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The Short Version

My flight within the EU is cancelled and I am stranded in a city. The airline offers me an alternative flight the next day, which I accept, necessitating a night in a local hotel. The airline ask me to arrange this for myself, and to claim the expenses at a later date, through their website.

Can I insist that they arrange and pay for it for me?


The Longer Version

A few months ago my easyJet flight from Amsterdam to Bordeaux was cancelled at the last minute - well to be precise, 90 minutes before departure - after I had travelled to Amsterdam all the way from Düsseldorf. The next flight to Bordeaux they could offer was three days later, which made no sense for me, as I was only going for the weekend. They then offered a flight to Lyon the next morning, and told me that, if I accepted it, then they would have no further responsibility towards me thereafter, and in particular I would have to make my own way to Bordeaux.

I accepted this flight to Lyon, which also meant that I needed a night in a hotel in Amsterdam. The attendant at the desk told me to arrange this myself through the easyJet mobile app (which allows for hotel bookings with booking.com). I didn't pay through the app, I just made a reservation, and I thought that it would be paid for directly by easyJet (this was my first ever experience of flight cancellation).

As it turned out, when I got to the hotel in downtown Amsterdam, I was told that they have nothing to do with easyJet, and that I'd have to pay for it myself - close to EUR 300 for the night! Good thing I had a credit card...

Claiming that money back from easyJet proved to be more stressful than I'd have liked, since they didn't bother to reply to my claim for more than two weeks, and I honestly thought that I'd have to get the Dutch enforcer for these things to show 'em who's boss.

It worked out in the end - hotel bill as well as compensation (which I wasn't banking on) - but not without chasing them, writing emails, and generally worrying about it. After hearing about other people's experience with flight cancellation, it seems that other airlines often organise the hotel for their passengers, as well as shuttle them there in a taxi, give them meal vouchers, and bring them back the next day, all organised by the airline.

These provisions are clearly written in the regulation 261/2004, although it doesn't explicitly say that the airline must organise this for the passenger.

if the airline clerk tells me that I have to organise my own hotel through their website/app and claim expenses later, can I insist that they do this for me, as well as take me there, give me meal vouchers etc or are they allowed to insist that I do this for myself?

  • 3
    As a practical matter, if they refuse to offer the care you're entitled to, you can't just grab them bodily and force them to do it. You'll need to make your own arrangements and hit them up with a legal fight afterwards. – Henning Makholm Jan 3 '17 at 19:22
  • @pnuts I'm not sure I agree with that -- the exact wording of Article 9 of said regulation is that "passengers shall be offered free of charge ..." meals, hotel and transport (with some conditions). Surely then, if they tell me to arrange it for myself, then they cannot be said to be offering it free of charge. Also, the passenger may quite reasonably not be able to make these bookings for themself; they may not have the funds to pay a last-minute hotel room, may not have a smartphone with which to access the mobile app, etc...but nevertheless the airline still have a duty of care to them. – Giuseppe Jan 4 '17 at 16:05
  • @Henning I suppose that's my real question...if they refuse to do their job, what is one to do? Who you gonna call? The police? The national enforcement body? Ghostbusters? Or maybe those soldier type dudes with those massive machine guns... – Giuseppe Jan 4 '17 at 16:13
  • You file a complaint with them (as you did already) or sue them in court. There is no magic "EU passenger rights" enforcement organization. – JonathanReez Jan 4 '17 at 19:46
3

You can insist, doesn't mean they will do it.

Per EU Law

If your flight has been delayed by at least three hours or cancelled then you have the right to compensation under European law. Under EU Regulation 261/2004, passengers are entitled to up to €600 (£509) in compensation when their flight lands at their destination more than three hours late.

In your case, Amsterdam to Bordeaux is less than 1500 km, thus you were entitled to €250. Yes they must also offer you meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation as appropriate whilst you wait for a rearranged flight and cover any transport costs between the hotel and the airport. There are no time or monetary limits on the provision of this assistance.

Ultimately although you cannot compel them to organize the accommodation, hotel, meals and refreshments I expect them to reach a reasonable compromise with you on the cost you incurred on organizing those for yourself, in addition to your €250 cash compensation.

  • Careful though, it happened to me that they didn't. I had the same exact situation (I was stranded for TWO days for an airline strike), and they didn't reimburse me anything. I contacted the airline, the airport, the authority of civil aviation... no one helped. – Noldor130884 Feb 6 '18 at 14:02

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