READER REVIEW: The British Airways Cancellation Experience and what are your rights?

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Today’s article is by Debbie who has previously contributed a review of her BA Gatwick flight to TLFL. It’s worth noting that I had several cancellations on one of my BA Holidays trips which proved very tricky to resolve due to many of the available flights with the same airlines not being allowed since they were not codeshares, unlike the ones I’d booked. This has resulted in an overnight stay both ways which is fine for me but does add extra expense at my own cost since it is several months away. However, being GGL I did find the GGL line extremely helpful in sorting out the revised flights.

Read on until the end when I will give my opinion on what Debbie can expect. 

If you would like to enter our reader review competition, you can find all the details here.  

 

The cancellation

We are frequent travellers and this year we have already experienced several cancellations from BA, one particularly noteworthy one occurring over our wedding anniversary in February. On this occasion, I booked a BA holiday for our family of 5 adults. It was booked six months ago and our destination of choice was Tenerife, and it so happened that it was also my birthday during this holiday. We were all looking forward to the trip, especially the grown-up children who were travelling courtesy of bank of Mum and Dad:

I suppose it was fairly inevitable, given all of the publicity, that I found myself checking my email constantly in the seven days before our departure date. I had booked this holiday far in advance, way before the issues with BA arose and I was therefore trapped and apprehensive. Just over 24 hours before our planned departure I received an email simply telling me that my outbound flight to Tenerife was cancelled. For context it was 8pm. No explanation was on the email. Reading further, I discovered that BA had re-booked us onto another flight. This new booking was not from the original airport, LGW, but LHR. Not on the same day, but one day later. Not in the same cabin, Club Europe, but Euro Traveller, and finally to add the final cherry on top of the very bitter-tasting cake, not returning back to LHR but to LGW.

I searched for some explanation or compensation assessment. I think that this was the most disturbing part of the whole experience. Both my husband and I are Silver cardholders and it felt as though BA simply did not care. I found nothing except the telephone number for the BA duty office which I called immediately. Then as I have experienced before, I was directed to send an email. This email is important. What you write will dictate the timeliness of the response back. I find that I write my best words when infuriated, so I composed and quickly sent an email mentioning that this was the second time BA had cancelled our flights in five months, the first being on our anniversary and the second being for my birthday. I wondered if they would like me to book a Christmas trip so that could be cancelled too. I finished my message with the comment that they would contact me quickly if they had any conscience.

 

The Revised Holiday

I knew ( obviously) that I would be entitled to a full refund and the standard EU compensation, but speaking with our family, we all decided that we still wanted to try to get away since work commitments would not allow a rescheduled holiday for the rest of the year. After an hour, I received a call back from the BA duty office. I generally find that it is important to say immediately what you want from them, rather than listening to rambling standard apologies. This I did and opened with the comment that we were 5 adults, willing to travel anywhere as long as we left on our original dates.

I then spent 3 hours with the duty officer checking and researching holidays and flights. This was so stressful because I only had seconds to make up my mind about each hotel that was offered since the availability was so scarce. In the end, at 0100 in the morning, we settled on flights and a holiday in Crete.

This was not a happy solution however as I was told the new holiday would cost a significant amount of money extra. Some adjustments were made in terms of him using as much discretion as he legitimately had to discount the holiday, but it still came in £3000 extra. We spoke at length about firstly incidental costs incurred by us – car parking – and I was assured that I could claim this back – as well as the very interesting fact that when a customer is bumped travel classes to economy, it is BA’s policy to only discuss and offer compensation after the flight has happened….

I resolved however to pursue the extra costs post-holiday.

