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How to take British Airways to CEDR arbitration

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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.

British Airways Airbus A350 Aircraft

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.


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Comments (121)

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

  • Jack Contin says:

    Does anyone have thoughts on BA taking vindictive action against passengers regularly (but justified) seeking compensation or arbitration? Should we be concerned that BA might put a black mark against our CIV score for example?

    • Sam Wardill says:

      I think this would be very dangerous for them as (under data protection laws) we are entitled to see that data. The bad publicity arising from such an action would be costly.

    • TripRep says:

      In fairness to BA tactics (past and current) I seriously doubt they’d try this on, in fact I suspect they’d consider the opposite. For myself they are already aware if I get downgraded/bumped again with similar obfuscating, misleading and generally poor customer service, I’d have no hesitation in starting legal proceedings earlier.

      However, should vindictive behaviour ever be suspected by any of HFP readers, you can be sure that Rob would be receiving emails and they’d be plenty of comments on here and FT….

    • the_real_a says:

      This is exactly what Nationwide did (closing all accounts) after losing adjudications.

  • Sam Wardill says:

    I submitted a CEDR case on 31st January for compensation from BA under Regulation EC261/2004. I’m still awaiting adjudication. They finally appointed an adjudicator on 13th April and told me to expect a response in 14 days. I guess that must have been working days and I think they are still late.

    On the plus side, unlike in the process suggested by the writer of the article, I was never asked for any credit card details.

  • PaulW says:

    It is also hard to share experiences of CEDR cases as one of the conditions of use is that you don’t! So suspect plenty of anonymous stories! They seem busy. Process a month late at the moment but probably still quicker and easier than courts route. The speed and standard cut and paste responses mean you will probably be at 8 weeks long before any final letter from BA.

  • Yarong76 says:

    It is most likely the route I will eventually take in my case: a code share multi-stop flight with BA flight numbers, operated by another OW carrier. As BAEC Gold I changed seats over the phone on one of the flights. When I arrived to check into the flight, boarding pass wouldn’t scan, but I was told to board the aircraft.

    My suspicion is that the other airline was not “expecting” me in the seat I was assigned over the phone.

    Unbeknown to me (discovered this a couple of days later), the airline reported me as a “no-show” and BA subsequently cancelled my ticket and I was told to purchase a new ticket.
    The events which followed I would rather not mention in the comment, but needless to say I had suffered more than just “inconveniences”.

    Apart from the fact that as soon as I discovered the cancellation of the ticket, my holiday was over, my honesty and integrity as a person was put into question. I am now determined to receive an explaination from BA as to why I found myself in the position I was in and to be accountable for the false accusation that I had “simply decided to use up only one leg of my multi city itinerary”

    I will happily update HFP via email on the outcome of my complaint.

    • Graham Walsh says:

      I had a similar experience but it worked out ok. I travelled from LHR > JFK > MCO in March and LHR Virgin check in issued my boarding passes. When I tried to board at MCO my boarding pass didn’t work so they printed me a new one (not sure why they didn’t do that for you). Once on the aircraft and seated, I was approached before doors were closed by a cabin crew and ground staff asking me to prove my identity which I thought was very odd. The connecting flight was Delta so all booked through Virgin.

      • Yarong76 says:

        My purchased ticket was in business class but the connecting flight was a domestic short haul so I thought all seats were the same. It was only after take off when I was asked if I wanted to purchase something off the menu I thought to myself “no, something’s not right”. When I spoke to the flight attendant she apologised and said that the row I was sat in was not business and showed me the passenger list – at which point I told her “here’s my name….next to the previously assigned seat”. Her response was “I don’t know how the gate agent didn’t spot this”

        What happened later I’m now fighting to find out , but regardless of the “why/how”, the airline reported me as “no show”, BA cancelled remainder of ticket without notice, communication , alert.

  • Graham Walsh says:

    I’m using CEDR at present to claim off easyJet for a 5 ½ hour delay AMS to LTN. They blame the weather when they clearly told us otherwise. They have all evidence including a video and have presented their case to easyJet. They 14 days to reply otherwise next level I guess.

  • Steve says:

    Tried using the BA complaints procedure a few years ago, which got me nowhere.

    What did get their attention was when the papers from MCOL land on their desk. Very quickly resolved – probably the thought of having to travel north of Birmingham

  • Anna says:

    Just trying to get an answer to a simple question from BA contact staff makes me lose the will to live. I emailed them 3 times to ask if we will be able to use the lounge at Manchester the evening before a CW connecting flight, as our domestic tickets were booked before the change to CE. All they will say is refer to the itinerary, which of course shows the flight as being in Economy as per the original booking! When I tried to get a bit more sense out of them, they told me to call Customer Services, though I rarely get much sense out of them either! It can’t be cost effective to employ people who can’t resolve anything quickly.

    • Rob says:

      I think there is a ‘same day’ rule so the answer is no. You should probably have had your domestic flight upgraded to CE automatically, however – some people got it.

  • sam says:

    i had a dispute with flybe last year re overccharging for taking an earlier flight home. they refused to budge and i went to the retail ombubsman and they conceded within a month or so. is this different? my case was for £170 i think.

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

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