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Is BA trying to make you think you’ve given up your EU261 compensation rights?

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Regular readers will know that we have given much coverage in recent months to British Airways and its approach to EU261 compensation.  This has primarily been around a perception that the airline is deliberately targeting Avios redemptions, and specifically British Airways American Express 2-4-1 redemptions, for downgrades because they are due less – or indeed no – compensation.

It seems that the airline has a few more tricks up its sleeve, however.

British Airways BA A380 flying

When you are downgraded, it is standard British Airways policy to give you a £200 gift card on the spot.  Historically this has been ex-gratia compensation and is, basically, shutting you up.  All of the other compensation you are due – EU261 (75% of the one-way ticket price) and the difference in cost between the ticket you bought and the ticket you flew – does not arrive until much later.  This no longer seems to be the case.

Here is a copy of the gift card covering letter.  This one is for £400 because it covered two people (click to enlarge):

BA EU261

The text at the top says:

You agree to accept this Card as the method of payment of your compensation under …. EU261.

Now …. it is true that, under Article 7.3 of EU261, British Airways can – with your written agreement – pay you compensation in vouchers, gift cards, Avios or whatever it likes.  However, this is ONLY with your written agreement which you do not have to give.  You are entitled to demand cash.

However, we then move on. This is what the EU regulations state:

Article 15

Exclusion of waiver

1. Obligations vis-à-vis passengers pursuant to this Regulation may not be limited or waived, notably by a derogation or restrictive clause in the contract of carriage.

2. If, nevertheless, such a derogation or restrictive clause is applied in respect of a passenger, or if the passenger is not correctly informed of his rights and for that reason has accepted compensation which is inferior to that provided for in this Regulation, the passenger shall still be entitled to take the necessary proceedings before the competent courts or bodies in order to obtain additional compensation.

British Airways is simply not allowed to ‘call it quits’ under EU261 by giving you a £200 gift card as your full settlement.

The wording on the voucher – “You agree to accept this Card as the method of payment of your compensation under …. EU261″ – is quite clever, I think.  It does not – legally speaking – mean that you are giving up your rights to EU261 compensation but, because of how it is worded, I think 99% of the population would assume that is what it meant.

I went to the man who literally wrote the book on EU261 compensation (you can buy it on Amazon here), Professor Jeremias Prassl of Oxford University.  He told me in a statement (the bolding is mine):

Article 15 of the Regulation clearly stipulates that airlines cannot contractually limit or waive their obligations under the Passenger Rights Regulation. There is some leeway for compensation payments to be made through vouchers etc – but the amount due to the passenger cannot be varied, and there needs to be assigned agreement to pay in travel vouchers and/or other services.

My personal view is that you should never sign anything you are given by an airline.  I certainly don’t think that you should sign this waiver, given that the gift card only has a three month life.  I would also insist that the £200 be given as ex-gratia credit and not as part of an EU261 settlement, which is what it has historically been in the past.


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Comments (109)

  • Phil says:

    I was on flight BA33 on 16th of June LHR-KUL. The flight was supposed to take off at 20:15 but we were still on the tarmac at 23:15 due to a technical fault. Do I have grounds for a claim?

    • the realharry1 says:

      take-off time is irrelevant – it’s when you land & the doors are opened that counts

      did you arrive more than 3hrs late?

  • czechoslovakia says:

    To be honest, as I read it, the terms are only concerning the method of payment of compensation, and nothing to do with the amount. I would take this card as a upfront partial payment to assist with immediate disruption costs, expecting the balance of compensation to be added to this card at a later date.

    • Rob says:

      a) the payment has historically been ex-gratia and I have never heard of anyone getting their EU261 reduced by £200

      b) the wording is deliberately (?) confusing to make you think this is all you are getting

      • Michael Jennings says:

        When I have made EU261 compensation claims, I have just sent them a message detailing my flight details and how late I was, and haven’t asked for a specific amount. (I have always then been pain the correct amount). It’s perfectly reasonable to do it that way and see what happens.