 

The Finale

Crete

We travelled to Crete and had a very good family holiday. I know that we were fortunate to be able to afford the extra cost. I was very stressed though and it took me a couple of days to relax. Six days after I received the cancellation notice and submitted my compensation claim,  I received confirmation that I would be paid €2000 compensation (there is a legal requirement to pay this within 14 days) However, there would be no reimbursement for our parking despite being reassured by the duty office that I would not be out of pocket. Additionally, they refused to help with the extra cost of the new holiday, saying that I had been charged “correctly “. So I am now, having completed much research on this, preparing a case for the small claims court. I believe that BA has to change its approach to reasonable costs incurred from its actions and if I have to challenge this legally then I will.

I also received an email from BA’s Global Engagement Team stating that I would be contacted at some point to discuss my case. No call to date. Finally, checking my account post-holiday BA has also failed to credit me with any of tier points for the trip. More follow-up work for me then. 

I will also add one observation that I made when checking in at LHR. A couple next to us were being told that their flight was over booked and they were not being allowed on. Despite the fact, as they pointed out, they had booked and paid for the flights two years ago and were travelling business. The reason ? They had failed to check in online, leaving it until they were at the airport. I felt incredibly sorry for them and I was disgusted at the way they were spoken to by the manager dealing with them. A cautionary tale indeed for the unprepared traveller. (Michele – I know of someone else this happened to who turned up two hours before as well. With flights currently extremely full, always check-in online as soon as you can when it opens).

This is not the end of my story by any means. I will try my hardest to reclaim my outstanding costs and tell my story so that others benefit. I hope my story assists any other reader who finds themselves at the mercy of BA and their cancellations.

 

Michele’s opinion

Debbie has obviously had two bad experiences and two special occasions spoilt by cancellations. This is a tricky case as there are a few grey areas where legally you are not entitled to anything but some airline may make a goodwill gesture. The European law EU261 still applies in the UK for flight cancellations and delays. 

EU261 applies:

  • to passengers departing from a UK airport; and
  • to passengers departing from an airport located in a country other than the UK to an airport situated in:
    • the UK if the operating air carrier of the flight concerned is either an EU/EEA carrier or a UK air carrier; or
    • the EU/EEA if the operating air carrier of the flight concerned is a UK air carrier.

You can get advice on the CAA’s official website here. 

 

Let’s look at the specifics:

  • If BA Holidays cancel your flight resulting in you not being able to get you to your destination, they have to offer you a full refund if they can’t offer you an acceptable alternative flight. They should offer you the next available flight or you can ask to travel on a later one if that is more convenient. If there is no flight on the date you need, you can ask to be rerouted via other airports on a connecting flight or an alternative airline. However, if you want business class to a holiday destination, then there may be slim pickings as many flights will be with budget airlines. You could also ask for an alternative destination but they don’t have to do that unless it’s within your booking terms and conditions. 
  • If your flight was cancelled less than 14 days prior to departure you may be able to claim a set amount of compensation based on the timings of the alternative flight. (see CAA link above for details). 
  • If it involves an overnight stay before your new flight your flight was cancelled at the airport and you live near the airport, the airline have a “duty of care” but they can simply tell you to go home and come back for the next flight if you are nearby. In other circumstances such as you were on a connecting flight or on your way back, they would need to pay for a hotel. 
  • If you decide you don’t want the alternative flights as it’s not acceptable or a refund we begin to get into a grey area. If you choose a holiday to a different destination, then there is nothing legally that says BA has to pay the extra cost. Obviously last minute this could be quite substantial. 
  • If you are stranded abroad at the end of the holiday due to a cancellation, they must fly you back as soon as possible even on another airline if necessary and pay for expenses incurred under duty of care such as a hotel or food etc until the flight. BA has a set of airlines that they have agreements with so they will usually want to book you on one of those. If this is impossible, you are entitled to ask for another airline if there is no reasonable alternative. 
  • If you are downgraded there is a chance that on the day you could get upgraded again (or the flight is cancelled) which is why they don’t offer compensation in advance. Technically you don’t have any legal grounds to refuse a downgrade but BA and many other airlines may move you to an alternative flight in the right class if  you ask. This could mean a long wait if flights are already full as is the case at the moment. If you do get downgraded you are entitled to 30-75% of the cost of the segment downgraded’s cost. This depends on the distance of the flight. 
  • In terms of getting hold of the BA Holidays Duty Office – to get their attention the most important thing is the timing of the flight. So put something in the email title such as urgent – departing 1 July at 9am flight cancelled, alternative unacceptable. Or something relevant. I had to contact them to change a flight a few hours before due illness and I got a phonecall within around 25 minutes from sending the email. They don’t need the full story, just the bare details of why you need to speak to them urgently and any booking reference as they will usually phone you back pretty quickly if it is urgent. If you have a suggestion on how to resolve it you could include that to save time. 
  • Additional costs – this is another grey area as things known as subsequent costs such as car parking are not covered and you would be expected to claim on your travel insurance.  You can usually claim things like taxis or public transport to get home (or to the original airport)  if they are unable to book you to your original airport. Hotels are also a bit tricky. If you had to travel a day early then you may be able to claim back the cost of the hotel in the destination. Getting a hotel at the airport the night before because the flight is earlier in the day, will probably not be covered. There is no harm in trying to claim, but don’t be surprised if they refer you to travel insurance. 
  • This is why it is important to have travel insurance as the airline would expect you to claim from them for many of the subsequent costs relating to a cancellation. 

