Consumer group Which? has reported easyJet to the Civil Aviation Authority over potential consumer law breaches, urging the regulator to investigate and take action to protect passengers and their rights.
The move follows claims that some families were left to sleep on the airport floor or buy costly new flights home after cancellations by the UK budget carrier.
Passengers told Which? they were kept in the dark about their legal right to compensation and the chance to be re-routed with other airlines after easyJet cancelled their flights.
The consumer body also voiced concern that disregard of consumer rights law by airlines has become so routine that it demonstrates a “systemic problem” in the travel sector, but the CAA seems powerless to intervene due to limited powers.
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “EasyJet has treated its passengers appallingly, but this is just the latest example of a systemic problem in the aviation sector – some airlines routinely ignore their legal obligations because they know they won’t face any consequences.
“With thousands more flight cancellations potentially to come, passengers face a miserable summer unless the CAA and government act on their promises to stamp out consumer rights abuses.
“A major overhaul is desperately needed, so the government must give the CAA stronger powers so it can hit operators with heavy fines when necessary. Ministers should also drop their ill-conceived plans to slash compensation rates for domestic flights.”
An EasyJet spokesperson told Which?: “We provide customers with a leading self-service tool which enables them to reroute quickly and easily on alternative flights where their flight is cancelled. This includes the option to fly to/from different airports within the same country, if they wish to.
“Where we are unable to offer a direct flight on easyJet within 24 hours, customers are able to secure flights by alternative carriers via our customer contact centres, however, we generally advise passengers to book these flights themselves, as this offers more flexibility and is the quickest way to secure a seat on the alternative flight.
“In these circumstances, we reimburse customers for the full cost of the alternative transport. This information is clearly displayed on our delays & cancellations help page.”
The carrier added: “We clearly inform customers that if there are no easyJet alternative flights within 24 hours, they can book flights via an alternative carrier and we’ll reimburse them in full or they can choose a full refund.
“We clearly inform passengers of their EC261 rights via our notice of rights and delays and cancellations pages on our website, which are provided to customers should their flights be disrupted.
“Customers are able to submit an expenses claim easily via our expense form. We advise customers to provide itemised receipts to ensure these are processed as swiftly as possible.”
CAA head of consumer enforcement Anna Bowles said:“We understand and appreciate the impact it can have on customers when flights are delayed or cancelled. This is exactly why there are rules in place to protect consumers in these circumstances.
“We thank Which? for its continued engagement regarding compensation. We will review its latest evidence thoroughly and will respond accordingly.”
Meanwhile Boland criticised British Airways for cutting 10,300 more flights as a “mismanagement” of its summer flight schedule.
“BA has continued to promote and sell flights it could not fulfil, even as thousands of customers have faced the chaos of cancellations in recent weeks,” he said.
“Which? recently reported BA to the Civil Aviation Authority for neglecting to tell passengers about their right to compensation and failing to re-route customers at the earliest opportunity. The CAA must take action if BA fails to meet its legal obligations amid this latest round of cancellations.”