Thousands of family holidays were ruined by a massive British Airways IT failure at the weekend and now the battle for compensation begins.
Whether you were caught up in the chaos or you are worried about your next trip, here is everything you need to know to win redress.
Compensation battle: Thousands of family holidays were ruined by a massive British Airways IT failure at the weekend
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS IF YOUR TRIP IS DELAYED
Under EU law you are entitled to compensation if your flight is delayed or cancelled.
How much you get depends on how late you arrived at your destination, and how far you had to travel.
The only caveat is that the reason for the delay must be within the airline’s control.
Lawyers are concerned that BA may try to dodge paying out by claiming the delays were caused by an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.
No one yet knows exactly what caused the computer failure and how much of the blame lies with BA.
For example, if it had been hit by a cyber attack it might refuse to pay out, but if it was a routine technical fault it might have no option but to compensate travellers.
However, British Airways has told Money Mail it will not try to wriggle out of compensation claims.
GET YOUR CLAIM IN AS SOON AS YOU CAN
Speed is of the essence if you were delayed over the Bank Holiday.
BA is going to be inundated with thousands of requests for compensation over the next few months, so you should get yours in before the backlog builds.
To be eligible for flight delay compensation you must have arrived at your destination at least three hours late, and have either been travelling from an EU airport or returning to the EU with a British or European airline.
If you were travelling on a short-haul flight of less than 1,500km — from London to Madrid, for example — you can claim €250 (£217). Between 1,500km and 3,000km — flights such as London to Athens — it’s €400 (£347).
If you were travelling more than 3,500km — London to New York, for instance — it’s €300 (£260) for delays up to four hours and €600 (£520) for more than four hours.
If your flight was delayed for five hours or more and you decided not to travel, you can demand a full refund for the flight on top of this compensation.
Long waits: Thousands of passengers faced travel misery at Heathrow (pictured) and around the world after BA’s computer system went down
The same applies if your flight is cancelled —but just to confuse matters the compensation amounts may be different.
If BA didn’t provide you with a replacement flight, you will get the same compensation as if you were delayed (see above). However, if you were offered another flight the amounts vary.
As all of BA’s flights were cancelled within seven days of the departure date the compensation is as follows.
If travelling fewer than 1,500km and your replacement flight arrives at its destination more than two hours later than your original flight, you are entitled to €250 (£217).
Between 1,500km and 3,500km it’s €200 (£173) if you arrive between two and three hours late, and €400 (£347) if you’re more than three hours late.
More than 3,500km, and arriving up to four hours late it’s €300 (£260) and over four hours it’s €600 (£520).
If the chaos caused you to miss a connecting flight, BA should refund you the price of the whole journey. You will also be entitled to compensation as usual under EU regulations.
However, if you booked the connecting flight separately to your original flight you will likely only be able to claim for the first leg — though it is still worth complaining and explaining why you are holding BA responsible.
To claim, write to BA at British Airways Customer Relations, EU Compensation Claims, PO Box 1126, Uxbridge, UB8 9XS and request compensation under EU regulation 261/2004. You can also apply online at britishairways.com.
Act fast: BA is going to be inundated with thousands of requests for compensation over the next few months, so you should get yours in before the backlog builds
Include your flight number, the date and time of travel, how long and why you were delayed and all passenger names.
Enclose your boarding pass — but keep copies. If your claim is rejected, you can take your complaint to the Ombudsman.
British Airways is signed up to independent adjudicators the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR). Call 020 7536 6099 or complain online at cedr.com/aviation. If you lose your claim there is a £25 fee.
For a full list of which Ombudsman services airlines are signed up to visit the Civil Aviation Authority website.
MAKE THE AIRLINE BOOK A NEW FLIGHT
Usually if your flight is cancelled and you still want to travel, your airline should arrange to get you on another flight.
BA told passengers to try to re-book via the airline’s website or by calling its customer services number 03444 930 787. Those who booked through a third party were told to contact their travel agent.
However, many travellers couldn’t get a replacement flight for days and didn’t want to travel as a result.
If you decided to postpone your trip you have until the end of November to book another BA flight.
If you were due to fly on Monday, May 29 or Tuesday, May 30, you also have the option of rebooking if you didn’t want to travel during the chaos.