Have you had a last minute cancellation and tried to claim expenses? Let us know how you got on in the comments below. 

37 Comments on "READER REVIEW: The British Airways Cancellation Experience and what are your rights?"

  1. Mark Wilkins | 16 July 2022 at 6:30 am | Reply

    Truly shocking and disheartening read. I have 3 bookings this year, and am shaking my head as I type!

    • Had a friend recently stuck in Frankfurt for 2 days before he could be accommodated on another flight. He had to arrange accommodation himself and reclaim even though the BA flight was cancelled at short notice. He also took five hours trying to retrieve his through checked luggage.
      In your circumstances i would have taken the EU compensation and compensation for the downgrade to Economy, parked at Gatwick as planned and got an Uber to LHR. Can only admire your persistence in trying to arrange an alternative.
      Re the overbooking story it’s unfortunate that BA dont offer compensation to find volunteers as is the practise in the US. A friend was recently offered 900 USD to reroute via a different city. He was delighted to take it as he had the necessary flexibility.

  2. Appalling – I’ve cancelled both of my premium credit cards as I have no intention of booking BA holidays for the foreseeable future as they are in such a mess.

  3. Thank you, this was all useful. We too have a BA Holiday booked start of September and are x’ing our fingers in order to avoid all the same inconvenience/loss. Also, I’d booked the trip for the double tier points to keep me in Silver, so I’ll be royally stuffed if it is cancelled.

    • Hopefully by September things will have eased. With more staff recruited and less people flying outside the main school holidays. Fingers crossed!

  4. I had high hopes for Sean Doyle but it’s now clear that sadly he’s either no good or BA is just un-fixable. My recent experiences in Club and First have been mixed, with First (a very rare treat for us) being particularly average.

    If you fly BA you have to cross your fingers and hope that you’ll have a good experience. It’s sad.

  5. Terrible story and sadly far from unique.
    The share price doesn’t lie. I feel sorry for the staff under such poor management.
    Yes, things go wrong but BA’s lack of customer service when that happens is appalling.
    I’m starting to think we should relax the ownership restrictions and just let the Qataris take it over. The current senior management are destroying the brand.

  6. Flew out from Gatwick ok but whilst away was notified flight home cancelled (13 days before). Offered Heathrow earlier that day which us unacceptable so chose to come home a day earlier to London city. That was cancelled at 2pm for an 8 am departure next day! Again they’d re-booked to H and unable to get hold of BA. Re-booked to Gatwick that evening giving us 1 hour to pack up! All involved phone calls for hire car, airport parking etc – twice plus list 2 days of holiday. Just to cap it off on flight home my BA credit card not accepted.
    Already booked to fly in October but really don’t want to – lost faith.
    Awaiting compensation.

