Stranded Britons are being denied compensation

Stranded Britons are being denied compensation despite having to sleep on beds laid out on airport floors as airlines are accused of ignoring laws that require them to support passengers (while boss of UK air traffic control ‘doubles his pay’)

  • Tens of thousands of airline passengers have been left stranded across Europe 
  • Are YOU stranded at an airport? Email: [email protected] 

Thousands of Britons left stranded by the air traffic control system meltdown are being denied compensation in what has been branded as an ‘international embarrassment’. 

Passengers have been warned they face waiting ten days for a flight home – costing thousands of pounds in accommodation – while others have been forced to sleep on make-shift beds laid out on airport floors.  

Travellers are running out of medication, missing hospital appointments and risk not being home in time to start back at school or work. Airlines have been accused of ignoring laws that require them to support passengers, including offering food, drink, accommodation and return flights.

At the same time, a loophole means there is no right to additional compensation because the disruption has been caused by so-called ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

It has led to industry leaders calling on the Government and industry watchdog, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), to step up to stop repeat offending airlines from ‘wriggling out of their legal responsibilities’ without consequence.

The chaos, which ensued for much of Bank Holiday Monday, one of the busiest travels days of the year, was caused by a ‘technical glitch’ sent by the UK’s National Air Traffic Service – the boss of which has reportedly seen his pay double. 

Around 790 departures and 785 arrivals were cancelled across all UK airports that day, plus around 300 more yesterday. As a result, the travel plans of more than 200,000 people have been disrupted.

The disarray comes as the boss of UK air traffic control, Martin Rolfe, has reportedly doubled his pay to £1.3 million, according to The Sun.

Meanwhile, travel consultant Paul Charles blasted the chaos. He told the Telegraph: ‘One flight plan corrupted the whole system. It is an international embarrassment that our whole air traffic system collapsed because of it.’  

Stranded passengers have been left to sleep on beds laid out on the floor at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Here is a view of the cot, pillow and blanket laid out for traveller Matthew Creed, 26, who became stuck at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport yesterday after his flight with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to Edinburgh was cancelled

Tens of thousands of airline passengers have been left stranded across Europe after suffering flight cancellations due to the knock-on impact of an ATC fault. Data shows at least 281 flights – including departures and arrivals – were cancelled today at the UK’s six busiest airports

Matthew Creed paid for access to KLM’s Crown Lounges at Amsterdam Airport in order to have a shower and eat some food, with the hope of being reimbursed for the cost. Pictured are travellers preparing to sleep in the airport yesterday

Last night it was confirmed that the failure stemmed from incorrect data being entered into the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) system.

The source of the issue has not been confirmed but last night Downing Street did not rule out a report that an inputting error by a French airline could have caused the chaos. 

Consumer champions Which? demanded immediate action from industry watchdog the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to force the airlines to help passengers. Travellers have spoken of being abandoned, with some forced to sleep on cold airport floors surrounded by cockroaches and without food or water.

READ MORE – Terrifying footage from plane flying through Mallorca storm shows passengers screaming and crying as extreme turbulence causes some to vomit 

The editor of Which? Travel, Rory Boland, said: ‘We’re seeing worrying reports of passengers being left stranded without support, and airlines failing to properly communicate with their passengers or fulfil their legal obligations.

‘In particular, travellers should be aware that their airline has a responsibility to reroute them as soon as possible, even if that means buying them a ticket with a rival carrier – a rule that some airlines appear to be ignoring.

‘Passengers should also be given food and refreshments and overnight accommodation if required.’ He added: ‘Passengers understand that this is not an issue caused by airlines, but are frustrated by the poor communication and lack of care they receive from carriers.

‘During travel crises we see repeat offending from airlines looking to wriggle out of their legal responsibilities knowing that they’re unlikely to face any real consequences for leaving passengers high and dry during periods of disruption.’ Mr Boland said the CAA should ‘stand ready to take enforcement action against any airline found to be failing in its responsibilities to passengers’.

Another disrupted passenger, Michael McDonnell, (pictured) a 28-year-old consultant from London, became stranded in Berlin with his partner Sarah, 28, for three nights after their British Airways flight was cancelled

Stranded travellers reported having to pay hundreds of pounds for last-minute hotels – if they were lucky enough to get a room, with thousands of families, including some with babies, being forced to sleep on airport floors

People at Palma de Mallorca airport waiting to board a flight, two days after dozens of flights were cancelled due to storm Betty

Tourists are stuck waiting at Palma de Mallorca airport just days after dozens of fights were cancelled due to storm Betty

He also called for Government action to give the CAA more power to hold carriers to account. Currently, travellers have no right to compensation beyond a refund if delays and cancellations occur due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

This is where the problems are outside the airline’s control, such as air traffic control issues or bad weather. 

READ MORE – MARK PALMER: The UK’s flight chaos is yet another travel foul-up… and with the worst possible timing 

However, carriers are still legally required to offer refunds or other forms of support. Importantly, this includes offering an alternative flight and support until it takes off. The airlines are also required to provide food and drink, together with hotel accommodation and transfers to and from the airport. 

