Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia May 2008
Well they did. They canceled her flight to Prague, and then a few days later they cancelled her flight to Krakow. I didn't believe this was possible. All the planning...all the time...all wasted. Angry, I called Skyeurope. They offered me a refund in the amount of $30 for Prague and $80 for Krakow. If I took their offer, then rebooked the Attaché on different airline, the tickets would be nearly $300 dollars each (I was much closer to the departure date and you know how airfares go up exponentially as the departure nears). So I refused to accept their refund, dug through my handy copy of EU Airline Passenger Rights, and began to wage a war. What I was seeking is what the EU Airline Passenger Rights Regulation guarantees in the event of a cancelled flight: alternate transportation. I wanted Skyeurope to fly the Attaché to Prague, and Krakow even if they flew her on Austrian, Czech, or Poland Airlines.
Well, to make a long story short, Skyeurope did not fly the Attaché to Prague or Krakow. Our trip was severely impacted (she rode in the car some, and took the train). But for me, the matter was not over. Skyeurope had screwed us big time, and I wasn't going to leave it alone. I took the matter up with the European Commission of Passenger Rights in Brussels, the Slovak Trade Inspectorate, and the Enforcement Division of the Austrian Transportation Authority. I'll spare you the whole story, but it got ugly, and it took the kind of time that only a guy without a job can afford. The only way for me to convey the magnitude of my effort to get some kind of reasonable compensation for these cancelled flights is to put it like this: imagine your worst customer service nightmare and multiply it by twelve billion. A few highlights from my journey through EU bureaucratic red tape include an Austrian official who told me: "Well what do you expect for using Skyeurope?" and then offered a solution, "Next time use a real airline like Austrian Airlines."
Ultimately, using the Austrian Enforcement Division as a mediator, I did get a pretty fair deal. I settled on a refund for the price of the tickets plus 4 roundtrip tickets on the Skyeurope network. It was a lot of work to get this, but ultimately I felt compensated. Well, it was worth it until a few weeks ago when I tried to use the Skyeurope vouchers. These free vouchers were not free at all! Skyeurope wanted to charge my 20 Euros ($30) per trip to use my "free" vouchers. Needless to say, I'm going back through the EU red tape again. I'll let you know how it turns out.
We did go on our trip. It was fantastic trip. So here begins a photo journal of a ten-day trip from Vienna to Prague to Krakow and back to Vienna. But before I get started, you must be wondering why the picture of Noodle up top? That's her waiting at the airport for the arrival of my parents...