When disruption is severe, airlines may advise you to make your own travel arrangements and offer to reimburse the cost. If you booked flights to your destination through another airline, BA says you should submit the receipts when you claim.
However, in the midst of the confusion and having had very little guidance from BA, some passengers may have made bookings for which they won’t be repaid.
If you called a travel agent for help you might not be covered. And if you had to book a higher cabin class because there were no other seats available BA has not confirmed if it will pay the difference.
ASK YOUR TRAVEL AGENT TO HELP
If your flights were part of a package holiday your contract is with your travel agent, rather than the airline themselves.
This means the agent is responsible for arranging alternative travel to get you to your destination.
Under the Package Travel Regulations 1992 they must offer you a similar trip or refund you the cost of the holiday if this isn’t possible.
The alternative doesn’t have to be an exact match — you may be offered a different hotel or even a slightly different destination.
If you’re not happy with the solution they offer, you can demand a refund instead.
Regulations: If your flights were part of a package holiday your contract is with your travel agent, rather than the airline themselves
If you missed the first few days of your holiday as a result of the delays you can ask for a partial refund from your agent, at their discretion.
However, if you booked the flights through a third-party website or travel agent and the hotel separately, you should claim your refund directly from BA as usual.
DON’T CLAIM FOR LAVISH SPENDING
Under EU regulation 261/2004 your airline must pay for care and assistance during delays of more than two hours.
For short-haul flights (to Europe), after two hours you should be given food, drinks and, if you are delayed overnight, accommodation.
If you are flying further afield on medium-haul flights — of around four hours — you have to wait three hours before qualifying for help. For long-haul flights it’s four hours.
BA says it gave out vouchers for passengers to use at shops and restaurants in the terminal.
But because systems were down many travellers had to buy their own food and drink. You should be able to claim the money back if you have all the receipts.
BA says it gave out vouchers for passengers to use at shops and restaurants in the terminal. But because systems were down many travellers had to buy their own food and drink
But be reasonable — BA will not reimburse you for a three-course meal and a bottle of wine. Fliers given out by the airline suggest a figure of £25 per person per day to be a reasonable amount to claim.
Thousands of holidaymakers also had to arrange their own overnight accommodation. In response, hotels near Gatwick and Heathrow hiked their prices to as much as £1,000 per night or more over the weekend.
BA wouldn’t say how much passengers could claim for hotel costs, but forms handed out at the airport suggested around £200 a day.
It will help your case if you can provide them with a screenshot of the hotel website showing that there were no cheaper rooms available when you booked.
If you had to travel home and then back to the airport when your flight was cancelled you can claim for petrol, train fares and the cost of calling to arrange lifts.
You will need to provide the receipts and you must, again, be reasonable. BA will not reimburse you for a £200 taxi ride if there were trains running.
Some travel insurance policies will cover extra costs but not all of them (see below).
BEWARE TRAVEL COVER LOOPHOLES
If you booked your accommodation as part of a package holiday your travel agent is responsible for reorganising your whole trip, including car hire or any excursions booked through them.
If you arranged your accommodation separately and the booking is non-refundable your airline is not obliged to cover the cost under EU law.
So your best option is to try to claim on your travel insurance for the days you missed. Many holidaymakers will also have paid for car hire and day trips in advance. Your travel insurer may cover these costs, too.
Some holiday policies will pay out on what is known as ‘consequential loss’ as a result of flight delays or cancellations.
James Daley, of Fairer Finance says: ‘Most travel policies have a provision for things such as missed excursions or choosing to abandon your holiday due to a lengthy delay.
‘But the devil’s always in the small print, and many travel policies are riddled with exclusions.’
Direct Line says it will cover affected BA passengers up to £5,000 per person for costs such as accommodation, missed excursions, unused car hire, parking charges and extended kennel and cattery costs for pets while their owners are away.
You must pay the first £75 of any claim per person for a single trip policy or £50 per person if you bought annual cover.
However, if you chose the cheapest, no-frills cover you may struggle to recoup all your losses
And you can’t claim double compensation. So if the airline payout covers all your costs your travel insurer will not compensate you on top of that.
If your insurer won’t pay, then you should contact the hotel or car hire company and explain the situation to them. They may allow you to re-book.
A spokesman for BA says: ‘We are providing customers with information on how to apply for EU compensation and to claim for reasonable expenses. We will fully honour our obligations.’