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Last month, Morocco went into lockdown while I was there on holiday. I had tickets with BA. At that time some flights were cancelled but then so-called rescue flights were reinstated.

Airlines such Easyjet and Ryanair offered their customers with an existing ticket seats on these rescue flights (if their flights were cancelled). BA did not. BA did not inform me of flight cancellation. I found out from the news.

When I rang BA, they told me they had no flights left. They offered me flights in April (which were in fact also cancelled) Later on, they introduced extra rescue flights and of course did not offer them to me - why would they when they can sell them for £300 each. After I returned to the UK, I asked them to pay for my new ticket with Ryanair (at £300 single). They offered me refund of my original tickets (£180 return)

The wording of the law is given below. It says i should be able to receive reimbursement or satisfactory rerouting. Of course, I want them to provide re-routing (or cost covering this)

Do I have any legal standing if I am to pursue a claim against them? I was under the impression that airlines were legally obliged to buy you tickets (from rivals) if they cancelled flights from numerous stories i have read before or is this only in the case when they denied you boarding?

Note that delay compensation does not apply here because I think this is an exceptional circumstance, but airlines should offer re-routing or refund in this situation.

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32004R0261&from=FR

(12) The trouble and inconvenience to passengers caused by cancellation of flights should also be reduced. This should be achieved by inducing carriers to inform passengers of cancellations before the scheduled time of departure and in addition to offer them reasonable re-routing, so that the passengers can make other arrangements. Air carriers should compensate passengers if they fail to do this, except when the cancellation occurs in extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

(13) Passengers whose flights are cancelled should be able either to obtain reimbursement of their tickets or to obtain re-routing under satisfactory conditions, and should be adequately cared for while awaiting a later flight.

EDIT: https://www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/Resolving-travel-problems/Delays-cancellations/Cancellations/Medium-haul-cancellations/ suggests there is a right to re-route. It does not mention any pre-condition for this.

  • What you are quoting is not the wording of the law (technically: regulation), it's the recitals at the beginning of it. Sidestepping your question about reimbursement, note that if they cancel a flight without advance warning and fail to get you to your destination within a certain time, you are entitled to an additional €400-600 compensation (depending on distance) which would cover your costs (cf. article 7). That's on top of any refund. – Relaxed Apr 28 at 14:58
  • @Lost1 Quite unusual for an airline like BA not to advise you of the cancellation at all. Typically they email (certainly did in my case). Do you know why you weren’t contacted? – Traveller Apr 28 at 15:20
  • @Relaxed i am not expecting the 4-600 euro compensation because the lockdown due to covid-19 probably counts as an exceptional circumstance. In the case of exceptional circumstance, which this is, airlines do not need to pay compensation. – Lost1 Apr 28 at 15:25
  • @Traveller i bought multi city trip via a third party website. Royal Air Morocco to Morocco and BA on the way back. I think due to covid 19, they were swamped. I made many calls to get through. – Lost1 Apr 28 at 15:26
  • @Lost1 Yes, appreciate the difficulties of getting through to them by phone. I’m just surprised you didn’t get an email when the flight was cancelled. Both my BA flights on separate days were cancelled and I got an email both times. – Traveller Apr 28 at 16:54
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So after some research, I found out the answer to this questions. As suspected, a passenger is entitled a refund in this situation.

In article 8 of EC261/2008, it is stated that "the passenger shall be offered the choice between a reimbursement within seven days or rerouting". Hence, in this case, BA should have offered rerouting or refund, which they did not. Note that they had to offer the choice. It did not say they can offer a refund (retrospectively) and wash their hands of the issue.

This is stated explicitly in the European Commission Interpretative Guidelines, which can be found in here. Specifically, in section 4.2, it is stated that

"Where the air carrier does not offer the choice between reimbursement and re-routing and, in the case of connecting flights, reimbursement and a return flight to the airport of departure and re-routing, but decides unilaterally to reimburse the passenger, he or she is entitled to a further reimbursement of the price difference with the new ticket under comparable transport conditions."

so I think this is as clear as it can get. In my case, BA has repeatedly refused to play ball. I am writing them a letter of intended prosecution. If they still refuse refund, i will be taking them to court.

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  • I think "prosecution" rather than "persecution"? – Roddy of the Frozen Peas May 8 at 14:47
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas haha, yes! – Lost1 May 8 at 15:39
  • Good luck with that. Many airlines routinely violate EC261 at the moment and I'm guessing there is already a long line of pending legal actions against them. We'll see how this plays out but the chances that each of these will get it's individual day in court are pretty slim since it's not practical. – Hilmar May 8 at 15:47
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    @Lost1 I suspect you are wrong about the immediacy. If one person is asking for a refund of a few thousand pounds then they will pay to avoid bad publicity. If millions of people are asking for a refund that will potentially bankrupt the airline then they will delay. They would rather be found to have acted illegally and eventually pay the refunds and a (relatively) small penalty than bankrupt themselves today. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying that will probably happen. – DJClayworth May 8 at 18:04
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    @DJClayworth I think you are too pessimistic. Yes, airlines will do everything they can to delay/avoid settling but once OP has filed a claim, the timing is up to the court. Often companies will make the choice that it isn't worth paying lawyers to defend a hopeless case. Same hard-nosed business decision but different rules. – richardb May 9 at 17:55

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