We are receiving an increasing number of emails at HFP from British Airways passengers who have had major issues on or with BA flights. Our general advice has been to take BA to arbitration, making a realistic and not sensationalist claim for compensation.
A HfP reader who has been through the process of taking BA to arbitration has written this how to guide. You will find it useful if you also feel the need of taking a BA complaint further after not having been offered satisfactory compensation.
This is how you should approach your claim. Remember that, of course, this article is purely the opinion and experiences of the author and is not official legal advice in any sense. Please also remember that the remainder of this article was written by a third party and not by Rob or myself, although it has been edited slightly.
What is CEDR?
Before we got into the details of making a claim, this is an explanation of what CEDR is and how it works:
CEDR is an independent dispute resolution body that adjudicates disputes between passengers and subscribing airlines.
They are currently adjudicating disputes related to Thomson (since the 1st February 2016), British Airways (June 2016), Thomas Cook (July 2016) and EasyJet (August 2016).
A professional adjudicator will assess the application provided by the passenger, evidence submitted by the airline and the relevant law as appropriate in order to reach a decision on the validity of a claim.
CEDR Adjudicators have the power to direct that compensation should be paid to the passenger if the claim is deemed to be proven
In achieving a fair and reasonable outcome for both parties they will treat the passenger and airline fairly, give equal consideration to the word of the passenger and the word of the airline, remain neutral and promote neither the position of the passenger nor that of the airline.
How to claim
Stage 1: Raising concerns with the airline
You will not receive a satisfactory hearing at arbitration or in court unless you show that you have used your best efforts to achieve compensation directly from the airline.
In the case of BA you have to use their tortuous online complaints process, which is designed to make record keeping and response as difficult as possible. You must contact Customer Relations via the form found on this British Airways site.
It is essential that before submitting the complaint online you keep a record of the date and time sent. Copy the text element of the online submission into a Word or similar file to keep a record of what you stated (save this on your own computer).
The BA system does not encourage this but you will need it later. I suggest creating a BA file and placing a copy of this document into that file.
Once submitted British Airways will email you a receipt to confirm they have received your complaint. This reply also includes your auto generated complaint reference number which you will keep needing, so don’t lose it!
Stage 2: The airline trying to resolve your complaint
The airline will try and resolve your complaint to your satisfaction. This may take several weeks but you must allow them sufficient time to assess your complaint and respond.
BA tend to respond fairly quickly via email and you will find a letter explaining their response embedded. Keep a copy of the response in your BA folder.
If there is an offer of compensation, you need to decide whether it is reasonable and at this stage either accept or reject it.
Stage 3: Rejecting the offer
If you decide to reject the airline’s offer, you need to respond with your reasoning and a suggestion of what you would consider to be a reasonable offer.
However, responding to this can be rather difficult as you must follow BA’s convoluted proces to reply correctly.
I would advise that you explain your logic (with calculations, eg x% of the flight cost or £x based on 1.6p per Avios point which is BA’s selling price) as to your idea of proper recompense. Bear in mind that if BA rejects it, the Independent Adjudicator will read it and if it is plainly unreasonable will probably reject it too! Be sensible. (If you feel that the airline has contravened any consumer or EU laws, quote them here).
End the submission by suggesting if they do not accept your proposal you will take your case to the County Court. This “threat” should encourage them to either make a FINAL offer or to refuse to budge. BA should send you a response indicating that this is their final offer and then offering you the chance to go to mediation via CEDR (an independent dispute resolution body that adjudicates disputes between passengers and subscribing airlines of which BA is one).
At the bottom of the BA response you will see a paragraph telling you NOT to reply directly to the email as the email address is unmonitored. You must therefore respond ONLINE via the link at the bottom of the email. Hit that link, enter your case reference and paste in your response. Submit and keep a record in your BA file.
Stage 4: The final response letter
If the passenger and airline are unable to find a mutually acceptable resolution to the complaint, the airline will issue a ‘final response letter’.
This letter will tell you that the airline is unable to take your complaint any further and it should normally say that you may refer the matter to CEDR for adjudication. Go to CEDR’s website to see how it works.
Once you have received a “Final Response” that frees you up to go to mediation via CEDR straight away. Alternatively you can apply to CEDR independently BUT only once 8 weeks have passed from your original complaint submission.
In my case I had the “Final Response” letter via email from BA within three weeks of initiating my complaint and was then free to apply to CEDR immediately thereafter.
Stage 5: Apply to CEDR for adjudication
CEDR’s online process is a bit of a hit and miss if you apply before the 8 weeks are up. Their system seems programmed to reject the application even if you have had your Final Response letter, but it is easy to follow the process.
You can attach files (ie those you have saved in your BA folder). It is probably better to download their PDF form, complete and sign it and then scan it in to send it along with all your other files via email. If you have a problem you can call CEDR. They are usually very helpful and will sort out any glitches.
You also need to send your Credit Card details to underwrite a £25 fee should your case be 100% rejected by the adjudicator. This is unlikely and anyway the CEDR process is much quicker and cheaper than the County Court process. You can always revert to that if you are unhappy with the adjudicator’s decision, though it may no doubt become part of the airlines evidence in any County Court process.
CEDR will check your application and may ask for further information. Once they accept it all further correspondence is automated via email and you can log in to check the progress online, answer further queries or see the airline’s comments – or hopefully their revised offer!
Once CEDR has passed it on to the airline they have 15 working days to submit their response (or defence). If no improved offer is forthcoming within the 15 days, the CEDR will adjudicate.
You will then have your final result – and hopefully one in your favour.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
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:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
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.
EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.
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.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.