British Airways has angered agents by sending customers on cancelled flights a message telling them it won’t refund their travel expenses if they fly to or from an alternative airport.
After informing customers that their flights have been cancelled, the message advises them to visit the BA website to manage their booking, or to call BA for help. It adds: “Travelling to or from a different point may incur additional expenses BA will not cover.”
Agents posting in Travel Gossip’s Facebook group said they believed that under EU/UK 261 cancelled flight regulations, BA SHOULD pick up the bill for the transfer costs, but BA’s message implies that the airline will – or can – refuse.
Typically Holidays Managing Director Daniele Broccoli said the message could mislead customers into believing that BA is not obliged to pick up their transfer costs, even if the airline itself provides them with a flight from another airport, which could deter them from making a claim.
“The way that message reads, if you were a customer, what would you think?” fumed Daniele. “That text is wrong, so why send it to customers? It’s misleading.”
A BA spokesperson clarified to Travel Gossip that BA would pick up the transfer costs if the airline itself has rebooked a passenger to travel to or from an alternative airport.
BA will NOT pick up the bill if it the customer rejects the alternative flight from BA and rebooks themselves to travel to or from a different airport, they said.
The spokesperson told Travel Gossip that BA’s systems automatically rebook clients whose flights have been cancelled onto the next available departure with any one of up to 150 airlines, to or from any airport up to 200 kilometres from the original departure or arrival point.
However, Daniele said his clients whose flights home from Venice were cancelled last weekend weren’t offered an alternative flight until the following morning, even though there was a flight from nearby Bologna the same day.
“When we asked BA to change their flight to Bologna they refused, saying it was because it was a codeshare, which is nonsense,” said Daniele, who received the above message from BA. “A train ticket to Bologna would have cost £40 and my customers would have got home the same day, but instead, I had to book them an overnight stay in Venice, at a cost of £185.”
Daniele disputed BA’s claim that it automatically rebooks clients on the next available flights with any airline at airports up to 200kms away. “Airlines should offer an alternative flight when they have a cancellation but they never do,” he insisted. “They all say that they will put customers on the next available flight, but they don’t and no-one ever challenges it. Out of 100 cancelled flights, only about 10 are re-protected on to other airlines.
“It’s time for the Government to step in and start fining airlines.”
Ross Johnson, owner of luxury travel agency Travlux, echoed Daniele’s words after four of his customers were left stranded after a last-minute BA cancellation last weekend. One of the two couples wasn’t offered a flight back to London Heathrow until 36 hours later and the other was offered nothing, even though there were available seats on a Vueling flight to London Gatwick the following morning, he said.
“They were travelling with Celebrity Cruises, so we spoke to Celebrity and they rebooked them all on the Vueling flight the next morning and covered the cost of their overnight hotel.
“It seems very odd that BA has a Vueling codeshare and there were five to six flights back to Gatwick, yet our customers weren’t rebooked by BA, but Celebrity was able to rebook them.
“Now there is the question of the cost of the taxi from Gatwick to Heathrow where our clients had parked.
“The issue I have with that message sent by BA is that it’s very grey and I’m concerned that if package holiday customers follow those instructions and rebook their flights themselves, what is the situation with the ATOL protetction?
“That message was sent to all customers, with no regard to whether they were package holiday customers or flight only, and I wonder why?”
Other agents said they’d been left to rebook clients themselves and one was still trying to recover ‘out of pocket expenses’ from a summer cancellation, with one adding that they were ‘very disappointed by the lack of support’ from BA.