A LoyaltyLobby reader sent us a question regarding a Vueling meltdown situation he had seen his friend experiencing in Barcelona and what options there would have been.
Here’s the email from the reader:
Hi, my friend just get really an upsetting event s from flight delay in Barcelona airport. This make me wonder if you could give us a summary of where we need to contact to cliam our rights incase this kind of thing happen again in the future. I think if the route go/from US there will be another policy no? This s what confuse me. what should we do for flight in Asia, Europe, middle east, US if it got camcell like this..
“Vueling airline and Barcelona Polices are UNBELIEVABLE! We came to Barcelona airport this morning 8:50am to catch up our 11am flight to Hamburg, but have informed by Vueling that our flight is delayed to 12:30pm, then 1pm, then when we reached our gate, they say our flight is cancelled today, n they can only change our flights to 8 days later to 24th, seriously? 8 days delay?
N u think this is absolutely normal? N when we say this is unacceptable, YOU-Vueling staff just say, that’s all you can offer? N you are done with us, next passenger?? N when we refuse to leave without a good solution from you, YOU-Vueling staff just call police to use force to take us away from your counter? N BARCELONA AIRPORT POLICE staff, you came to yelling at me in Spanish, even when I told you I don’t understand what you are speaking, this is how you Barcelona Polices treating tourists here???
At the end we spent 12 hours in the airport, n we could only get half way flight ticket refund, the rest lost we have to deal it our own. N sadly there were huge crowds of people stuck in airport Barcelona from all over the world, the whole airport were filled with disappointed, frustrated and angry passengers… and Vueling airline & Barcelona airport, you have let all your customers down in a really ugly way, and Barcelona Polices, you are just sad!”
These policies vary greatly between the regions but the reader’s friend would have been covered here because of the European Union EC 261/2004 legislation that requires airlines to rebook affected passengers to their final destination at the earliest convenience and also has Duty to Care.
Vueling is LCC airline based in Barcelona that is owned by IAG, parent of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Level. There is very little customer support when the times are good and practically none during the irregular operations as witnessed above.
It is completely unreasonable to expect passengers to accept rebooking 8 days later than their original date. They should have NOT asked for refunds but rather booked the most economical flight from Barcelona to Hamburg and requested Vueling to reimburse the cost with any other additional expenses incurred due to the lengthy delay such as meals.
Vueling likely would have either not replied to the claim at all or denied it outright. The passenger then would have had option to either engage them via the National Enforcement body of Spain or Germany (I would have chosen the Germany – see the list below) or use one of the companies that handle these claims on the passengers’ behalf and take a cut of the payment.
Full service airlines have agreements with each other and usually rebook affected passengers when space is available. Sometimes (well – often) you may have to push and offer what other flights are available as airlines may try to keep you their own metal and delay you even more. Persistence (don’t scream though) and being knowledgeable usually pays off.
The problem is with these LCC that often don’t have interline agreements in place with full service airlines and don’t have daily flights between all destinations. When flights get canceled, there aren’t always good options to reroute passengers for days.
Consumer protection is good in Europe and OK’ish in the United States where you can always take the airlines to small claims court too. It is sometimes struggle in other parts of the world, however.
The customer service is Spain in general leaves a lot to be desired (see the recent Iberia Avios debacle). Considering that this is Vueling that likely uses the lowest cost contractors at the airport (the IAG standard – bad service everywhere), it is a recipe for disaster during irregular operations.
It is very unfortunate that very few passengers are still aware of their rights per EC 261/2004 for rebooking and Duty to Care. If all the affected passengers would exercise their rights, it would be cheaper for airline like Vueling actually rebook the passengers by their own than deal with the mess afterwards.
I would assume that majority of the passengers are fuming on Facebook and take their refunds that is exactly that Vueling is hoping for rather than having them to pay to rebook on other airlines and provide meals and hotels that they are required to do and which can be expensive.