  7. I feel for Debbie and its even worse that what was promised by the Duty Officer was then reneged on. I always make it a point to ask for either a full name or their name and some other personally identifiable information so i can properly reference them if need be.
    I will say that DO’s are normally the saviours of the day as they have both, sizeable, revenue discretion and are highly knowledgeable across the board.

    Having had both LHR-BER & MUN-LHR in mid-late Sept canx this week im currently letting BA dig themselves a nice hole.

    Advising them i wasn’t of the mind to lose half a days holiday to suit them ive suggested they pay for an extra night at the hotel we would’ve already been at for 4 days ( telling them ive no intention of checking out a perfectly good hotel to move to one they pick as they’re the reason for said hotel night being needed) and fly us back the next morning. They weren’t that excited about that which is fine as my backup is to invoke “Alternative Carrier” but I’ll be nice and keep it within alliance as I know thats BAs strong preferenc.In which case Qatar will fly us in business from Munich to London, via Doha and at a cost of £9558 for the pair of us and a damn lovely TP Haul to boot ,😄

    • I come at this from thirty-odd years in Tour Operating and airlines. Bear in mind that ANY ancillaries you book outside of your tour operator contact is your risk. I flew LGW AYT LGW a few weeks ago chasing TP with BA hols and had parking and a night before and after at LGW which is not an insubstantial amount. I knew that if BA messed my flights around, they’d be lost. What AMAZES me is the OPERATIONS departments of airlines at the moment. I realise it is really difficult for them but the whole point of cancellations and consolidations WELL IN ADVANCE is ultimately to ensure you have a flying programme that CAN be operated. Knowing what’s going on from ex colleagues and industry friends, it has been HORRIBLE for the past couple of years and the temptation to generate higher yields due to high demand is obvious but few factored in staff and supplier issues which are both new and crippling. The margins in this industry are 3-5% net and compensation payments will quickly turn a loss. They will all take a massive hit when the FY results are in which is why the share prices of all Tour Ops and airlines are so low- don’t I know it as I’ve been an investor for years. I might turn a profit when I’m pushing up daisies!

  8. We had a last minute cancellation on our return from Spain to LGW in early June. Email came in at 5.30am for a 10.20am flight. Alternative offered was via Madrid to LHR with 45 mins transit time in Madrid which we didn’t think was doable.
    Folks travelling with us (on separate booking) offered direct flight back to LGW albeit at 01.40 am the next day.
    Contacted BA duty officer via email suggesting they book us in that flight and they did that within 10 minutes so
    happy with their actions.
    I note from the article that compensation should be paid within 15 days – still waiting 5 weeks later!

  9. Maybe the five business class seats were the issue, but with so many flights between London & Madrid, and Madrid & Tenerife – both North & South – all having a business class offering, I’d have thought getting there on the original travel date might have been doable, had it been offered?

