British Airways has been ordered to pay £5,000 to a customer who wanted to change a non-transferrable and non-refundable ticket because the airline didn’t make it clear during the booking process that the flights couldn’t actually be changed.
In March 2019, Robert Glenn booked through British Airways for flights from London to Hawaii in Business Class to celebrate his wife’s 65th birthday. But a short time after buying the £6,000 tickets, family reasons cropped up and Glenn asked to change the date of travel.
British Airways refused to amend the booking date by one month and instead said that if he wanted to travel on a different date he would need to buy entirely new tickets. The airline also told Mr Glenn that he wasn’t entitled to a refund and would only be able to claw back around £450 in taxes.
The disgruntled holidaymaker approached consumer champion Which? to help fight his case who suggested he had a potential case against British Airways. The issue was whether the airline had done enough to highlight the fact that the tickets Mr Glenn had bought couldn’t be changed and were non-refundable.
Mr Glenn first approached BA’s then chief executive Alex Cruz but after only being offered £500 as a goodwill gesture, he threatened British Airways with legal action. A court has now ruled in Mr Glenn’s favour and awarded him £5,000 in compensation, plus £520 in legal costs.
“He made a booking for something. He opted not to use it. On the face of it (subject to any administrative expenses that British Airways might have incurred), he ought to be entitled to a refund,” the judge in the case ruled.
British Airways had argued that it made it clear in its terms and conditions that the ticket wasn’t refundable or changeable but the court told the airline’s lawyers that a “term of such significance” shouldn’t be buried away in T&C’s but should be highlighted.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, BA has introduced a ‘book with confidence’ promise that allows customers to change their flights without incurring a fee (although they’ll be expected to pay for any fare difference), or cancelling their booking in exchange for a future travel voucher.
The generous booking policy, however, only applies to tickets bought on or after March 3, 2020, and for travel up to April 30, 2022.
While British Airways has always offered fully flexible tickets, an investigation by Which? found that a refundable ticket sold by BA for the exact same flight soared in cost by over 1,500 per cent compared to the non-refundable alternative.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.