Despite this, many travellers have been told to make their own arrangements without any promise they can reclaim their costs, which can run to thousands of pounds.

Craig Carmichael, who saw his easyJet flight from Fuerteventura in the Canaries to Luton cancelled, was told the earliest alternative is not until September 8.

‘I have had to rehire a car and then book another apartment… We can’t afford to stay here until next week or the week after,’ he said. ‘The airlines don’t seem to care… It’s been a complete shambles.’ Mr Carmichael, who is on holiday with his wife and three children, added: ‘I am going to have to beg, steal and borrow just to get the money.’

TV presenter Ore Oduba, his wife Portia and their two young children were unable to get home from Greece. Mrs Oduba wrote on Instagram: ‘Currently “stranded” in Greece with no flight home. No nappies and no clean knickers. EasyJet have cancelled all flights leaving till Sunday. But it’s OK. They’ve offered us a voucher for the next time we fly. Maybe we can fly home on that, magic carpet.’

Kirstie Rowley, 52, a payroll and finance officer from Rochdale (pictured with Barbara and Chris Rowley), was also travelling to Corfu on the 7.30am flight

Builder Ashley Weaver, 35, waited three hours for his luggage at Birmingham Airport after he and his family flew home from a £12,000 holiday in Orlando, Florida

A screenshot shows the lack of flights available to passengers still stranded in Palma

In Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, passengers were left to sleep on pop-up camper beds in the middle of the airport.

Matthew Creed, 26, became stuck at the airport on Sunday after his flight with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to Edinburgh was cancelled.

KLM booked him a new flight to Edinburgh departing at 9.50pm yesterday, however, the drama student had to spend the night at the airport while waiting for the flight.

Mr Creed, noting how it was ‘not ideal’ sleeping on a folding bed with ‘pillows and blankets’ in the airport, later found out that KLM had booked him a hotel but claims the air carrier failed to inform him of this.

Another disrupted passenger, Michael McDonnell, a 28-year-old consultant from London, became stranded in Berlin with his partner Sarah, 28, for three nights after their British Airways flight was cancelled.

The consultant was meant to fly to Heathrow Airport from Berlin Brandenburg Airport at 9.20am on Monday before his flight was cancelled.

Passengers wait at Stansted Airport, north of London, on August 29, 2023 after UK flights were delayed over a technical issu

Mary Byrne, pictured with Alex Ogden and Eiisha Mullaney was told her flight to Corfu was cancelled at the last minute

Many passengers were forced to sleep on the floor due to a shortage of hotel rooms

Passengers queue up at 3.48am this morning at Manchester Airport’s Terminal One 

Passengers queue for check-in in the car park at Manchester Airport’s Terminal One 

He said he received ‘very little communication’ from the British airliner before being notified that he and his partner had been rebooked on a flight leaving on August 31, stranding them for three nights.

‘They told us we need to give them a call to change and rebook our flight online, but we couldn’t get access online because the website wasn’t working,’ Mr McDonnell said.

‘We couldn’t call them as their line was too busy and then it would hang up.

‘We did end up getting through to someone and we got rebooked onto the next flight on Thursday morning.’

The couple returned to the city centre of Berlin and rebooked at a hotel they had previously visited for their bank holiday weekend.

He explained: ‘They (British Airways) didn’t pay for the hotel, we paid for it. We paid £150 per night for the hotel.’

Andy Bolton 42, Sandra Bolton 38, Lucie May Bolton, 7, and Jagger Bolton, 5, from Tarleton in Lancs give their experience the thumbs -down

Mike Pritchard, 40, a self-employed joiner from North Wales (pictured with his family), said: ‘We arrived at the airport this morning but have been told our flight is going to be tomorrow. They said it was because of the air traffic problems. So I’m having to pay for a hotel for the night. I can’t do anything about it, it is what it is.’

Passengers stranded overnight at London Gatwick Airport are pictured this morning

Scenes at Manchester Airport early this morning as queues build up at Terminal One

Passengers stranded overnight at London Gatwick Airport are pictured this morning 

Passengers queue up at 4.20am this morning at Manchester Airport’s Terminal Two

Passengers stranded overnight at London Gatwick Airport are pictured this morning

In a statement, British Airways said: ‘Like other airlines operating in the UK, we are continuing to experience the knock-on effects of yesterday’s NATS Air Traffic Control issue, which includes unavoidable delays and cancellations.

‘Customers travelling today or tomorrow on short-haul services can move their flight to a later date free of charge if they wish, subject to availability.

‘We’ve apologised for the huge inconvenience caused, which was outside of our control and thank our customers for their patience as we work hard to get back on track.’

Rishi Sunak said Transport Secretary Mark Harper would be talking to airlines about their responsibilities to passengers. EasyJet apologised but said it was abiding by the rules in terms of offering help and refunds.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary denied letting down customers, saying: ‘We are doing everything we possibly can to try and minimise the disruption to passengers and their families.’

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