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Today I had a terrible experience with British Airways. My family (my wife and 8-year old son) was not allowed to check in to a British Airways flight scheduled from Brussels (Belgium) to Heathrow (UK) this morning. It’s the first leg of their journey, followed by a connecting British airways flight from Heathrow to Bangalore, India (their final destination).

The issue was whether my family would need a transit visa for layover of 2 hours at the London Heathrow airport without changing the terminal (Terminal 5). The lady at the British airways Check-In assistance desk @Brussels airport kept arguing that we must have a transit visa to pass through UK Border control. I tried to convince her that my family wouldn’t need to cross border control since they wouldn’t need to change terminal/airport. In addition, my family had valid US visas on their passports and valid resident permits from an EEA country (the plastic cards with chip issued by Belgium authority/commune). This means my family is exempted of a transit visa and wouldn’t need a Direct Airside Transit visa (DATV) or a Visitor in Transit visa.

But the lady at the British Airways Check-in desk failed to understand this. Instead she was forcing us to buy another airlines ticket from an adjacent counter. After much persuasion, the lady at the British Airways Check-in desk agreed to check in my wife but denied check-in for my son. This was because my wife had a valid resident permit card (plastic card) with a chip while my son had his valid resident permit in paper format (issued by the Belgian commune and legally accepted everywhere) and not in plastic with a chip. For me, it was very strange.

I was very much aware of the visa guidelines as outlined by www.Gov.UK and therefore I tried to explain the same to the lady at the British Airways check-in assistance desk @Brussels airport. But it was in vein as she or her duty manager did not allow my family to check in at the end.

Was British Airways wrong to deny us check-in?

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    And your question for us is what, exactly? I'm flagging this question for closure because it's just a rant in disguise, not a real question. This site is for questions, not for making demands of airlines or complaining about their treatment of you. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Dec 24 '18 at 23:50
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    Please see: Why we're not customer support for your least favorite company. It's unclear what you think we can do about this. We can't force them to let you on the plane, issue an apology, or give you your money back. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Dec 24 '18 at 23:55
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    @EJoshuaS there is a question, it's in the title. To summarise: should their family have been allowed to check-in / board or were they rightly denied? – JJ for Transparency and Monica Dec 25 '18 at 0:15
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    @EJoshuaS we get lots of questions like this and we try to be sensitive to the fact that these sorts of incidents can cost hundreds or thousands of euros (unlike many customer service type questions on Stack Overflow, for example). – phoog Dec 25 '18 at 0:15
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    Has anyone commenting read the code of conduct? This is clearly a question, where they correct in denying? He could then use this information how he wants. – FreeSoftwareServers Dec 25 '18 at 20:10
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British Airways had nothing to do with this; it was Aviapartner staff that denied you boarding.

Your son cannot use his residence permit to transit the UK (only the common EU-format permit card or the family member card - which looks like the Belgian national ID card - is accepted), but the US visa would've worked.

Unfortunately, it would appear there is a bug in TIMATIC, the database used by check-in staff: when Nationality=India and Transit Point=United Kingdom, it says:

Visa required, except for Nationals of India with a normal passport transiting through London: Gatwick (LGW), Heathrow (LHR) or Manchester (MAN) with a confirmed onward ticket for a flight to a third country on the same calendar day. They must:

  • have a visa issued by Australia, Canada, New Zealand or USA, and

  • stay in the international transit area of the airport, and

  • have documents required for the next destination.

However, when Alien resident of=Belgium, this doesn't appear, and as such the staff denied you boarding.

Unfortunately you're likely out of luck, as TIMATIC is run by IATA and is the "bible of airlines". Nonetheless, you could try claiming compensation from Aviapartner and British Airways per EC261, by pointing to the GOV.UK website as well as the fact that, if not entering AR=BE in TIMATIC, the exemption for US visa holders will appear.

If granted compensation, you should be given €600 per person plus the unused ticket refunded.

I will also alert IATA of this likely bug, so the database can be corrected. I will let you know when this is done.

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    @UnrecognizedFallingObject The new itinerary probably did not stop/transit in the UK. – mkennedy Dec 25 '18 at 4:17
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    Whether the airline outsources ground handling to a third party is irrelevant. Ultimately, it is still BA’s fault if they denied boarding when they shouldn’t have. – jcaron Dec 25 '18 at 12:29
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    If the passenger fulfilled all requirements, but was denied boarding he should be able to claim financial compensation according to EU directives. The fact that they are using a third party which uses a buggy database as their tool is of no concern to the passenger. I would suggest getting a lawyer. – Vladimir F Dec 25 '18 at 14:55
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    @Crazydre There are many agencies which will take a share of the compensation and nothing more. They should also get the tickets reimbursed. Alternatively, a lawyer might be able to tell them their chances and his conditions to take the case. First consultations are cheap or sometimes free. Also travel.stackexchange.com/questions/74956/… – Vladimir F Dec 25 '18 at 15:08
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    @VladimirF For starters, I'm writing to my IATA contact to alert them of the TIMATIC kink – Crazydre Dec 25 '18 at 15:32

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