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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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In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

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There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

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You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

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There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

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Comments (239)

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

  • Leo says:

    Well this lawyer will just sit back, relax and watch whilst awaiting a reported case.

    I’m not bothering with the 241 again after this current one. Too difficult to get what I want when I want it. Rather just wait for reasonably priced J tickets on CX, QR or MH. Going West I fly VS anyway and I’m not above giving Norwegian a punt. I say this realising it’s not an option for everyone.

  • Sean says:

    Someone asked the question, but I couldn’t see if it had been answered
    Anon do you or your partner have status with BA?
    Would be interested to know if this is happening to customers who hold status with BA

    • Liz says:

      Don’t know about Anon’s status but someone posted the other day that they were Gold and had been downgraded so it would appear no-one is safe!

  • Kipto says:

    How about Amex and virgin getting together to offer a companion voucher redemption exactly the same as the BA one. I would definitely get one in place of a BA card.

  • Artimus says:

    I contacted AMEX about this and they were not too bothered by the looks of it despite spending over £4k a month (probably because I pay on time so do not incur interest or late fees). Please see their reply below:
    “I understand your concern and have personally discussed this situation with British Airways, who have assured us that they never intend to move customers to a cabin they had not booked in, as they understand how frustrating it is for their customers. However; if due to an unavoidable situation they have to process such a movement then regardless of the method of payment used (to make the booking), they always pay their customers the appropriate compensation for the cabin they were booked into. For example, if the booking was made using Avios, they refund the difference in Avios between the cabin booking was made for and the cabin they are travelling in.

    They have further assured us that they remain committed to rewarding their customers’ loyalty, and guarantee nine million redemption seats per year across their network, with a minimum of two Club World or Club Europe seats and four World Traveller or Euro Traveller seats available on every British Airways-operated flight.”

    • the real harry1 says:

      stock answer

      • Artimus says:

        yup which goes to show how much AMEX care 🙂

        • the real harry1 says:

          ask your respondent the exact time (date & time) he/she personally discussed this with BA

          • Alan says:

            Indeed – call them out on that stock reply and also point out that a refund of the difference in Avios would be insufficient compensation.

    • CV3V says:

      I got the same answer. Didn’t seem interested, perhaps they will when people start rejecting their card as a result of being viewed as second class customers by BA.

  • Alex says:

    Can you please make use of italics clearer to distinguish between BA quotes and your comments? It’s quite confusing atm…

  • vish says:

    O/T – i have a 2-4-1 voucher from a BAPP which i havent used yet. i see if you cancel the BAPP you MIGHT lose the voucher. has this ever happened to anyone or is the risk considered low to cancel BAPP and retain the voucher?

    • the real harry1 says:

      it has happened fairly recently (as reported) but otherwise never seems to happen

      provided you have another Amex card, that is?

      • vish says:

        i have the Amex gold which is still active. but i cancelled the BAPP too hastedly – i still have it in my BA account – just need to hope (pray) it stays there until April when i intend to use it!

      • Simon says:

        Can you use a lloyds amex ?

  • Cinitum says:

    Very interesting discussion and worrying too. Some thoughts about the idea about buying refundable tickets as well as the 241:
    1) How late would you need to buy a couple of fully refundable tickets to then cancel at the last minute to be reasonably confident that you wouldn’t be downgraded. I think on many routes this wouldn’t need to be very early, hence not keeping the funds tied up for long.
    2) You could buy a refundable ticket on a card with interest free purchases for a year easily. This would cost you very little – the card’s minimum repayment per month + whatever value you put on having this “debt” on your credit report. If you aren’t planning on getting a new mortgage soon anyway…
    3) Can you combine this with the spend 10k on the ba card for non-refundable flights, get the next 241 then get a refund later after 241 is used? And do all your real spending on a different card (Amex gold for example?). I ‘m sure neither BA nor Amex would be happy about this way of using the card, but it’s not clear if they could/would do anything to prevent it.

    I haven’t, and probably wont try these, I don’t even churn cards the way some people do and I see these as more extreme. Overall, the best outcome for everyone, including BA, is IMHO for BA to offer reasonable and equivalent compensation if downgrades are necessary.

    • the real harry1 says:

      paying off stuff on your credit card is positive, not negative

    • IanMacK says:

      Suggest that this may not work.
      BA system will likely pick up similar passenger names and cancel one of the bookings – “Reason = DUPE” meaning duplicate.
      This happened to me back in early Feb when I was one of two people with the same surname, both GGL travelling to same destination on one flight. (different first names and different BAEC numbers).
      I ahd to get a very nice and helpful BA at CCR LHR to freeze my booking so that it could not be cancelled again – she even called me back the next day to confirm.

      Of course you could always book under a different name – dare I even suggest such a thing.

  • Leo says:

    I had forgotten about this but last June a couple who I was in New York with travelled out from LHR in J and had returns booked on BA02 to LCY. At the airport they were told that BA had oversold the LCY flight by one seat – they were given the “opportunity” to both transfer to a LHR flight. The wife who held the avios ticket dug her heels in saying she needed to get straight into the office from LCY – the husband (who was the companion) was offered an upgrade to F on the LHR flight – which he took and they both used the concorde room as a result.

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