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A reader wins EC261 compensation for a BA flight cancelled during covid

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At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the rules regarding the claiming of compensation for cancelled flights were relaxed.

Under EC261, if your flight is cancelled within 14 days of departure, you are entitled to receive, on top of a full refund or a revised flight:

  • Under 1,500km: €250
  • Internal EU flight over 1,500km: €400
  • Non-internal EU flight between 1,500km and 3,500km: €400
  • Non-internal EU flight over 3,500km: €600
British Airways CEDR arbitration cancelled flight

The European Union issued guidance to say that airlines should not be liable for compensation if flights are cancelled where “public authorities take measures intended to contain the Covid-19 pandemic“. Such cancellations would be treated as having been made in ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and are not liable for compensation.

A Head for Points reader decided to challenge this.

He was due to fly from Heathrow to Porto in August. His flight was cancelled six days before departure, which is inside the 14 day period which would trigger cash compensation under EC261.

British Airways refused to pay compensation, quoting the EU guidance over coronavirus exceptions.

Our reader pushed back. British Airways was continuing to operate two flights per week between Heathrow and Porto. This implied that the flight cancellations were simply a way of consolidating passengers onto the two services which were departing.

In such a scenario, the flight was arguably cancelled for pure economic reasons. A key factor behind the original introduction of EC261 was to stop this practice, with airlines cancelling flights at short notice when they had two flights due to depart with a combined load of under 100%.

The result of the CEDR arbitration was that:

“The airline has not provided any evidence to illustrate that there were any concerns over the wellbeing or health of the crew scheduled to operate the Flight or that operation of the Flight would have infringed on the safety of the passenger or crew. The airline has also not provided any evidence to illustrate that passenger numbers would have been sufficiently low as to have required cancellation of the Flight for economic reasons, and the airline has not explained why the Flight was considered unable to operate despite other flights to OPO continuing to operate in the preceding and following days. The evidence provided is not sufficient to persuade me that the airline had no choice but to cancel the Flight.”

The reader was awarded the EC261-defined compensation of €250 per passenger.

If you have had a flight cancelled with less than 14 days notice due to coronavirus, you may have grounds for a successful EC261 claim. You will need to provide proof that British Airways was still operating flights to your destination on the days before and after your flight was due to depart.

Our guide to claiming compensation from British Airways via the CEDR process is here.

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Comments (93)

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

  • Michael says:

    I had a flight that was cancelled too 4 days before. On I can see the flight operated the following day, how can I tell if the flight the following day was passenger or maybe BA were using plane for cargo only?

  • Chris Heyes says:

    I have twice (not recently) taken an Airline to court, well never actually got to court my solicitor sent them a claim on both accessions a settlement was forthcoming
    Including solicitors fees
    Both largish amounts, both increased if we accepted (solicitor and myself) none discloser agreement (yes I could have accepted without, but it was a third extra)
    Both claims never got even near court
    Which tells me they knew they couldn’t win

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

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