In Depth

What compensation can you claim from British Airways?

Airline caused consternation among insurers by telling passengers to claim on their own policies first

British Airways

Last month a computer outage on British Airways systems caused chaos for 75,000 passengers who found themselves stranded or arriving days late for their holidays.

BA has been criticised for an inadequate response and some passengers are considering a class action suit against the airline. So, what are BA doing, and what are your rights when you are met with air travel chaos?

How are BA compensating passengers?

In the aftermath of the computer breakdown BA promised to compensate customers who had incurred ‘disruption expenses’ such as the cost of hotels, meals and phone calls. But, when passengers went to make a claim, the BA website informed them to claim on their travel insurance first.

This infuriated the insurance industry who accused BA of giving out inaccurate information.

“Any cover available under travel insurance will usually kick in only if compensation is not available from any other source,” the Association of British Insurers (ABI) told the Financial Times.

What are your compensation rights?

As BA is a British-based airline it is covered by the EU laws on compensation for delayed flights.

What compensation you can get depends on the length of your flight and the time you were delayed by. Flights are broken down into three different lengths: short distance (under 1,500km); medium distance (between 1,500km and 3,500km) and long distance (over 3,500km).

Compensation kicks in once you’ve been delayed for more than three hours. For a three hour or more delay you can claim £220 for a short flight and £350 for a medium flight. For long-haul flights you are entitled to £260 for delays of between three and five hours, and £520 after that. The compensation is per passenger.

Anyone who is delayed for over five hours, regardless of the length of their flight, is entitled to a full refund on that ticket if they don’t want to fly anymore.

What about lost luggage?

Another element to the BA chaos was the fact people were separated from their bags if they had been checked in before the computers went down. BA were unable to locate and return bags during the outage and some were sent to destinations passengers couldn’t get to.

BA spent days returning tens of thousands of bags to their owners as a result.

Compensation for lost luggage is covered by the Montreal convention and allows you to claim for purchases you had to make until you were reunited with your luggage.

You must provide receipts for the purchases but you are entitled to up to £1,300 in compensation for delayed luggage.

“Remember, you may not receive the maximum and you should be prepared to be challenged about expenditure,” says Frank Brehany, consumer director of HolidayTravelWatch, in The Guardian.

What about additional costs?

The compensation you are entitled to under EU law isn’t there to cover the costs you may have incurred as a result of the delay. BA has said customers can claim for this too, but it then confused matters by saying customers should claim for expenses on their travel insurance first and only if that is rejected claim from BA.

“Those affected should seek compensation, and any refunds of expenses, in the first instance from British Airways,” says the ABI.

“People affected by the disruption should be able to claim compensation and refunds for any expenses as simply as possible, not being passed from pillar to post. EU flight compensation regulations set out that airline operators should provide compensation to passengers that suffer long delays or cancellations.”

BA’s compensation bill could top €100m (£88m), according to analysts.

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