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Does Italian law mean you can book a cheap British Airways ticket from Milan but get on in London?

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We cover ex-EU flights deals (cheap flights which start in a European country, not the UK) now and again on Head for Points, although they are not for everyone.  There are two types of ex-EU deal if you live in the UK:

saving money (not on BA) by starting your trip outside the UK, which is usually cheaper because you avoid long-haul UK Air Passenger Duty (up to £160) and because other markets generally have fewer corporate travellers willing to pay full fare

saving money on BA flights by starting your trip outside the UK, which involves flying back to London and then onwards to your final destination.  This is cheaper because you avoid long-haul APD and because BA has to price these indirect trips cheaply to compete with direct flights from the same cities. 

As a random example of the latter, take a look at this article we ran last week showing £1,150 British Airways Club World return flights to Cape Town, as long as you start in Amsterdam.

Of course, flying to your European starting point costs time and money.  I did a few trips like this when I was single, because I was happy to trade the time for the money saved and the extra Avios and tier points earned.  There is no way, however, that I would drag my wife and children around Europe on a similar route.

You MUST, MUST, MUST take the first leg of your flight.  If you book Amsterdam – Heathrow – Cape Town and just turn up at Heathrow, you’re stuffed.  Your entire itinerary will have been cancelled when you failed to board the flight in Amsterdam.

But has Italian law thrown all this into disarray?

Take a look at this article.

In June 2017, British Airways and Etihad were each fined a whopping €1 million for not telling customers that they would NOT lose their entire booking if they missed the first leg when flying from Italy.

It appears that Italian law does not allow airlines to cancel the rest of your journey if you fail to take the first flight.  The article makes it clear that this applies both to multi-leg outward trips and return trips.

Italian law does not give you, the passenger, carte blanche however.  You must notify the airline of your intention to fly the subsequent parts of your ticket within 24 hours of the original departure time (two hours for a round trip same-day ticket).

If you do this, and your ticket was sold in Italy, the airline is obliged to let you continue your trip.

Here is an example in practice

Take a look at this page of the Qatar Airways website.

It tells passengers who have bought tickets in Italy that they can ring a specific number, or email a specific inbox, within 24 hours of their original flight and have the rest of the ticket reinstated.

What does this mean?

I am not a European aviation lawyer.  Let’s get that clear from the start.

However, the implication here is that you could potentially book a cheap Milan – London – XXXXXX business class ticket on British Airways, and not bother to take the first flight.

All you would have to do is call BA after the departure of the first leg and insist they reinstate the remaining flights.  You could then turn up at Heathrow and jump on as usual, having made a substantial saving.

One potential risk is the definition of “a ticket sold in Italy”.  Flights booked on ba.com from Italy will probably be ticketed locally but can you be certain of this? Is there a way of knowing where the “sale” took place?  You could, of course, use an Italian travel agent or Italian website to make your booking which would ensure it was “sold” in Italy.

Let’s be very clear ….

I am NOT recommending you go out and try this.  I am simply highlighting the fact that Italian law seems to imply that it should be possible.  However, I am NOT going to be taking a risk here and I don’t recommend that you do either, unless you are brave (or on a fully flexible ticket!).  I’m sure at some point we will find out one or the other whether it is possible.

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