with whom I booked) for the unused flight leg, the compensation I received covered the cost of my train journey back to London.

What have I learnt from this?

Firstly, know your rights and make sure any correspondence you send quotes the relevant court rulings. Secondly, keep all your receipts and paperwork, taking scans to send if your complaint is made via email. Thirdly, where you have to use the regular mail, ensure you use recorded delivery so that you can prove your letter was received and on what date. Finally, I’ve decided that I won’t be travelling with CityJet again – any airline can be forced to cancel a flight, but CityJet’s deliberate attempts to avoid paying out compensation and its lack of integrity as a company mean that I shall choose to take my business elsewhere in future.