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Case studies - ONE-HOUR JOURNEY TOOK THREE DAYS

Airline offered just a €20 voucher after couple spent more than €400 trying to get home

Which? member John Lloyd and his partner Antonia Watt suffered nightmare flight delays and had to spend €443 of their own money on accommodation, meals and travel to get home from holiday.

As compensation, the airline, Vueling Airlines, offered just a €20 voucher for another flight with it, which had to be used within six months.

John had booked flights from Nice to Barcelona in May 2014. The return flight to Nice was for 24 June, but it was delayed. When they got to the airport he got a text to say it was cancelled.

The couple’s hotel booked them on a flight for the next morning, but when they got to the airport, it was first shown as delayed, then cancelled.

John queued at the Vueling check-in desk for three hours only to be toldthere were no flights to Nice that day or the next. The check-in assistant at the desk booked them on a flight to Turin to catch a train back to Nice.

Vueling booked the flight to Turin, but the couple had to find a hotel and book the train. In the end they flew to Turin and took two trains to get back to their car at Nice airport. They arrived in Nice on 27 June, having spent €443.42 and travelled for an extra three days.

John wasn’t impressed by the €20 voucher and asked for our help. We advised that he wrote to Vueling’s chief executive. He was given a full refund.

The law

Under the Denied Boarding Regulation, an airline must offer you help if your flight is cancelled or delayed beyond a certain point. You’re protected if you flyfrom an EU airport, or a non-EU airport and into an EU airport on a ‘community carrier’ (an airline with its HQ and main place of business in the EU). You must have a confirmed booking and have checked in at least 45 minutes before your flight was due to leave.

If a flight is cancelled, you should get two free calls, meals, drinks, plus hotel accommodation and transfers if you must stay overnight. You should have a choice of a full refund for direct flights or re-routing to your destination.

How much compensation you can get depends on flight distance and how late you arrived at the final destination.

An airline won’t have to give compensation if cancellation is caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’, such as a natural disaster or industrial action. These don’t include technical faults.