How Easyjet Nearly Put Grandma in the Hospital & Our Journey Home From Abandonment

I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, grandma is fine now and resting at home.  We finally got her back to Annecy at 2 am this morning after waiting at the airport for 17 hours and then driving all day from Venice. We hadn’t slept at all and barely eaten anything so we had to stop several times along the way, including a change of rental cars in Turin. Let’s go back to where I left off at 3 am when I last posted from the airport.

To recap, our flight was supposed to take off from Venice at 6:15pm Sunday. The flight was already delayed by 2 hours when we arrived at the airport. Then it was constantly delayed later and later, and at midnight they finally cancelled it. Our plane never made it to Venice to pick us up because it had to land in Verona because of the storm and then it stayed there (we heard rumors of a mechanical problem, but later we learned that the crew would have to work overtime if they brought the plane to Venice, and Easyjet did not want to pay them the extra money). After the cancellation, there was an announcement to collect baggage from the carousel. Between 6pm and 1am, that was the only announcement about our flight. We only knew about the landing in Verona because some people had smartphones and found information online. David & I didn’t check any baggage so we decided to stay next to the gate, expecting an Easyjet representative to arrive and give us hotel vouchers or at least some information about what to do.


After 6 hours of waiting, cancellato

Easyjet does not have an office at the Venice airport and the people who work on Easyjet flights are not actual Easyjet employees. They had no information to give us, and then they quickly left the airport after making the announcement about collecting baggage. The few of us remaining at the gate decided to go upstairs and see what we were supposed to do and that’s when we discovered that we had been completely abandoned by Easyjet.  We would not get any hotel accommodations or transportation, or even food or water. The only reason they had made an announcement about collecting baggage was so that we would exit the airport and be left on the street to fend for ourselves, because the airport is supposed to close after the last flight arrives and no passengers are supposed to be inside.

Luckily we quickly realized that we were being tricked and refused to leave the airport. This was at 1 am and we had no idea what to do or where to go anyway. There was no public transportation or even taxis at that hour so we would basically be standing outside on the sidewalk if we left. So it was about 100 people abandoned by Easyjet vs. a dozen cops who desperately wanted to kick us out and go home. For the time being, we won. We camped out at security knowing that at 5 am, passengers for morning flights would arrive and see us there.


Staying put at the end of the security lines

We stayed up all night, waiting for an Easyjet representative to arrive. She finally came around at 5 am but was completely useless (turns out she was just the airport’s liaison for Easyjet anyway). There are no Easyjet flights Venice-Lyon on Mondays and the flight on Tuesday was full. We could try to get on the AirFrance flight to Lyon that same morning, but it would cost 450€ and there were only 6 tickets available. There was no extra plane to come get us and take us home, but maybe there would be a bus. Maybe. And we did not want to subject grandma to a 10 hour bus ride where she couldn’t lie down and put her aching legs up. I think we got breakfast around 6am (one croissant! ooh thanks!) but that was all Easyjet was willing to do. [David just informed me that it was in fact the airport and not Easyjet who gave us breakfast.] Easyjet did not care there were children and the elderly or that we had no food or water all night. They did not care that we had to fight with the cops to even stay inside the airport even though we should have been given hotel vouchers.


Sleeping at airports is normal in the US, but in Europe they (try to) kick you out

We formed a wall behind the security lines and made signs denouncing Easyjet and chanted “Easyjet, un avion, pour rentrer à la maison!” (A plane to go home!) Curious passengers asked us what had happened and I made sure all the Anglophones coming through knew our situation (I was the only American/Anglophone on the flight).  Luckily I had my brought my netbook so we could get online and have contact with the outside world since most of our cellphones were dead or didn’t work outside of France.  I passed it around so that people could get information about contacting the press and hopefully getting some journalists to come to the airport.


Grandmas on the couch borrowed from a VIP lounge

And then grandma started feeling sick. She hadn’t slept much and barely eaten anything. There was nowhere comfortable for her to lie flat so she had to sit most of the night and the tension in her legs was really painful. She said she felt nauseated and might vomit. We asked the cops to call the doctor and they made sure we understood that we could not return if we left the area (the first aid station was on the floor below), but I think grandma’s health was more important than trying to get Easyjet to treat us humanely at that point. The doctor came up to get us and we followed her downstairs, saying goodbye to the other passengers because we probably wouldn’t see them again. We wished them luck and hoped they would make it home by the end of day.

Grandma is 78 years old with rheumatoid arthritis. She has trouble walking and takes several medications for age-related illnesses. Her blood pressure was really low and the doctor gave her oxygen and some other medication that I don’t remember because I nearly passed out. I was so hungry and tired and worried about grandma and just wanted to go home. I knew that our only option would be to rent a car and drive back to Lyon and that it would be a really long day and really, really expensive. Needless to say, I was almost in tears and wanted to punch someone.

Grandma got some rest while we tried to find an agency to rent us a car, but we had no luck. An extremely nice airport worker who pushed grandma’s wheelchair helped find an agency that would let us rent a car but we had to leave it in Turin, which is slightly more than halfway to Lyon. The man also said that all the other airport workers hate Easyjet as much as we do because they constantly strand passengers and it’s up to the airport to help them out afterwards even though they are Easyjet’s responsibility. He kept saying vergogna! (shame!) and made grandma laugh and we were so grateful that the Venice airport employees knew how awful our situation was and were willing to help us.

