Virgin Atlantic passengers demand compensation for ‘nightmare’ 33-hour flight delay
Nearly a hundred travellers on a London Gatwick-bound Virgin Atlantic flight, set to depart McCarran International Airport at 4.30pm on Monday, suffered a series of "excruciating” delays before it finally departed on Wednesday morning.
Passengers were initially told the delay was due to a problem with the air-conditioning before later being informed that there was an issue with the rudder of the plane. Hotel accommodation was provided for the passengers on Monday night, but they were forced to spend Tuesday evening at the airport terminal due to constant plane delays through the night, the Evening Standard reports.
“It was an absolute nightmare for everyone involved. The delays were unacceptable and excruciating as they were pushed back and back and people had to sleep in the airport,” Michael Jazanovich, a banker from Crouch End, London, told the Evening Standard.
Return flights to Las Vegas can cost around £1,000 but each passenger has been offered the standard €600 (£435) in compensation for the delay under the European Union's Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. Frustrated passengers have set up a Facebook group page in order to take joint legal action against the airline and are prepared to file a lawsuit together if they are not given sufficient compensation.
“We have lost our time and had an awful experience,” said Mr Jazanovich. “We deserve a lot more and by taking a group action we can work together to get this. We could share a lawyer, we are willing to take it as far as we need to,” he added.
Virgin has apologised for the inconvenience caused by the delay that followed the technical problem which was “extended because of strong winds around the McCarran airport area which hampered the use of the high-level machinery required to complete the repair,” the statement said.
“All our customers were provided with hotel accommodation and meals while they waited, and they will be reimbursed for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses.
“In addition we will be providing eligible customers with EU compensation to the equivalent of €600 per person. Customers should visit virginatlantic.com/euclaimapplication for advice about eligibility, details of the claims process and to download an application form,” the statement said.
“However there is no entitlement to compensation [under the EU regulation] if the cause of the cancellation was due to extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken, this includes cancellations in the event of weather conditions, political instability, unexpected flight safety shortcomings, security risks and strikes”, the Virgin Atlantic website states.
Telegraph Travel asked Virgin Atlantic whether it would consider passengers’ request for additional compensation beyond the €600 and how long it would take for passengers to receive compensation, but the airline had no further comment.
Last year, Virgin Atlantic was forced to pay €60,000 (£43,467) to a group of 101 passengers on a 2012 flight from Orlando, Florida to London which was delayed for more than 26 hours, following a problem with the fire detector circuit of the plane. The court ruling at the time stated that airlines cannot reject compensation claims for delays caused by technical issues.
Earlier this year, airlines were told by a judge in a test case that they cannot keep passengers waiting for compensation for delayed flights. The case involved a passenger claiming €400 in compensation after a Jet2 flight was delayed by nearly seven hours in 2012. The airline had applied to have the claim delayed for a second time, but a judge ruled in the passenger’s favour, concluding “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
At the time, Marek Janetzke, managing director of flightright, a website offering compensation claims advice, said he believed that Britons alone are missing out on nearly £500m in compensation for delayed and cancelled flights each year, "a staggering amount of money.”
However, Telegraph Travel's consumer expert Nick Trend said the airlines are not solely to blame.
"The reason it has taken so long - more than a decade - for passengers who are delayed to know what their rights really are is because, as well as setting the levels of compensation far too high, the EU failed to draw up regulations properly in the first place," he said.