Ward Bushee arrives at the airport in Sardinia to check in for his Vueling Airlines flight to Barcelona, only to learn that his flight left without him — four days prior. He says no one told him, but Vueling initially says it did.
Question: I follow your traveler advocate column in The San Francisco Chronicle, and am hoping that you might help my wife and me recover $1,362 from Vueling Airlines.
The airline failed to notify us of a canceled flight we had booked on Sept. 22, 2016, from Olbia, Sardinia, to Barcelona. We were stranded for the night of Sept. 22 in Olbia and had to book new flights on Sept. 23 from another airline to Milan and to our next connection, Stockholm, as well as absorb all the expenses associated with the mistake by Vueling.
Our communication with Vueling began as soon as we returned, and it was nothing but frustrating. It led to a series of fruitless communications with Vueling, which after months finally agreed to the refund and reimbursement for expenses. And then Vueling never followed through and we’ve heard nothing since.
I do hope you have the time to examine this and help us recover from Vueling Airlines. — Ward Bushee, San Francisco, Calif.
Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your canceled flight, and that you’ve had to wait so long for Vueling Airlines to refund your money. Vueling failed on two fronts with your case. First, it neglected to information you that it canceled your flight, and after it promised you a refund it didn’t ensure that you received the refund.
What isn’t obvious in the original letter you sent us is that your flight wasn’t actually canceled by Vueling — it was rescheduled for Sept. 18, 2016. But when you arrived at the airport in Olbia was the first time you knew the flight was rescheduled. The gate agent promised to refund the price you paid for your original ticket. Asking the agent to put that in writing might have ensured a quicker resolution of your case.
You asked Vueling for compensation three times, under EU 261, and it initially denied your request. There are three reasons why compensation for a canceled flight can be denied, and they revolve around when you were informed of the flight cancellation and how close your rescheduled arrival at your destination is to your original arrival date and time.
I’m sure Vueling denied your claim because it thought it had notified you. You insisted that it had not, and unfortunately for Vueling, EU 261 actually addresses this issue:
The burden of proof concerning the questions as to whether and when the passenger has been informed of the cancellation of the flight shall rest with the operating air carrier.
Vueling apparently went back to work and tried to find proof that it emailed you. It obviously did not, because that’s when it agreed to your refund. But just like when the original Vueling employee promised you a refund, you never received one.
This isn’t the first time we’ve helped a reader with a flight that Vueling rescheduled and failed to notify. Not long ago, Judy Weidel asked us to help her with this exact problem. It seems like Vueling didn’t learn its lesson.
After asking Vueling three times for your refund and not receiving it, you could have escalated your request to the executives at Vueling listed on our site. Instead, you reached out to us, and we contacted Vueling on your behalf.
Shortly after hearing from us, Vueling promised you would receive your full refund within 15 days. I’m glad we could help, and I hope Vueling finally resolves whatever issue keeps causing these notification failures. If it doesn’t, we’ll be here.