Although Christmas day was over, for Jill and Gary Stevens the holiday was only just beginning. The Essex couple had planned a fantastic trip to Naples, Florida on Boxing Day 2013, flying from London to Miami. What they had not planned for was the six hour flight delay that would see them spending the day at Heathrow Airport
At first their holidays appeared to be going without a hitch. Jill and Gary arrived at the airport, were called to the gate at Terminal 5 on time and were sitting comfortably chatting with their fellow passengers on the plane.
The couple were enjoying their Business Class drinks and were expecting to take off at any moment when the pilot suddenly announced that everyone would have to exit the plane due to a ‘technical fault’.
With the festive atmosphere still in the air, spirits initially remained high amongst the passengers as they left the plane and went back to the airport lounges.
“I think most people were just thinking ‘Okay, it’s just one of those things.”
But as the hours went by and people saw Boxing Day passing before their eyes, the atmosphere turned increasingly sour. It was five long hours before they were called back to the gate to board the plane and by that time Jill says that people were becoming frustrated.
It was Boxing Day and people were going to see their families. You would have thought that they would try to make the delay go quicker for them.
“There were families there having to keep their children happy for all that time and of course some people had had a drink the night before.”
Finally the passengers were called back to the gate to board the plane but after another 25 minutes the queue had not moved at all. Jill and a number of others began making their complaints to the staff that had been called in to deal with the upset passengers.
“The good will was disappearing fast; people were getting really fed up.
“By now we’d been waiting for five hours and now we were being made to stand in a queue for 25 minutes, even though the plane wasn’t ready. At that point the atmosphere was really quite nasty”
Passengers had to stand in the stationary queue for a full hour before they were finally allowed to board the plane, making their wait at Heathrow over six hours long. On boarding the plane, Jill and Gary were already tired of waiting, but by the time they arrived in Miami they were completely exhausted.
The couple had originally planned to pick up a car and drive over 100 miles to Naples, Florida when they were due to arrive in Miami at around 16:30 that afternoon. But when they arrived at around 23:50 that night – they were tired, it was dark, and as they weren’t familiar with the route, they felt it was too dangerous to drive.
Jill and Gary had to pay to spend the night in a hotel to sleep off their exhausting day. Not only did this cost them money, but they missed the first evening and morning in Naples that they had been so looking forward to.
Upon their return from their holiday, Jill wrote a letter to British Airways herself hoping that she would at the very least receive an apology from the airline. No such apology came.
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What Jill did receive was an email informing her that her claim to compensation had been refused because the plane had been delayed due to ‘flight safety shortcomings’ – a different reason to the one given to Jill and Gary by the pilot and airport staff at the time.
Jill said: “I was very disappointed in British Airways, I thought they handled it dreadfully. They told me that under EU Legislation they didn’t have to pay me compensation; they obviously thought that that would make me go away.”
What the airline may not have anticipated was that having previously claimed for another delayed flight against Thomas Cook by writing to the airline herself, Jill was aware of her rights as a passenger according to EU Regulation 261/2004.
As writing to the airline herself on this occasion had not been successful, Jill decided to contact Bott and Co Solicitors to deal with their flight delay compensation claim.
Bott and Co agreed with Jill and Gary that they were entitled to compensation and took British Airways to court on their behalf. To the couple’s relief, their claim was successful and they were each awarded £340 in flight delay compensation.
Not deterred from travelling at Christmas again, Jill says that she was ‘more than happy’ with the service Bott and Co provided.
She said: “I’d recommend them to anybody. I was happy for Bott and Co to take their percentage of the compensation because I’d rather get something back. I just didn’t want to see British Airways get away with it.
“And they haven’t; I have the money in the bank today.”