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Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

Edinburgh, United...
posts: 6
reviews: 18
Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

Vueling Airlines SA cancelled our flight because of a strike by French Air Traffic Controllers though they didn't cancel all of their flights from Barcelona passing through French air space.

Their representative at the airport told us that Vueling would not pay for accommodation between then and their next scheduled flight to our destination - 3 nights - a factor in our deciding to fly to the closest alternative with easyJet later that day.

Not having to hand a copy of EC 261/2004, I was unaware of the true situation until pointed in the right direction by an easyJet pamphlet and then some research once I got home.

I have still not received the refund for our tickets and my claims for compensation are fobbed off with "there was a strike and we don't need to pay". My complaints about their representative lying to us are just ignored.

Can I sue them in the UK courts or, since they are a Spanish company, would it have to be in Spain?

28 replies to this topic
Amsterdam, The...
Destination Expert
for Amsterdam
posts: 23,427
reviews: 73
1. Re: Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

I don't think you can get compensation because the French went on strike again. I believe this is classed as an extraordinary circumstance beyond the control of the airline.

If they managed to get some flights through then this may have been because not all ATC was down (perhaps partly staffed). I don't know and unless you heavily research it I'm not sure how you could.

The airline should refund your flight IMO but good luck getting compensation for collateral losses. This is still a grey area.

London, United...
posts: 15,575
reviews: 23
2. Re: Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

I think he is not due comp as this is due to extra ordinary circumstances, ie the airline could have done nothing reasonable to prevent it.

I think he was due duty of care though, someone will confirm, and if he did not use the unused legs of his ticket ie went easy jet and paid for it, he should be refunded. However as he flew easy jet that day, then no accommodation was used, so it appears moot on duty of care.

However someone more expert on the ec regulations will confirm, but from what I can see, he is only due the unused ticket cost back under the regs based on the events that took place.

Edited: 9:07 am, October 26, 2013
Edinburgh, United...
posts: 6
reviews: 18
3. Re: Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

If Vueling cancelled all of their flights from Barcelona through French air space then I would accept that the "exceptional circumstances" allowed for in the regulations was appropriate. However, they chose what flights they would cancel and I'd like to test whether they can still claim immunity.

Travelling The World
posts: 11,459
reviews: 17
4. Re: Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

"However, they chose what flights they would cancel..."

What makes you think that? All flights have ATC slots. What will have happened is that the French authorities were able to provide cover for some of those slots but not other as Ronaldo indicates. If the French could provide service for flight 123 but not flight 125, flight 123 would have departed but not flight 125. It was not a choice made by Vueling. It is also possible that the flights that did depart avoided French airspace, adding considerably to journey times and meaning aircraft weren't available for other flights.

But the root cause was the ATC strike and you will only waste time and money pursuing a claim.

Edited: 10:32 am, October 26, 2013
London, United...
posts: 15,575
reviews: 23
5. Re: Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

That was my understand to, it was not the airlines choice, but dependant on what the overall plan was for all flights going via French air space.

How are you sure vueling made the decision and that some of their flights did indeed go through French airspace and did not reroute?

I agree with the previous posters, I think flighting for comp when this is down to a strike by French atc is pretty pointless. There is a a lot of things the airline can control, but strikes by French atc won't be one of them.

Liverpool, UK
posts: 9,668
reviews: 14
6. Re: Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

Apart from pursuing a refund of your unused ticket I personally wouldn't instigate legal action - with the French ATC strike as the primary cause of the problem the chances of success are low even if the airline had a choice over which flights they cancelled which is unlikely - as far as I'm aware the ATC give approval for the flight plan and the airline wouldn't have any choice over which flights to cancel.

London, United...
posts: 15,575
reviews: 23
7. Re: Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

I'm not sure what the big deal is that would dictate legal action to be honest. The airline may have managed it poorly, but the op got a flight later that day, there was an atc strike which impacted many, many people, and I would think a refund for the unused portion of the ticket would be sufficient.

Why the need to sue the airline in this instance and take legal action against them?

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 16,153
reviews: 5
8. Re: Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

"Their representative at the airport told us that Vueling would not pay for accommodation between then and their next scheduled flight to our destination "

Actually Vueling is obliged to do this. While strikes do count as extraordinary circumstances, that only exempts the airline from paying cash compensation. They must still provide Duty of Care, i.e. meals, refreshments and hotel accomodation until they can reaccomodate you on a flight to your destination.

Edited: 12:07 pm, October 26, 2013
Travelling The World
posts: 11,459
reviews: 17
9. Re: Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

"Actually Vueling is obliged to do this."

Yes, and had the OP chosen to wait until Vueling could re-accommodate him and paid for hotels and food out of his own pocket, he would have a valid claim for reimbursement from Vueling. However, since the OP chose to make his own arrangements and traveled home the same day, he incurred no such expenses (except for perhaps a meal) and so really doesn't have a claim there either.

The principle was established during the ash cloud that if you decide not to take the airline's offer of rerouting/retiming and instead make your own arrangements their duty of care obligations end. This is what happened here.

He is definitely owed a refund of the Vueling ticket but nothing else.

posts: 252
10. Re: Can I sue Vueling Airlines SA in the UK?

"Can I sue them in the UK courts or,since they are a Spanish company, would I have to sue them in Spain"? The OP has had eight responses to his post but not one of them has answered that enquiry.How strange.

Edited: 12:54 pm, October 26, 2013
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