EasyJet cancelled flight to see my dying mother

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My partner and I had an easyJet flight booked from Pisa to Gatwick to visit my terminally ill mother. EasyJet cancelled it 15 days before we were due to fly and told us we could rebook for no extra charge. When we tried to the website showed our flight as “sold out” rather than cancelled and there were no alternatives available for that week, so we applied for a refund. Four days later, we found the airline had reintroduced a flight on our travel date, but at more than double the price we had paid.
FD, Pisa, Italy

You had paid €214 for the pair of you, whereas a single seat on the new flight cost €225. Understandably, you suspect easyJet was trying to shed cheaper bookings and force passengers to pay more. The airline insists that was not the case, but there are many unanswered questions here. EasyJet’s notification to passengers claimed that the cancellation was outside its control and was an extraordinary circumstance (very rare things such as volcanic eruptions or terror attacks that absolve airlines from paying passengers compensation for cancellations). I asked easyJet what extraordinary problem it had foreseen 15 days in advance. It said: “We pre-emptively cancelled a small proportion of our flights in order to provide customers with advance notice to be able to rebook and minimise the impact on their plans.” In other words, it was a voluntary decision to do you a favour. Eventually it conceded that it had incorrectly declared the circumstances extraordinary. In fact, it told me, it was due to high levels of crew sickness.

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As to why alternative flights suddenly appeared on the schedule four days after you had accepted a refund, it claimed that they were there all along but had sold out so didn’t show up. Subsequent passenger cancellations allowed them to reappear. That’s odd because your original cancelled flight was labelled sold out and was still visible when you tried to rebook. EasyJet says that this was to prevent new passengers booking on to a flight that was in the process of being cancelled.

All this is very troubling. An extraordinary circumstance that wasn’t extraordinary. A cancelled flight that showed as sold out. Sold out flights that weren’t, ultimately, sold out. And a hefty bill for you. Only because of my intervention did easyJet say that, as a “gesture of goodwill”, it would book you on to a flight of your choice at no extra cost. Airline passengers with unresolved disputes can take their case to a dispute resolution body if the airline is a member or to the Civil Aviation Authority if it is not.

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