It all started so well. When Dominey Jenner and her family arrived at Gatwick Airport on Monday to catch their easyJet flight to Dubrovnik, their holiday was off to a great start: a five-minute check-in queue, plenty of staff “working hard” to help them, and a quick trip to through security. All previous concerns about chaos seemed unfounded.
But as thousands of British travelers at UK airports have recently experienced, things can quickly get worse.
“If I believed in purgatory, this would be it,” Jenny wrote on social media from the terminal, where there were “long lines and food shortages.” She later shared a video of her plane, which remained stationary on the tarmac for more than four hours while there was only “a glass of water” and no food available for passengers.
It’s a daunting story for the hordes of families preparing to take off on their summer vacation in the coming weeks, made worse by the fact that it was through a text message that the Jenners learned that nearly eight hours later of his planned departure, the plane would not take off at all, and that there were no airport hotels with available rooms.
Here, Wimbledon’s Dominey Jenner tells The Telegraph how she was forced to save her own holiday after feeling “hostage” at the mercy of the chaos engulfing the aviation industry.
Mrs. Jenner writes:
The flight was EasyJet 6427 from Gatwick South to Dubrovnik on the 11th July and we were due to leave at 1:40pm. We were called to the boarding gate at 12:53 and when we arrived, we all checked into the VIP lounge.
At approximately 1:20 pm we were told that there was a technical difficulty with the plane and that the engineers needed to check it out. We were told to go back to the main hall.
I asked one of the ground staff if the plane was at Gatwick. He said, “that’s the information we’ve been given” and that it needed a maintenance check.
When I expressed my disbelief and my fears that we would see one delay after another and finally a cancellation, he just laughed. I soon found out that our plane was over Toulouse at the time; I found it using a flight tracking website.
We were called to the gate around 3:00 pm and finally got on the plane at 4:00 pm, already more than two hours late.
We were in the booth until around 4:30 pm, after being told that we were waiting for a space. We moved toward the runway and then stopped. We were informed that the ground staff had noticed some anomalies and that another maintenance check was necessary.
We received very few updates, none of which were significant. After a couple of hours, the crew brought us each a glass of water. There was food on board, but apparently they were not allowed to open the carts. There were some small children on board and a diabetic man, they gave him a can of Coca-Cola.
Several passengers, including myself, told the crew that a decision needed to be made. Was the flight canceled or not? We needed time to rebook flights and overnight accommodations. They just said they didn’t know anything.
People were very patient, but after about three hours on the track, you could feel the tension building. One couple had notified the crew that they would just be getting off the plane in half an hour; the stairs had been open the entire time. Some passengers called the police and later I heard that the Gatwick police were about to come and escort us.
At about 8:30 pm, almost seven hours after we were supposed to leave, the staff finally agreed to give us some food, but just as they were, buses arrived to take us back to the terminal. We then waited around an hour to get through passport control, which was strange as we hadn’t gone anywhere. Our luggage did not arrive until midnight.
We had no help from EasyJet. It was a complete disaster.
We had to take charge to save our vacation. My husband waited at Gatwick to retrieve our bags. Took our girls (ages 10 and 13) home on the train after trying several hotels in Gatwick but they were all fully booked.
I had to change our hotel reservation in Croatia and book new flights, this time with BA, and a taxi to take us to Heathrow. Our car is still at Gatwick; after being stuck on the plane for so long, we couldn’t wait for the parking staff to pick it up. We finally made it to Dubrovnik on Tuesday night, but now we have £1,580 out of pocket.
I will obviously seek a refund for our canceled flights. We decided to try to complete our trip due to all the work that goes into preparing for the holidays. Whether they will compensate us for everything remains to be seen.
In response to Ms Jenner’s account, an easyJet spokesperson said:
“We are very sorry for the delay and subsequent cancellation of flight EZY6427 from London Gatwick to Dubrovnik, due to a technical problem with the aircraft operating the flight. Due to coach delays as a result of staff illness at Gatwick Airport, customers were delayed disembarking and although our crew did their best to minimize the impact of the delay by providing refreshments on board, we fully understand and We are very sorry for the difficulty this will cause. have caused.
