I bought a British Airways flight ticket from Nigeria to Belgium to transit in Heathrow for 5+ hours with no intention of coming out on the 28th February 2020. But to my surprise I was denied boarding the aircraft: the British Airways staff insisted I must have a UK visa to transit in UK even though am not going to come out.

I know definitely there is no way they will allow me out of Heathrow airport without UK visa so he advice to buy another air ticket from other air lines because of that I slept in the airport for three days so that I will be able to buy another country ticket and a cheaper one because at that time I was advised to buy another ticket all the tickets were expensive.

When I asked what will happen to the one I bought if I can get refund he said no, which I disagreed with. He also gave me option of changing the ticket to a certain date because in my passport I have a UK visa which has not started counting so he told me to change it to that date. I told him I have important meeting in Belgium. Even to change it to that date is more expensive to buying a new one.

So now I am in Belgium I got another ticket very expensive to Belgium, this was happening 4 day ago. Please how do I go about this can someone tell me what to do and get my money back because I need my money back.

  • 2
    I'm sorry for your mishap. I was caught by surprise very much like you: I was checking in in Berlin for a flight to Portland through Canada, with no intention to leave the airport in Canada. This was a first for me: Usually flights from Berlin go through the hubs of London or Amsterdam. At the counter, the clerk said "I see that you have an Esta; do you also have an eTA?" Because he saw that I drew a blank, he explained that Canada requires a Visa waiver as well. Luckily I was early and could get one on a fellow traveler's smartphone almost instantly, and board. Mar 4, 2020 at 6:59
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    As a general aside: What both of us experienced is a downside of bypassing a travel agent who would probably have reminded us. For many things we do through the internet we now need some expert knowledge which would before have been part of an agent's or clerk's professional qualification. Mar 4, 2020 at 7:09
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica a good travel agent would at least alert you to the possibility (though they would probably not know all the details and subtleties) in the most common cases, but like airlines, they do not necessarily know all the possible cases, and not-so-good-ones will not tell you anything at all. We've had cases like that in previous questions quite a few times. Sadly, in the end, the traveler is the only one responsible for making sure they have all the right documentation. The big trouble is that things that you would take for granted for ages change quite often nowadays.
    – jcaron
    Mar 4, 2020 at 16:41

2 Answers 2


I'm afraid that even if you don't exit the airport or go through passport control, Nigerian citizens (and many others) need a Direct Airside Transit Visa to transit via the UK.

This can be seen very easily using the check if you need a visa tool provided by the UK government.

There are some conditions which could exempt you, I assume none applied to you.

You are solely responsible for making sure you have all the relevant paperwork before buying your ticket. BA were in their right in denying boarding (actually, they were required to do so by UK regulations), and they are in their right in refusing to refund you if the fare does not provide for it.

  • 3
    "You are solely responsible for making sure you have all the relevant paperwork" shouldn't BA be reasonably expected to warn a customer that they actually need a transit visum for the flight they have booked and paid for? Maybe there are some consumer-rights organisations in Nigeria that can help.
    – Ivana
    Mar 3, 2020 at 12:58
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    @Ivana No; it doesn't make sense for an airline to be responsible for knowing or collecting a dozen different parameters for each of hundreds of thousands of travelers. They'll check when it's relevant - before you get on the plane. It's the responsibility of the passenger to make sure all the Is are dotted and Ts crossed before they get to the airport.
    – T.J.L.
    Mar 3, 2020 at 13:29
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    @Ivana In some cases the airline does not know what visa you need until the time of check in - as they simply don't know which country passport you hold.
    – Aleks G
    Mar 3, 2020 at 14:02
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    @Ivana There are lots of different cases, and depending on what passport(s) you hold, what visas or residence permits you hold, your origin, destination or transit points, how long your transits lasts (both in duration and in number of calendar days), and so on, it's very difficult to handle all those cases automatically. Also, rules change, and what paperwork the traveller holds may also change, so making such statements at booking time rather than check-in time is even more difficult. I'm pretty sure they cover it with a blanket statement requiring you to have all the necessary paperwork.
    – jcaron
    Mar 3, 2020 at 14:18
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    @J... I seriously doubt that. Have you ever tried parsing Timatic data? It sometimes goes on and on for pages, and even humans can have a hard time understanding it.
    – jcaron
    Mar 4, 2020 at 16:24

There seems to be a basic misunderstanding on what the word transit means and is being mixed up with visiting.

When you are passing through another country, soley to arrive to a country of destination: you are in transit.

For this type of travel, many countries require a visa or some form of authorization.

As for visitor visa, it is the sole responsibility of the traveler that

  • they have the needed authorization from the country used in transit

Precondition is mostly that the traveler be allowed into the country of destination.

Such requirements have existed now since the 1920's, so it is really nothing new and should be no cause for surprise.

Annex 11: Paris Conference on Passports & Customs Formalities and Through Tickets (1920-10-21)

  • Page 154 (Page 153 of PDF)

9. Issue of visa. -Transit visas will, unless for exceptional reasons (e.g., undesirables), be issued at once without enquiry solely upon production of the entrance visa for the country of destination in addition to transit visas for the intermediate countries.
10. Duration of validity of visa. - The duration of validity of a visa shall always be the same as that of the entrance visa of the country of destination ; it being clearly understood, moreover, that the transit visa only authorises one or more journeys of normal duration without voluntary interruption of the journey on the part of the traveller across the territory of transit in question.
11. Fee charged. -The maximum fee charged will be 1 franc (gold), and will be subject to the same provisions as contained in Article 8 as regards conditions of equality, reciprocity, the abolition of individual reductions and total exemptions.


  • 1926-05-18: Geneva Passport Conference (PDF)
    • List of Annexes: pdf page 70
      • Annex 1: Graz Agreement 1922-01-27: pdf page 71
      • Annex 11: Paris Conference on Passports & Customs Formalities and Through Tickets (1920-10-21) pdf page 152
        • Annex I, II, Passport sample (155,156)
      • Final Act (1926): pdf page 163

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