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British Airways responds to my question on 2-4-1 downgrade compensation

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I ran another article last week about BA’s treatment of downgraded passengers who are travelling on an American Express 2-4-1 voucher and claim compensation under EU261.

When downgraded whilst travelling on an Avios ticket, under EU261 BA is obliged to refund you 75% of the Avios used for that leg of your flight.  This is not in dispute and British Airways has always been happy to pay this.

What is currently in dispute is what happens when someone travelling on a 2-4-1 companion voucher is downgraded.  In the original case we discussed, a reader was offered zero compensation because he was told his companion ticket had zero value.  His partner, the BA Amex cardholder, received the full compensation due.  When he launched a case for compensation, BA settled based on the cash cost of buying 75% of the Avios value of the ticket.

British Airways BA A380 flying

Over the next couple of weeks we will get a real-time example of how this works because my contributor will be filing a claim after being downgraded.  His wife, who was the 2-4-1 cardholder and so would qualify for compensation, was not downgraded.

British Airways has now issued a statement to me explaining how they believe EU261 should be applied to 2-4-1 tickets:

To quote “the value of the purchase [is] split across the two tickets”.  This is, of course, the same as saying that the companion ticket has zero value.

If one person is downgraded – irrespective of whether that person is the original ticket holder or the companion – “the person on the voucher would be entitled to 75% of the value of the ticket – which would be calculated on 50 per cent of the amount of Avios paid for the pair“.

I very much doubt whether this would stand up in arbitration:

BA uses the word “value” rather than the “cost” of the purchase.  I doubt it means this, because the value could be either monetary or expressed in Avios.  It is difficult to see how it could argue the value of the companion seat is nil.  The voucher actually has a value of 100,000 Avios – or whatever the relevant value for the ticket it was used for – and if the voucher is not returned for reuse then the holder should be compensated for its loss.

You can argue that BA has accepted the voucher as ‘consideration’ in contractual terms for the second seat.  This means that it has value.

It is clear from the T&C’s that the Amex 2-4-1 voucher does NOT get you two tickets at half price. You get one ticket at full Avios and the other ticket at zero Avios.  There is an argument to say the voucher effectively entitles you to two half-price seats rather than one free seat, but a parallel argument that the voucher has a value of the seat it entitles you to.

What BA states above is not what they offered in the case of the HFP reader who was downgraded and filed a compensation claim.  He was offered nothing until he filed his case, based on the grounds that the companion ticket cost zero Avios.

Anyway ….. we now know where BA stands on the matter.  I very much doubt that my contributor will accept an offer based on the guidelines above, and if it goes to arbitration then we will all be in a ringside seat to see how it pans out.  This should then be the end of the matter as the result will be in the public domain.


HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Card

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Comments (239)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Genghis says:

    @Anon. Would you accept settlement even if there was a gag clause?

    • Anon says:

      Not sure tbh.

      I’ve told BA I’m trying to park dealing with compensation for this until the week after I’m back into being at home unpacking, daily routine, etc, I’ll assess how I feel and review any correspondence that BA have sent between now and then. It is within their power to choose how to resolve this for a positive outcome for them. People do make mistakes, things do go wrong, but its how they deal with them and choose to resolve them that differentiates them between mediocrity and a World Class organisation.

      I do need reasonable answers to the following.

      1) Why were we continually mis-informed / lied to (delete as appropriate)
      eg Changed aircraft, Oversold, fake story about a broken seat & crew member using it, selected for downgrade because of 241 or because completely random or some other criteria, ie were any other volunteers for downgrades sort?

      2) Why did one of bags fail to travel with us turning up almost 3 days into hols (still no recognition/explanation of this and no apology given )

      Ok I’m already stopping myself there as I can feel myself getting annoyed, I’ll appropriately channel my energy into this on my return.

      Meanwhile I’m focusing how excellent the Conrad staff and service has been and how bonny it is here, now off on the reef, snorkeling from our Water Villa, aiming to take pics of a Turtle, a shark or maybe a friendly octopus, ahhhh there, that’s more like it, cheers folks… 🙂

      • Genghis says:

        🙂 Good to hear you’re having a good time!

      • Lili says:

        Great to hear from someone directly affected. Some questions I’d like to ask is: do you have status with BA? Does your companion have status? Were you downgraded to PE or all the way down to economy?

        Honestly, stories like this one make me *seriously* reconsider the whole BA redemption and 241. We have two long haul redemptions coming up this year and I’m sick with worry I’ll end up arriving at the destination exhausted because BA decides to screw us. With the crazy sales coming up so often, and giving you way more flexibility with choosing dates (don’t have to book a year ahead!) why keep supporting company which recently seems to have a motto “to fly, to make profit at the cost of passengers”.