  10. paul sheeter | 16 July 2022 at 9:45 am | Reply

    Interested in the comments as i have had similar experiences on a 4 way BA booked flight codesharing with Iberia
    I should add i have GGL status
    4 way flight in May/June ISR to MAD . MAD SEV , MAD LON & finally LON ISR
    2 out of these 4 flights were cancelled
    In both cases i simply received an email with no alternatives offered
    Of course the GGL line were helpful but it takes each time a long time to sort and not all satisfactory
    MAD LON was sorted with another flight 10 mins later – why couldnt they simply have placed us on that ?!
    LON ISR was more problematic
    BA have cancelled all their later in the day flights this was 1730 so all that we could take was 0800 meaning we had to get up at 0400 and basically lose a whole day
    In addition on the ISR MAD route we flew Iberia business class or so it was supposed to be
    We specifically checked at the time of booking that it was proper full bus class and not short haul plane with zero service which is of course what it ended up as
    That meant
    – zero serivce and i mean zero
    – no water bottle
    – no pre flight drinks
    – a seat that didnt recline
    – no pillows
    In short the seat had a small amount of extra legroom but other than that no difference than economy so why did i pay the bus class price for it
    I would also add that the Iberia staff were pretty apathetic and disinterested
    Nothing offered for compensation until i lodged a complaint
    I received a prompt initial derisory offer ex gratia of 10000 points each which i rejected
    Despite 3 chasers since i still havent had a reply ”
    And i am a GGL!
    Watch this space but any suggestions welcome
    I now fear for my upcoming flights to LON & SINGAPORE next month – another 4 way flight – and the flights we have ISR to LON for all my children on differing dates next month where we have a lot events set for our time in LON in AUG
    Hoping for the best
    BTW i always check in online but worrying to learn of the bus class experience one of your readers had

  11. I have read many horror stories about BA but when my holiday to Barbados was cancelled at the beginning of Covid I tried to telephone the day I received notification and gave up. I tried again the next day and was in contact with an agent almost immediately. I explained the situation and was offered a full refund to be made within 14 days. To my surprise the refund was on my credit card account the next day. Whilst I do not travel regularly with BA I have always been lucky – unlike my son who now refuses to fly BA.

  12. I believe the money paid is determined by UK261, rather than EC261, so should have been in Sterling.

  13. I know this example is about BA, but I would just caution those Saying how bad BA is that the grease isn’t always greener with other carriers. I have had cancellations from BA, KLM, Lufthansa and Jet2.
    All of them have been difficult to get hold of, frustrating to find alternatives for and slow to process payments.
    For interest the advice I had was to find the new itinerary I wanted and book that online and the email them the new and old booking references and they switched the money over to fully pay the new one

    • I am surprised you included Jet2 as I have had 5 holidays cancelled with them over the last two years. Esmach time the money was refunded within five days.

  14. Clive Fletcher-Wood | 16 July 2022 at 10:53 am | Reply

    What, please, is the e-mail address or telephone number to get hold of the Duty Officer? We must have been very lucky, having used Club Europe to get to FNC in Mar, back in Apr, and to CFU last month. Mind you, we’re still waiting for the double Tier Points from Mar, with the usual problems of contacting BA.

  15. First sector flight cancelled MAN – LGW, which incidentally seems to disappear from the flight schedule from 1 August 2022. Was connecting onto LGW – ACE flight. Manage my booking doesn’t give much choice ie only MAN – LHR no mention of providing transfer between LHR – LGW. Surely the who point of booking connecting flights is that once your luggage is checked in you see it next at your final destination (well hopefully anyway that’s the theory anyway). So on to alternative flights/routings looking at the flight schedule there are two either MAN-LHR-MAD-ACE or MAN-MAN-ACE, the problem is I haven’t been able to speak with anyone from BA to discuss my options, I understand that they have lots of customers in the same situation, however this would be greatly reduced if the manage my booking function actually showed alternative options using BA Iberia and in my case Iberia Express. If you tried to book my itinerary now you would be offered MAN-LHR-LGW-ACE with a not saying transfer between LHR & LGW is not included in the ticket price which is fair enough, however in my manage my booking it doesn’t provide the essential information needed to make an informed decision 1. Transfer between LHR-LGW will be paid by BA 2. Are you still covered for missed departure if you encounter any baggage delay at LHR, transfer to LGW or check in & security delays at LGW. I would have thought these two points are essential to know before accepting any change.

    • If it’s all one ticket then the airline should be liable for compensation in this circumstance if they book you this as a result of cancellation. They would advise the minimum time required. They’d expect you to get the coach which runs regularly and only costs around £10 from memory. I can’t see them stumping up for a taxi but you can always ask depending on the connection options available.