“We notify customers directly of their options to rebook or receive a full refund, along with information on how to arrange this online or through the app. Unfortunately there were a limited number of hotel accommodations available in London Gatwick so we advised customers to find their own which would be refunded. Our team is reaching out to Ms. Jenner to apologize for her experience and offer any additional assistance she may need.”
I need to know
We explain your rights as a passenger if you too find yourself stuck on the track this summer.
Why are planes held up on the runway?
Aircraft can be grounded for any number of reasons, from mechanical issues, staff delays, security risks, bad weather, or air traffic restrictions.
How long can planes stay on the runway?
There are no strict rules on how long a plane can stay on the apron or on the tarmac, but the deadlines regulate what passengers are entitled to in terms of assistance and compensation (see below). As a guide, British Airways states on its website: “We will not allow an aircraft to remain on the tarmac (stands, taxiways) for more than four hours without you having the opportunity to disembark. This applies to both departing and arriving aircraft. However, the pilot-in-command may decide that there is a safety-related reason to prevent this from happening. If Air Traffic Control were to inform us that staying at or returning to the gate, or allowing someone to disembark elsewhere would significantly disrupt airport operations, then we would not be allowed to do this either.”
What are my rights while waiting for the departure of a delayed flight?
Anna Bowles, Head of Consumers at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Rules are in place to protect consumers, and we expect airlines to proactively provide passengers with information about their rights when flights are disrupted.”
According to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), airlines must provide the following to customers who are delayed on a parked aircraft or in the terminal:
A reasonable amount of food and drink (often provided in the form of vouchers)
A means for you to communicate (often by reimbursing the cost of your calls)
Accommodation, if you are rerouted the next day (usually at a nearby hotel)
Transportation to and from the accommodation (or your home, if you can get back there)
The level of assistance you will be offered depends on your destination and how long you have to wait. For short-haul flights of less than 1,500 km there is a period of two hours until compensation and support must be offered, for medium-haul flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km it is three hours and for long-haul flights of more than 3,500 km It’s more than four hours.
Can I claim the expenses?
If an airline cannot provide the correct care and assistance itself, passengers have the right to arrange plans on their own: keep each receipt and avoid spending more than reasonable to claim it. The claim process is usually done through the airline’s website.
Can I get off the plane and decide not to travel?
Ultimately, for some passengers, the experience of being delayed can outweigh the reward of reaching their destination. In this case, the CAA explains: “If you are delayed by more than five hours and you no longer wish to travel, then you are entitled to a refund.” If you decide to leave earlier, you will only be entitled to a refund if the flight is canceled (see below), or the usual compensation (see below).
Am I entitled to a refund if my flight is delayed?
According to the CAA: “Under UK law, airlines may be required to provide compensation if your flight arrives at its destination more than three hours late.” This depends on the cause of the delay and whether there are “extraordinary circumstances” at play. The amount of compensation will depend on the duration of your trip. For short haul flights of less than 1500km passengers can expect £220, on medium haul flights between 1500km and 3500km this increases to £350 and £520 for long haul flights (unless the delay is less than four hours when the amount is reduced to £260).
Be aware of the fine print though. On its website, EasyJet states: “compensation will be reduced by 50 percent if EasyJet can offer you a rerouting on an alternate flight to your final destination.” This again depends on your destination and how soon you land after your original arrival time.
For more information on flight delays and compensation, see our guide.
Am I entitled to a refund if my flight is cancelled?
“If a flight is cancelled, the airline must ensure that passengers are offered a refund or alternative travel arrangements as soon as possible,” the CAA’s Bowles said. “This may include flights on other airlines or a new flight at a convenient date. When a cancellation is made less than 14 days in advance, passengers may be entitled to compensation. When we have evidence that airlines are not consistently following the guidelines, we will not hesitate to take further action where necessary.”
For more information on what to do if your flight is cancelled, check out our guide.