        • @mkcol says:

          If you’re sick with worry then it isn’t worth it – cancel your redemption & pay with cash.

        • Graeme says:

          I’m sure hundreds of millions of people each year manage to fly long haul economy and live to tell the tale, so even if the worst happens you’ll still get there. You need to put this into perspective and consider how many times this actually happens, I would imagine that the vast majority of redemptions are completed without incident (or perhaps I am naive!) .

          Look forward to your vacation and avoid reading these comments which invariably create a distorted perception due to the fact the vast majority are sharing their ‘issues’ not good experiences.

    • Lady London says:

      Hoping Anon won’t accept a huge pile of Avios thrown at this with a gag clause so BA can keep it out of the public domain and avoid setting precedent. But sure that’s in BA’s plans.

      Value for me is replacement value of the same ticket if purchased from BA or alternative airline on the day. Possibly subtract the value of ticket for lower class offered instead. But no requirement to accept this and able to have cost of BOTH tickets purchased elsewhere instead. After all, BA insists the two tickets are one purchased unit, no? So both can be replaced at cost to provide the service The contractual consideration having been the Avios and all associated charges.

      Please someone take this to court and have this ghastly national flag carrier sorted out.

  • Waribai says:

    Well, clearly we were wrong about BA not wanting negative press. I can’t imagine Amex will be delighted about such a response i.e. the aspirational voucher you are advertising actually has an element of luck to it and could potentially be worth zilch!

  • vindaloo says:

    Presumably in all cases BA has refunded 75% of the taxes and surcharges for however many passengers were downgraded?

    Irrespective of the legal position, the “right” thing to do when one passenger is downgraded is surely to refund based on half the total cost of the booking. Since you can’t really refund half a 2-for-1 voucher they should return the whole voucher (and extend its validity).

    Although, having said that, it’s a moot point, because really it’s an outrage to separate passengers on the same booking in the first place. Clearly BA does so purely in order to try to pay less compensation than any right-thinking person would consider reasonable, and doesn’t care a jot about ruining its customers’ experience in the process.

    These days absolutely anything goes if it might save BA some money, and to hell with the customer. It was the same when they lost my luggage last year. They didn’t lift a finger to help, and left me with a ruined holiday and hundreds of pounds out of pocket, but there was no legal recourse so why would they go out of their way to put things right?

    • Nick says:

      Pretty sure that the “taxes” are non refundable per case law. not sure whether the bare piss-take elemenr of the BA charges is refundable.

  • Waribai says:

    Over the summer my partner will be flying to Japan with our 4 year old as the companion. Very much hoping they won’t be the unlucky ones selected for a downgrade. However, in that scenario effectively there is no choice for one person to remain in the premium cabin.

  • Frankie says:

    And no mention on whether 2 4 1s were being specifically targeted or not unfortunately.

  • Hingeless says:

    If 2 people are in F using a 241, will they downgrade 1 pax to PE or J?

    • Mike says:

      Highly unlikely you would find yourself downgraded from F to PE. F seems to be the safe bet as a downgrade to J would be within my own tolerance levels. In other words, it wouldn’t be the end of the world . However, J to PE would be a disaster.

      • Rob says:

        Except …. F to Eco costs BA no more compensation than F to J. If J is full and two people get downgraded (one J passenger makes way for the downgraded F passenger) BA pays out more.

        • Hingeless says:

          And does being gold help, are they going to downgrade a gold card holder from F?

  • BA Sucks says:

    It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. – Warren Buffett

  • Robert says:

    I can see BA’s logic, but this kind of policy combined with the downgrading of BA’s quality of service and the reduced availability of long haul premium flights (against inflated mileage redemption) increasingly means that I’m looking to other programmes for loyalty.

    • AVM says:

      Found anything as good as baec out of the uk? I couldn’t unfortunately.

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        I shifted to hotel schemes.

      • AH says:

        switch to starwood & transfer to AirFrance/KLM
        works great for me as its easier for me to fly from Cardiff to Schipol or Paris than it is to schlep to Heathrow.

      • Michael_S says:

        Star

        Very decent network to Europe, US (UA) and Asia. Much easier to keep status if you study loopholes. Decent lounge option. I’m a happy star gold for 7 years, I don’t touch BA except that now potentially worthless voucher and maybe if I go to Spain or Italy – on short haul you don’t really mind anyway

        • Lili says:

          Which airline within star did you choose? Does it work well for cc spend or only if you fly a lot?

          • Michael_S says:

            Turkish

            Initially got gold with business trips. Now I don’t fly for business at all. The key is to take economy long haul flights. Flights to US with UA, Thailand with Thai, South Africa with SAA can be as cheap as couple of hundred quids and go a lot of way towards status. Maybe there are easier alternatives though

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