      Agree it would be easier if all the options were available through MMB. Personally I’d try and build in an overnight stay with the current disruption going on. It may be at your own expense but it would lessen the stress levels if you can!

      • Thanks Michele for your reply, not really an option staying overnight as we are on a short trip to see family we live in Lanzarote, so we thought rather than a direct budget airline flight we would treat ourselves to business class for a treat. We would have had a long layover in LGW but we don’t mind that when you can relax in the lounge. It’s just the thought of picking up baggage getting a coach then re checking in and getting through security that doesn’t really appeal, but having said that hopefully by December they have hopefully sorted out most of the ground side of things out.

  16. My BA LHR-CPH-LHR next weekend was cancelled. They then routed me via HEL…that’s ok, but now a 5hr layover in HEL. Return flight, now booked on an early flight with Iberia covering BA, but at least direct to LHR.
    Question and possibly grey area !! Can I claim anything for basically losing 5hrs of my trip, due to re-routing outbound??

    • It’s all down to what time you arrive. If you have a look at the CAA website link there’s a table of distance and what you can claim. If you still arrive within the limits of the original arrival then you won’t be able to claim anything.

  17. Hi Michele. BA just seem to get worse! I was horrified to read Paul’s (Sheeter) comments as a GGL member. Is Sean Doyle still at BA?!!!! I just see no signs of service whatsoever when buying premium. Our LGW AYT LGW were nothing special though the LGW lounge was very good. No pre boarding or check in for J at AYT was awful but what was really shocking was the crew- one ex VS Manager who was very good- the rest were kids. One cabin crew member fell asleep when she strapped in for landing!! Is there no welcome drink in J short haul? We were delayed and thirsty whilst the crew were having drinks!

    • There has never been a welcome drink in J on short haul. Only long haul. Some European airlines give a bottle of water on the seat but that’s it.

  18. Our return flight from LGW to Jersey and vice versus in July 2020 was cancelled by BA -LGW was closed then anyway.
    Under pressure we accepted vouchers which I understand BA must now exchange for cash.
    Having claimed this cash, BA have responded by saying that ‘this flight operated therefore we cannot help you’.

    Can I get hold of anyone by phone? NO – although they are prioritising calls from customers with refund enquiries, the answer is simply that the lines are busy and 5years are not answering calls – goodbye. That’s BA customer service……..

  19. Its clearly that long since I last flew short haul! Proves my point about BA being nothing special and making one feel nothing special for the price we pay.

  20. PLEASE can someone post the email address of the BA duty officer.
    Has already been requested earlier in the day
    Many thanks

    • There is only the BA Holidays duty office which you can find in the article I’ve just published along with lots of other contact details.

  21. I have hung onto this article since it was posted as I have had a recent experience with BA who cancelled my flight from LHR to AMS @ 12:30am on the day of travel, and notably the day before Heathrow issued their edict to the airlines of 100K passengers. They gave me as an alternative LCY to ROT…truly abysmal. When I searched the link in the email, the flight I saw when I made the booking LGW to AMS was available, which I grabbed. When I booked the original flight this LGW flight was ~GBP50 less but as I am in Staines, 10 mins to T5, I paid the premium. They are claiming operational reasons for the cancellation and no compensation. I have pulled them up on the fare difference and the last minute train fare. I am quite happy to do what Debbie suggests and put in a small claims court claim, not the first time I have had to take such action with BA. I am a top tier on 3 OW airlines, QF & CX (flown), QR (status match)and on this flight I had my CX number in the system. What really pisses me off with them is they just DON’T care for your status nor that you’re out of pocket. Happy to hear a response on the value of the small claims court or the regulator that they suggest I contact

    • You can check the reason for cancellations on Expert Flyer. Operational can mean anything. Only if it was something like ATC or Heathrow issues can they deny compensation. Have you filed an official complaint online with BA? In terms of taking action you can use MCOL which is small claims court on line or the CAA dispute resolution known as CEDR.

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