On the day when British Airways canceled another 120-plus flights to and from its main base, London Heathrow, it has emerged that the airline is rejecting compensation claims for grounded flights.
BA has serious resourcing issues which are leading to the daily cancellation of many domestic and European flights.
The airline says that most passengers are informed well in advance. But if travelers are given less than two weeks’ notice, under European air passengers’ rights rules they are entitled to cash compensation from between £220 and £520 – depending on the length of the flight.
The only grounds on which a carrier can reject a claim is if an “extraordinary circumstance” was responsible.
Nick Goodess was due to fly from London Heathrow to Hanover on 24 April. His flight was canceled with a week’s notice, and he applied for the statutory compensation.
But the passenger was told: “Your claim’s been refused because flight BA978 on 24 April was canceled as a result of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is an external factor, which is beyond the control of the airline and is an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.
“It is not in the normal activity of the airline and could not have been inherent.
“Since the cancellation of the flight was caused by restrictions imposed as a result of a global pandemic, in accordance with the provisions of EC Regulation 261/2004, I’m afraid this means you are not entitled to receive EU on this occasion. ”
Lawyers contacted by The Independent expressed skepticism over the British Airways defence. Staff shortage is not regarded as an “extraordinary circumstance”.
The claim that “the cancellation of the flight was caused by restrictions imposed as a result of a global pandemic” looks difficult to sustain, one legal expert said. On the day Mr Goodess had his flight cancelled, dozens of other services operated between the UK and Germany.
British Airways spokesperson said: “We’re sorry that in this case we incorrectly denied a compensation claim and we’re contacting our customer to apologise and resolve the matter.”
While easyJet is making around 30 cancellations per day, other rivals – including Jet2, Ryanair and Wizz Air – are maintaining their normal schedules.
A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said: “If customers are concerned that airlines are not upholding their rights appropriately then they should complain to their airline. If they are not satisfied with the response, consumers can seek redress via the approved Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service.”
British Airways is registered with CEDR. A different service provider, AviationADR, sided with Ryanair in a recent denied boarding case – even though the airline provided no defence.