We drove straight to Turin, stopping several times since we hadn’t slept all night, and then had trouble finding another car to get us back to Lyon. The only company that would let us drop off the car in France wanted 567€. We could not return the car to Turin the next day because David needed to work ( he had already missed Monday obviously) plus it’s about 3 hours away. We had trouble with our bank cards too since they also needed to charge a 900€ deposit, which of course we did not have in our bank accounts. I don’t regularly have 1500€ just lying around in my bank account, sorry Europcar. American Express to the rescue though. I honestly don’t know what we would have done if I didn’t have my American credit cards with me. We took off again and made it back to Lyon airport around 10 pm and came across another extremely nice employee who took off some charges since the Turin office was trying to rip us off with fake charges on the rental contract. She got the final price down to 492€, of which 350€ was the ridiculous “abandon” fee for leaving the car in France and not Italy. It’s all Europe, so what the hell does it matter??? Lyon is closer to Turin than Venice!

We actually ran into another passenger at the car rental office and she said they did eventually get a bus to bring them back to Lyon, but that things with the cops got bad in Venice after we left that morning. The woman with the baby had been promised a hotel room since she was taking another flight Tuesday morning, but when she arrived at the hotel, she was sent away because they didn’t have any rooms. She was hysterical by the time she got back to the airport because  she had been lied to and didn’t know what to do for another 24 hours until her flight. Some other passengers were trying to help her and calm her down, and with the confusion of the Italian-French translations and the fact that everyone had been stuck at the airport for 18 hours already, something happened and the cops felt provoked and hit one of the passengers. And then the Togolese man, who had been extremely helpful acting as a translator the entire time, was blamed. Racist bastards.


Another passenger commented on the video: It was the French Consulate in Venice that got the bus for them to come home!

I am thoroughly disgusted with the way Easyjet and the police treated us. How can you abandon your paying customers overnight? How can you not make sure that people are taken care of? How can you just not care at all? David & I had already planned another trip with Easyjet in August (flights + car rental), but we’ve decided to never fly with them again. Now I’m dealing with trying to get reimbursed for the canceled flight, and losing money on the flights we definitely won’t be taking, and going insane trying to find out how to cancel my car reservation as well. I swear the “remove car rental” option does not exist even though their FAQ claims that’s all you need to do. I guess I can kiss another 245€ goodbye. How shady can you get, Easyjet?

We already had to pay nearly 1,000€ on the car rentals, gas and tolls alone so we can’t even afford the trip in August anyway. We may be poor but at least we have grandma, and we’d like to keep it that way. She had her best vacation ruined and her health damaged by the inhumane treatment. We spent a wonderful three days in Italy where she was able to see where her parents came from, something she had wanted to do her entire life. And to have it end with us being abandoned in an airport just makes me sick to my stomach. I am beyond frustrated that companies get away with abusing their customers like this. I’ve heard several horror stories of airlines (especially low-cost) treating passengers like dirt, and even though I’ve never had a bad experience with Easyjet before, this experience is more than enough to prevent me from ever giving them business again.

I hope the other passengers of flight EZY4468 have all made it back home safely by now. David said he did see some journalists at the airport right before we left on Monday morning at 9 am, so maybe our voices and frustration will be heard.

UPDATES:

1. I got a response from Easyjet that we should be reimbursed for the canceled flight (which I did receive), and a whole 120€ of the nearly 1,000€ we spent on rental cars, gas, and tolls (which of course I never received).  The only other response I’ve gotten is on Twitter (and it wasn’t even directed at me but Zetourist who RTed what I had said), when they said the flight was canceled not because they didn’t want to pay their crew overtime, but because it would compromise the flight’s safety if they worked the extra hours. OK… WHAT ABOUT THE SAFETY OF 100 PASSENGERS ABANDONED OVERNIGHT AT A FREAKING AIRPORT WITH NO FOOD OR WATER AND WHO WERE NEARLY THROWN OUTSIDE ON THE SIDEWALK AT 1 AM BY THE COPS??? What about the babies and children who were crying because they were so traumatized? What about grandma who nearly passed out and needed to see the airport doctor to make sure her heart wouldn’t stop beating?

2. Apparently this also happened 2 years ago with the same Venice-Lyon flight! This article from June 2008 titled “Les passagers du vol Venise-Lyon se rebellent” (in French, but I will translate it soon) says the flight was cancelled and the passengers were abandoned by Easyjet at the airport, the same as us! There were even problems with the Italian police. The major difference is that they eventually did get a hotel and food. We got absolutely nothing from Sleazyjet.

3. A month later, I have written to Easyjet again to request compensation of 750€ (250€ per person on flights less than 1500 km according to Regulation 261/204 of the European Parliament and the European Council) since they clearly broke the law by not providing information, food, water or hotel accommodation and there is no way the cancellation was due to extraordinary circumstances, though I’m sure they will try to claim that.  If they still don’t respond, I will get the Direction générale de l’Aviation Civile involved here in France and get compensation through them.

__________________________________________________

More reasons to hate Easyjet:

Easyjet denies handicapped man boarding

Easyjet abandons passengers as bad weather cancels flights

Easyjet leaves stranded 100s bound for Bilbao

Lawrence Weston family abandoned by Easyjet

Easyjet and Ryanair top complaints league

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In January 2010, I started focusing more on teaching and learning languages in general. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at the university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling (though now my trips are usually in Australia) and being an American abroad.

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