BUDGET airline EasyJet has been ordered to pay compensation to a couple they left stranded in Sicily.
Niall Caldwell and his wife Aileen had pleaded with staff from the airline to help them make their flight after they were met with queues at the airport.
The couple, from Edinburgh, arrived at the airport on the Italian island two hours ahead of their scheduled flight to London Gatwick last September.
However, there were long queues at the EasyJet check-in/bag drop area and only three members of staff on duty. They were then held up by further delays at security and passport control which led to them missing their flight.
Mr Caldwell, 42, managing director of Scots engineering firm Artemis, asked three times for passengers leaving on earlier flights to be prioritised but was refused.
After missing their flight, the couple were told by EasyJet there was no other flight for two days and they would have to pay for it themselves.
Mr Caldwell launched a legal action against EasyJet on his return to Scotland and a sheriff has now found in his favour and ordered the company to pay him £1,042.90 in compensation.
In a written judgment, Sheriff Tom Welsh QC blamed EasyJet’s “operational inadequacies” for the delays.
He said: “Provided the passenger presents for check-in on time for a confirmed reserved seat and is not at fault, he is entitled to compensation if denied boarding and the responsibility for taking reasonable steps to facilitate passage through the carrier’s own bag-drop queues and airport security queues, rests with the carrier.
“To hold otherwise would mean that bona fide and blameless travellers like the Caldwells, who were thrice denied help and assistance by the carrier, would necessarily be deprived of the high level of protection provided to them. I am satisfied as a matter of fact that the passengers did nothing which had the character of fault about it.
“They did not dillydally on the way to the departure gate. They did not divert to a restaurant or bar to have refreshments. They were not legitimately detained at security for additional searches.”
Mr Caldwell represented himself at a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month.
He told how he and wife were forced to pay almost £900 to return home on a British Airways flight – more than double the cost of the flight they had missed.
They had arrived at the airport just as EasyJet’s check-in desk opened and were not given prior notice of expected delays.
In court, EasyJet denied liability and said it was the responsibility of passengers to reach the departure gate in time for their flight.