The bank holiday weekend saw chaos at Heathrow and Gatwick airports after British Airways cancelled hundreds of flights following problems with its computer system. If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a refund or an alternative flight. Airlines must also offer refreshments and hotel accommodation where necessary – if you end up paying for these expenses yourself, keep receipts, as you can claim the money back.
In this case specifically, BA’s system failure is likely to be ruled a technical problem, rather than an extraordinary circumstance. This means the airline will be liable to pay passengers compensation under EU regulation 261/2004. This regulation applies to fights leaving or arriving at an EU airport on an EU airline.
The amount of compensation due varies depending on the flight distance; whether a replacement flight was offered; and how late it arrived. Amounts will also vary depending on how much notice you have been given – potential awards are greater if you had fewer than seven days’ notice.
For a flight of up to 1,500km with a replacement flight arriving more than two hours late, the amount payable would be €250 per person. If the flight was more than 3,500km and the replacement flight landed more than four hours late, the compensation would be €600 per person. The amounts are simpler when no replacement flight is offered. Cancelled flights of up to 1,500km result in compensation of €250 per person; 1,500km to 3,500km €400; and over 3,500km €600.
To make a claim, write to BA, specifying your flight details and the amount you are claiming for, and request payment under regulation 261/2004. If you are unsure of how much you are entitled to, consumer group Which’s website (Which.co.uk) features a free tool that will work out compensation amounts and generate a letter for you to send.
If you have an unresolved complaint about an airline, you can go through an alternative dispute resolution scheme . The Civil Aviation Authority holds a list of approved providers.