British Airways Meltdown Aftermath Message: No Compensation For Customers Own Replacement Tickets!

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British Airways has communicated through the media that they won’t be paying any compensation to passengers who ended up booking themselves onto other airlines during the system outage.

The liability for this disaster might not be as easy to strip off as the airline might think, especially in European courts.

While British Airways is now exercising damage control after realizing the real cost apart from the thousands of stranded passengers and cancelled flights they try to deflect their own liability and it comes to no surprise that BA isn’t accepting any responsibility for rebookings done at the passengers own initiative as the airline itself was unable to help them out due to their ‘outage’ for which there is still no plausible explanation.

The Independent (see here) ran another story today about infuriated passengers who are now being told to claim expenses for tickets booked on their own through travel insurance.

British Airways has infuriated some passengers caught up in the weekend’s disruption by refusing to pay for tickets booked on other airlines.

More than 100,000 passengers have seen their flights to and from Gatwick and Heathrow cancelled after what the airline calls a “systems outage”.

Almost all flights were axed on Saturday, and many were also grounded on Sunday. European passengers rights’ rules stipulate that passengers on cancelled flights are entitled to “re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity”.

But systems for re-booking passengers were disrupted because of the IT failure, and many passengers have complained about long waits at airports or to the call centre.

Faced with long queues and uncertainty, some travellers decided to buy new tickets on other airlines.

But BA is telling passengers: “If we weren’t able to offer a suitable alternative flight we would offer a full refund of any unused sectors on your booking with us, but any alternative flights booked via different carriers would be at your own expense and would have to be claimed back through travel insurance.” …

Of course British Airways wants to limit their losses now and those are expected to be massive. The airline and their ‘low cost CEO’ Alex Cruz have taken a beating for their negligent attempts to save money on the expense of reliable operations.

In fact the last airline Mr. Cruz managed (IAG owned VUELING) also suffered a meltdown short after his departure from the company last summer (see related article here) and was threatened by the Spanish government to have their aviation license taken away. He has since been made CEO of British Airways and wreaked havoc in the company, downgrading both the product and operations to disgraceful levels. Mr. Cruz seems to have a fable for creating an environment inside companies where cost cutting comes first and reliability last. Outsourcing the companies core IT operations to India without adequate oversight and backup is just such a step. Utter negligence!

Stripping off responsibility for expenses such as new tickets on other carriers might not be as easy as British Airways thinks, especially if the affected passengers are willing to take the airline to court over the matter. Depending on the prevailing jurisdiction (such as Germany) the carrier will almost certainly be held fully liable and forced to reimburse the passenger for associated expenses.

In my initial article (see here) when news about the outage broke (see here) I already mentioned that there might be some issues with receiving refunds from British Airways and that facilitating a travel insurance (such coverage included with the American Express Platinum Card) will likely be the easiest way to resolve the matter.

British Airways announcement about the situation can be found here.

As our IT systems move closer to full operational capacity, we will again run a full schedule at Gatwick and intend to operate a full long haul schedule and a high proportion of our short haul programme at Heathrow.

Our terminals at Heathrow are still expected to be congested so we ask that you do not to come to the airport unless you have a confirmed booking for today and know that your flight is operating. …

There are a significant number of bags at Heathrow which we will be reuniting with customers via couriers as soon as we can. This will be done free of charge. Please help us to get these to you as quickly as possible by ensuring we have your latest contact details by filing a delayed bag report. …

If you have been affected you can claim a full refund or rebook to a future date for travel up until the end of November 2017. Please keep any food, transport or accommodation receipts and you can make a claim in due course through our Customer Relations teams.

Receiving a refund for the initial ticket might not be much help if alternative flights for the same day departure will likely cost the passenger a multiple of the original depending on route and class of service.

Conclusion

I’m not the slightest bit surprised by this message by British Airways. In fact I had expected just this and recommended to only book your own replacement tickets if the difference between the original for which you can claim a refund and the new ticket is something one can easily afford.

It’s industry standard that airlines can endorse their tickets to other carriers provided they have an interline agreement in place (most do). These endorsements are done at favorable rates, not full fare which of course do not apply if a customers proceeds with the booking himself. Yet that doesn’t mean BA gets away scoff free in such cases. As mentioned the chances are very good if these expenses are pursued in a European court.

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