      • czechoslovakia says:

        Certainly it wouldn`t win the Crystal Mark for Clarity! But if that was offered to me at the airport, i`d genuinely think of it as part of my compo being paid up front, expecting the rest to be added to the card later when all the facts were straightened out during the claim and the full amount due known. But then, the more I look it at, the more ways I see of understanding it.
        Cheers Rob

  • Billy says:

    £200 would be 75% of the fare on a fair number of examples though, no?

    I assume this is not the case with the attached voucher…

    • Rob says:

      Not really. You can’t be downgraded from economy (!), so the World Traveller Plus is your benchmark. Your ticket would need to be cheaper that £550 return before £200 was more than 75% of a one-way ticket, and you don’t see much, if anything, in PE these days for under £550.

  • s says:

    Hi
    I am getting quite apprehensive about my honeymoon to SA, I am expecting to get downgraded from CW as I used a 2-4-1 voucher. makes financial sense for BA sell a seat at full price thousands for compensation of only 200/400 cash plus points.

    • JamesB says:

      Keep things in perspective. I’ve been flying regularly for 37 years. The only time I was ever downgraded or offloaded was as a student in the states when I was falling over myself to volunteer. By contrast I have received a fair number of upgrades. Relax and enjoy your honeymoon.

    • Anna says:

      +1 but have you done any dummy bookings to see how full your cabin is getting? I think you can book up to 8 seats at a time, so if those are still showing free close to your travel date you can probably breathe easy.

      • Genghis says:

        Yawn. Don’t panic people.

        • Peter K says:

          This site is all about getting Avios and if getting bumped was really common there would be huge numbers of people saying it had happened to them. As it is that is not happening so we can quite safely extrapolate and say it is rare.

    • Peter K says:

      Oh, and it’s quite normal to be worried about your wedding/honeymoon. You want it to be perfect…but don’t stress too much 🙂

      Oh, and the things that go wrong make for good stories later (like my fainting and breaking my nose (no I wasn’t drunk))!

  • Anna says:

    Does anyone know of a sure fire way of getting through to a UK based BA call centre? I find the overseas based staff totally unhelpful, and quite often unreasonable as well, as though they are only allowed to give prepared answers from a script (mainly “That’s not possible”). The reason I ask is that I’m on a separate cash booking this summer from my OH and son who are on 2 4 1 (and hopefully won’t get downgraded!) so they are likely to allocate their seats together but not mine. I’m not paying up to £85 to reserve a seat so am hoping that if I can speak to a reasonable CSA they will take pity on me and put me next to them!

    • Genghis says:

      I call the 0191 no and always seem to get someone UK based

      • Genghis says:

        Note though that you’re not entitled to anything. They’re them rules

    • Joe says:

      No chance. Computer says no.

    • the realharry1 says:

      just ask them to link the tickets, which is free & means you end up sitting together

      • John says:

        Can you explain how exactly?

        • the realharry1 says:

          sure, I’ve done this about 10 times, always with success

          we are 5, so I often buy 4 Avios RFS redemptions + 1 cash ticket

          I phone up BA CS after booking and ask them ‘to link the tickets’

          they know what we are talking about, Raffles said recently it was a secret Gold perk – but we are all Blueys

          then we end up all sitting together – or actually in reality the allocated seats at check-in are 5 across a row of 6 then I change 2 of us to better seats & leave 3 in one row 🙂

          I did wonder if it helped that until recently we had an under-12YO in the party (BA ‘child’), but it also worked at Easter when she had already had her 12th birthday

          • Anna says:

            Shortly after booking I rang the (overseas) call centre and was told that “it was not possible” to link the bookings, but that I could try calling again once OH and son had their seats allocated and ask to be seated with them. No guarantees though!

          • the realharry1 says:

            you’re better off doing it now with a more helpful agent

          • Lyn says:

            You should definitely call again soon to request the two BA bookings to be linked, because, and the earlier that is done the better. But still no guarantee of seats unless you are BA gold.

