Drama As easyJet Montenegro Passengers Miss Red List Cutoff

Sometimes even the best-laid plans with the best of intentions can go wrong and backfire. easyJet is experiencing this now, after it attempted to organize a special flight from Montenegro to the UK the day before the former was to be placed on the “red list” of the latter. Unfortunately, the special August 29th flight was delayed due to technical issues with the aircraft, forcing dozens of easyJet passengers into UK quarantine.

easyjet a320
easyJet operates a single-type fleet of Airbus A320 family aircraft. Photo: easyjet

Part of the “new normal” when it comes to traveling during the global health crisis includes having to deal with sudden travel restrictions with very little notice. This is certainly the case with the UK’s color list for travel restrictions.

easyJet passengers seeing red

Indeed, a sudden shift from the ‘green list’ to the ‘amber’ or ‘red list’ could mean the difference between no quarantine, or 10 full days in a quarantine hotel. The cost to stay in this type of facility is roughly £2,000 ($2,750).

This is what the UK government has to say about the red list quarantine requirement for arrivals to England:

“Everyone who arrives into England and has been in a red list country must quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 full days from the point of their arrival. The day of arrival in England will be treated as day 0.”

This is what some easyJet passengers will have to face after the cancelation of a flight from the resort airport of Tivat, Montenegro, to London Gatwick. As The Independent notes, the airline’s planned “pre-red list” evacuation flight failed to depart due to technical issues with the aircraft.

Gatwick to tivat
easyJet operates a Tivat-London Gatwick service which has been operating at a twice-weekly frequency. Photo: GCMap.com

The easyJet service was to originally depart on Monday, August 30th. However, with notice that Montenegro would be moved to the UK’s red list as of 04:00 that day, the airline moved the flight to the day prior. The Independent notes that one-way tickets for this service were selling for £265 ($365).

Much more than a delayed flight

The disappointment of facing hotel quarantine in the UK was just part of the frustration as the entire ordeal saw more than just a delayed flight.

Indeed, the technical failure and the time needed to fix it meant that the aircraft would not be able to fly passengers out of Tivat, which had limited hours of operation. To work around this, easyJet dispatched an A320 to the neighboring city of Dubrovnik, in neighboring country Croatia.

easyJet arranged to have coach buses shuttle passengers to the Dubrovnik airport, across the Montenegro-Croatia border. While this solution would work for passengers with clearance to enter the EU (which includes British citizens), it would not be suitable for everyone originally planning to fly direct to the UK.

Realizing this, some passengers voiced their concerns that they would not be able to enter Croatia and the EU, insisting that a flight be arranged from Montenegro’s capital of Podgorica instead. It appears as though these pleas were ignored as coaches continued towards the Croatian border.

Hakan Baybas took to Twitter to share the entire ordeal, which included some video footage.

Baybas states that border police stamped “denied” in the passports of travelers unable to enter Croatia. For those “left behind” in Montenegro, a bus arrived at 02:00 to take the passengers to a hotel in Tivat at 03:30.

For the 155 passengers fortunate enough to enter Croatia and board the alternate flight, the service landed at Gatwick two minutes ahead of the UK’s 04:00 deadline.

easyJet comments on the ordeal

A spokesperson for easyJet is quoted by The Independent as saying:

“We are very sorry for this extremely difficult situation which arose from the country status change to ‘red’ and the technical issue.

“We did everything we could including flying a second repatriation aircraft in to try and get all customers back to the UK in time for the deadline.

“We are very grateful to our pilots and crew for managing to bring back 155 customers back just ahead of the deadline.

Ultimately, a bad situation was made worse with a number of factors. Clearly, the delay would not have been as big of an issue if the UK wasn’t moving Montenegro to the red list. easyJet could have easily rescheduled a flight for the next day in that case. The technical issues of the easyJet aircraft combined with Tivat’s limited hours of operations were also key in the fiasco.

easyjet a320
An alternate flight took most passengers from Dubrovnik to Gatwick. Photo: easyjet

Trying to recover from these setbacks and arrange a flight from Dubrovnik, it appears that easyJet staff had misunderstood or neglected to consider the border policies for certain nationalities entering Croatia.

As a result of the above issues, many travelers were extremely inconvenienced with an all-night bus trip to nowhere only to face hotel quarantine should they wish to continue their journey to the UK.

It looks like easyJet put up a valiant effort to accommodate the majority of travelers- with 155 successfully transported. Unfortunately, it’s been a completely different story for those stuck in Montenegro.

What do you think of this entire ordeal? How would you evaluate easyJet’s performance and customers service with this situation? Let us know by leaving a comment.