Simon Calder, Travel Correspondent: independent
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 travellers are given less than two weeks’ notice, under European air passengers’ rights rules they are entitled to cash compensation of 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 cancelled 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 cancelled 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 inherent in the normal activity of the airline and could not have been anticipated.
“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 compensation on this occasion.”
Lawyers contacted by The Independent have expressed scepticism 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.
The Independent has asked British Airways for a response on this and other aspects of the rejection. BA is still looking into the case.
On the day Mr Goodess had his flight cancelled, dozens of other services operated between the UK and Germany.
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.