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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.


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Comments (239)

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

  • PG says:

    Just used my companion voucher. I’ll be cancelling the Amex after the fee increase, BA enhancements and now the downgrade issue. Not worth the hassle!

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    I’d already downgraded my BAPP 6 months ago, after it dawning on me they are more of a curse, and simply can’t compete with the various Business sales throughout the year. When I called Amex to do the downgrade I have on record my thoughts at that time regarding how they are hard to use where you want to go, BAs general decline, and the fact I don’t regard them as a Premium partner anymore. I’m sticking to my guns even more so now! Have one left to use by January. Only kept the Blue card to keep the voucher safe. I’ve already exceeded my 10,000 so could do the upgrade trick to instantly generate another one, but Im holding firm on my de-coupling from the BA marketing bandwagon I boarded a few years back. Once I use my last one I’ll only be keeping my Amex Platinum.

  • Anon says:

    Looks like contributors over on FT are pulling out all the stops for anyone affected, well played folks…

    EC261 and downgrades with Amex 2-4-1 vouchers

    • CV3V says:

      That’s a great article.

    • Polly says:

      Excellent. Very clear and concise. Anon, way to go! Hope it’s a wake up call for BA.

    • Alan says:

      Superb article by c-w-s there – nice concise summary and potential text. Hopefully never required but handy to have as a reference.

      Really going to miss having EC261 to rely on in a couple of years 🙁

      • the real harry1 says:

        cws is brilliant, I will use that template when I get my F&B reimbursed, how much do you reckon I should claim for stress/ time/ loss ? – I’m thinking 200K Avios

        • Polly says:

          Harry, that gave me a laugh! If it wasn’t so annoying for you… Such a loyal customer!

          • the real harry1 says:

            not often I run across somebody clearly much more intelligent than myself (c-w-s) 🙂

      • Polly says:

        Agree Alan, same here. It’s gone into my critical “do not touch file, if you value your life” very useful just in case.

        Ruth, I think they would be very very wary of daring to downgrade you. They would look like the very nasty brigade right there! Think you might just be one of the protected ones. Hope you have a great trip in F. Boston is such a pretty city, narrow footpaths or sidewalks as they say, tho.. Take care. I would definitely book assistance on this occasion, so they know better than to chose you for that darn downgrade.

        Love that idea back there of checking if one J seat is still for sale even if the cabin looks sold out! Interesting plan of action. Good to photo it with the price too, very useful if claiming.

        • Ruth4325 says:

          Thank You! Here’s hoping the trip goes as planned! I’ll be prepared if not.

  • mark2 says:

    I may have missed this.
    When people have been downgraded have they retained the lounge access and luggage allowance of the booked class?

    • Anon says:

      No, luckily my wife guested me in to the Lounge in EDI, in LGW the very nice receptionist graciously put us in the LGW First lounge.

      • Anna says:

        What about your luggage?

        • Anon says:

          Luggage – we only had 1 checked bag each (out of orig allowance of 3 each) as we’d packed very light as was transferring onto a seaplane.

          AND BA still managed to lose one of them, it finally arrived 2.5 days later…

          No word at all on why, so unless I’m told a reasonable explanation I’m assuming that BAs enforcement of downgrade also screws with their baggage to pax allocation.

      • Kinkell says:

        Given you had no idea of being downgraded until you turned up for check in, seems a bit harsh to then not allow you into lounge,and to restrict luggage. Just as well your wife had status and some BA staff used common sense.. Hope the holiday was great and eased the frustration of the downgrade episode. Do keep us all up to speed .

  • uk1 says:

    >>Whist we make every effort to provide seats for which confirmed reservations have been made, there is a slight chance that a seat will not be available on a flight for which a person has a confirmed reservation, and no absolute guarantee of seat availability is denoted by the expressions reservations, bookings, status OK and the timings attached to them. <<

    Making every effort does not imply selling your seat to a higher bidder who books after you. Perhaps the value of your seat is what that customer paid for it.

  • Mark T says:

    I think the legislation would expect that if you were to book the same flight again, you would be 75% there by using your compensation.

    Avios should update the loyalty programme to accommodate the current legislation. Being able to refund partial companion vouchers seems obvious. So you end up with a 2 – 4 – 1.25 voucher.

    If Avios are unwilling to be flexible and resolve the issue, regulators would expect cases to settle in favour of the consumer. Big companies love making the wrong decisions and waiting to be caught out, it must be exhausting for regulators, this is totally what BA are doing right now.

    In the absence of loyalty scheme changes, 2 of the easiest to implement would be:
    1. Refunding the entire companion voucher and 75% of Avios used
    2. Refunding 75% of total Avios required to book the same flight again

  • Ruth4325 says:

    I’m planning to use a 241 for two F tickets Edi-Lhr-Bos in June next year. I am disabled and sometimes need airport assistance, so I tend to pick my seats carefully. I wonder what protection (if any) this might afford me from being downgraded?

    • Anon says:

      Ruth – have you given BA notice to inform them, surely they will then flag your booking and not disrupt you….?

      Despite my dodgy back, minor ailments and joint issues, if I’d been told there was genuinely a pax in need of special assistance, I’d of gladly tried to help whereever possible.

      • Ruth4325 says:

        Thanks. I’ve not booked the flight yet. But I do flag this up to them when I fly BA. My situation is a bit unusual, as I have MS so sometimes I need assistance and sometimes on better days I can manage it myself. Better to book assistance though. Let’s hope they don’t muck me or my husband around ( I’m the Amex holder and silver card holder and he’s the silver card and voucher holder).

  • Craig Strickland says:

    Not feeling too optimistic about our LHR-HND flight in a few weeks.

    F1 A1
    J0 C0 D0 R0 I0
    W0 E0 T0
    Y0 B0 H0 K0 M0 L0 V0 S0 N0 Q0 O0 G0

    • Anon says:

      Phone BAEC and ask if your flight is overbooked….

    • Polly says:

      Craig, go one better and see if you can still buy a last minute ticket in your class, on line, and photo it! Just in case then you have a value you could claim if it all went belly Up! Are you J or F? Good luck.

      • Craig Strickland says:

        No availability, code J I think, booked in CW.

        • Craig Strickland says:

          I have a screenshot of the availability with connections, cheapest one way £4600pp!

    • Kinkell says:

      Here do you gat this information?

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