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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%.

British Airways CEDR compensation

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.


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2022)

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.

Until 18th July 2022 there is an astonishing special offer on these cards. You get 50,000 Avios on the Avios Plus Mastercard and 10,000 Avios on the free Avios Mastercard. You can apply here. We strongly recommend getting the Avios Plus card whilst this offer is running.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

50,000 Avios for signing up (A CRAZY SPECIAL OFFER!) and an upgrade voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

10,000 Avios for signing up (SPECIAL OFFER) and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on Amex Gold is increased from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 30,000 Membership Rewards points until 19th July 2022. This card is free for the first year.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

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.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

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.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

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 flightradar24.com 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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