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Passengers take Aer Lingus to task over not getting what they paid for

Pricewatch: Airline gives a wheelchair user the economy treatment for business class prices as other passengers take issue with opaque compensation protocols and missing luggag

We have three different stories about Aer Lingus which have been – sort of – resolved.

The first is from a reader who flew with Aer Lingus to Toronto from Dublin in September and booked business class for herself and her husband. She did not, however, get what she paid for and on arrival at the check-in desk in Dublin was told there was no business class on the flight, only economy.

We’ll let her take things from here.

“This was a complete shock as I had booked business class for a few reasons,” she writes. “I am in a wheelchair and had a few health issues the previous year, which left me very nervous and also necessitated me to be able to lie down and have room to manoeuvre on a wider seat. Given that the economy seats are very awkward for a complete paraplegic in terms of comfort and the ability to access the bathroom and never being assured of specific seats, it was a no-brainer about booking business class as it was a long flight. We were travelling over for a family wedding, so I used some of the small inheritance received from my mam’s estate. It was between six of us, and after Fair Deal it wasn’t substantial but I felt I needed business class to be in a fit condition for the wedding. So spending it wisely was very important.”


She says Aer Lingus had advised her in the few days before the flight that the aircraft now being used was not their own but a different one but “assured us in four duplicate mails that the service would be the same. We also received a text message saying that the media services could only be accessed via your own phone/laptop etc. A duplicate ticket was issued by email and it indicated business class.”

She adds that “a second ticket did arrive the same day via email that stated economy but, given I had read the first one and it appeared to be the same on glancing at it, I failed to see the change”.

“I contacted Aer Lingus on my return from the trip in October and used the complaint form on their website and attached a letter outlining the detail of my complaint.

“An acknowledgment was received and a standard email issued that was so obviously a cut and paste reply that did not actually say anything other than sorry that the service wasn’t as expected but we hope you will travel with us again. They then sent me a survey to complete asking about my level of satisfaction with the complaints service offered. It was only when I replied to that stating that my complaint had not actually been dealt with and indicating again the content of same that I got a reply from someone who had obviously read the complaint.”

She says that she was offered €200 for some other issues that she does not detail and was told that they had “referred the matter of the business class up the line to be dealt with. I replied accepting the voucher but only on the condition it had nothing to do with the business class paid for versus the economy delivered. Since then I have not heard anything from Aer Lingus despite further requests by me via email directly to the customer service agent and also via the complaints form.

“To date I have received nada from them. I told them in the last email specifically that what I was looking for was the difference in price of the flight to Toronto between economy and business class for both myself and my husband. That’s not too much given that this is the essence of the problem.”

As she can see, the only other hope is the Small Claims Court, “which I am prepared to do, if necessary. My only concern with that is you have to be very precise on who you are actually making the complaint to/about and seemingly this can be very difficult when you are talking about a large corporation/business – I am not sure who that should be – is it director of customer service? Is it the CEO?”

It can indeed be tricky to work out who to contact when lodging an action with the Small Claims Court, but we had hopes we could save our reader the hassle and so went directly to the company.

A spokeswoman apologised for the inconvenience caused and said the case “should have been dealt with when the customer first contacted us”.

Our reader also contacted us to say a refund of around €2,000 was on its way to her and that she was delighted.

Compensation once again

Next up we heard from Keith. “Three of us booked a return flight from Dublin to Brussels, leaving on November 17th last year and then returning on November 19th,” begins his mail.

“The Brussels to Dublin flight was initially delayed and eventually cancelled. Aer Lingus organised a hotel and meal vouchers, and then a flight home the next day (via Heathrow).”

Keith’s understanding was that his travelling party was entitled to compensation of €250 per person as a result of the substantial delays they faced. “However, Aer Lingus told us that we were not due a refund as we did travel home,” he says.

His group tried a second time, “quoting the European Union directive EU Regulation 261 but it was declined again. We feel Aer Lingus are trying to make it look like we are claiming a refund of our ticket and not a claim for compensation,” he says.

He reckons that “only a small number of passengers ever pursue a claim with their airlines in situations like this and while I do acknowledge it’s not up to any airline to highlight this option, it does seem disappointing an airline will look to confuse the claim procedure. Surely if a customer is entitled to the compensation the airline should process the payment without the need to use brokers, who charge 30-50 per cent of the compensation.”

Aer Lingus said that it had arranged for money owed to be paid to Keith and his travelling party and apologised for the inconvenience.

Missing baggage

Claire recently travelled to Vancouver for four days to care for an aunt who had been involved an accident.

“On January 1st, I embarked on my Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Toronto with the ultimate destination being Dublin. Unfortunately, due to a delay with the initial flight in Vancouver, I missed my Air Canada connection flight in Toronto to Dublin. I was then rebooked on an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Zurich to Dublin.

“However, upon reviewing the schedule, it became apparent that the layover time in Zurich was an impractical 30 minutes. Despite my concerns and explicit explanation to an Air Canada representative at Toronto airport, I was advised to “hope for the best” that the onward flight to Dublin would be delayed so I’d make the flight and it was ‘my only option’.”

It probably goes without saying that she missed the connection in Zurich to Dublin.

“To compound matters, from Zurich I was then rerouted to Frankfurt, this time with Lufthansa, and, after a wait of five hours, I eventually made it home to Dublin with Aer Lingus.”

She made it home but her bags, which contained “both valuable and sentimental items”, did not.

“Despite following the very clear instructions on the Air Canada app to report the missing bag and it would then be delivered to me, I was directed to contact Aer Lingus, as it was the last airline Air Canada had placed me on. Ultimately, they are responsible for getting my luggage to me. Air Canada won’t speak to me and have told me to only contact Aer Lingus on the matter,” she says.

“Since January 2nd, I have contacted Aer Lingus’s lost luggage department 14 times and have been put through to a call centre located abroad. Each time I have called I’ve been told they are still waiting on Aer Lingus in Dublin Airport to confirm if my bag is there. They have confirmed my bag did not arrive on the Aer Lingus flight I travelled on but rather on a Lufthansa flight coming from Frankfurt. As Aer Lingus was my last airline, they are responsible for getting my luggage to me.”

Claire says that at no point has Aer Lingus “proactively contacted” her and they “still have no idea if my bag arrived on that flight or indeed what country it might be in. I feel like no one there is taking ownership of this and finding my bag.

“I travelled with two people on the exact same route with the exact same delays and their bags did arrive on Lufthansa and their bags were delivered to them last week. I’m really hopeful that the luggage is there but I literally can’t contact anyone to help me.”

We contacted Aer Lingus and were told that it had been in touch with the customer “but the bag is still missing so they are eligible to make a claim as it’s over the 21 days. We’ve let them know and sent them the information on how to do this.”

But there was a twist in the tale and while waiting to hear back from Aer Lingus, Claire travelled out to Dublin Airport and found her bag, which was being cared for – if that is not too strong a word – by Lufthansa.