            But if you or your husband are BA silver, you should be able to choose seats in that reservation now (making sure there is an empty seat available) and then ask for that (currently empty) seat to be requested in the other reservation. It also depends on the age of your son, because BA try to seat families with children together 72 hours before the flight, if they haven’t done so earlier.

          • Lyn says:

            Sorry, not sure what happens with typing in this form –

            because it is always possible to link the 2 BA bookings together (just not to guarantee seats)..
            And certainly ask for your seat requests even if you aren’t BA silver, preferably with a helpful representative once you find one.

          • John says:

            Hi, thanks for reply. Yes, have ‘linked’ the bookings fine, but was told they can’t (won’t) allocate adjacent seat for my fellow (BA Blue) traveller (I had already selected exit row seats for free as a OWsapphire) – Only thing I can do is wait until T-24 I guess….

          • the realharry1 says:

            John – perhaps asking too much to expect to get a free exit seat using linking tickets 🙂

          • Lady London says:

            I think the wording of the request for this can also be ‘to complete party’

    • Lyn says:

      By all means ask them to link the bookings (and once you have seat assignments for one booking ask for the specific seat you’d like for the other booking to be requested),and there’s a good chance of seats together, but unfortunately it isn’t be guaranteed. Unless you are perhaps BA Gold? As OneWorld Sapphire (like BA Silver) it has been a bit hit and miss.. I honestly don’t think the location of the call centre makes a difference in this case.

  • John says:

    O/T: I noticed the following now for my bookings with BA..

    Cancel your booking and rebook at a later date
    You now have the option of cancelling your itinerary and retain the value of your ticket for future travel within the ticket validity. Reservations need to be cancelled prior to ticketed departure and change fee will apply.

    To find out more, or to select this option, please call your local British Airways office to arrange for your itinerary cancellation.

    Has anyone has recent experience about this? Curious to find out what are the catches. I suppose will still have to pay a change fees when rebook in future.

    • Polly says:

      John,

      If this is indeed true, it will be a wonderful “enhancement” a real one for a change. They may have been urged to do this by QR. When we called up last year to ask to cancel our QR EU J tkt. Just in case…we were told for a fee of around £250 l think! We could reschedule our flights for within one year. I thought that was reasonable enough. And if you have refundable hotel nights, then the insurance claim would literally only be that fee, and positioning flights. Made the situation much less stressful for us at that time. In the end we did travel.
      Where exactly did it appear, as l booked two weeks ago and didn’t notice it…

  • David Smith says:

    More sensationalism. The CompCard is in addition to the refund you’re entitled to if downgraded.
    BA aren’t trying to get out of paying it as after all it’s a fixed percentage of the ticket.

    • TripRep says:

      David,

      Is waiting for 4+ months for EU261 compensation for a downgrade that BA should pay within 7 days “sensationalism”?

      My experience leads me to believe they are deliberately implementing policies and behave in a way to minimise the amounts that they pay to deserving customers that qualify for compensation.

      I suggest you read the reports that are out there on this and other similar blogs/forums to inform your own opinion further.

    • TripRep says:

      And why does it take 3 attempts to claim under EU261 before you get close to being able to get a deadlock position that BA refer you to CEDR?

      Unless you’re a committed consumer that knows their rights you’re very unlikely to be informed that they will take this stance and that their platitudes offered appear to be there to mislead & deter many pax with a valid claim.

      Totally unnecessary and dubious practice IMHO. Would be interested to know how much the CAA are aware of such non-compliance.

  • BP says:

    Does anyone know if Amex will add an offer to a card if I call and ask? My girlfriend has £10 off Ticketmaster on her Platinum card and I don’t on my supplementary Platinum card.

    • Alan says:

      I’ve had success before and others have reported it too – definitely worth asking.

      • David2910 says:

        I’ve done twice in the last fortnight, stating my partner has x Offer, pls could you add? (eurostar and amex travel offers). I did via the message centre online. No problem whatsoever, added by next day in both cases. It also stimulated them to add a whole load of other Offers to my BAPP account which was previously fairly empty.

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