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This week saw major IT issues affect up to 100 British Airways operated flights from three London airports with many flights either cancelled or delayed with thousands of passengers journeys disrupted. If you were affected by this you may be entitled to compensation.

This is because the European Union introduced legislation in 2005 to protect customers from lengthy delays and cancellations and provide compensation to passengers who are disrupted in certain circumstances. The regulation, often referred to as ‘EU261’ after the formal regulation number, outlines both the ‘care of duty’ airlines have towards passengers as well as what compensation is due to passengers when they are impacted by delays or cancelled flights.

Calculating the amount due can get complex as it’s based on a number of factors: distance of flight, length of delay, re-routing options offered (including how much earlier a passenger had to start the journey and how much later they arrived at their destination) and notice given in case of cancellations. Broadly speaking, compensation levels range from €125 to €600 and for delays, no compensation is due unless passengers arrived over 3 hours late at their destination.

British Airways (and most airlines) class ‘arrival at the destination’ as the aircraft doors being opened at the gate at the arrival airport (rather than landing).

The biggest ‘caveat’ as to whether an airline is due to pay out compensation is whether the cause of the delay or cancellation was within its control. Air Traffic Control (ATC) restrictions as well as weather issues – both easily the most common cause of delays or cancellations – do not entitle passengers to compensation as these fall outside of the airlines’ control. Most strikes are also deemed as falling outside of the airlines’ control though some have argued that an airline has an influence over whether their staff goes on strike or not – and wildcat strikes are covered under the regulation. For example, the recent strikes by Heathrow airport staff (affecting multiple airlines) were outside of BA’s control because the staff are not employed by the airline. If, say BA’s new A350 suffered unexpected mechanical delays affecting punctuality, this would be within the airline’s control.

The key intention of the regulation is to ensure airlines can’t just ‘abandon’ passengers and are ‘incentivised’ to have measures in place to ensure flights run on time (which can include back-up aircraft – which comes at a cost to airlines).

Anyone impacted by yesterday’s British Airways IT issues will be able to claim for compensation if the delay or cancellation falls within the thresholds of EU261 (over 3 hours delay and/or leaving more than an hour early and arriving more than 2 hours late for cancelled but re-routed flights). You may wish to google your affected flight number for details on how delayed it may have been.

British Airways makes it actually relatively easy to claim compensation via their website.

Under the ‘Help’ tab on the BA homepage, there’s a link for ‘delays, cancellations and refunds’. Once on there, under ‘compensation’, BA spells out which flights and circumstances are covered.

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It also spells out levels of compensation and what documentation is needed.

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The website then guides passengers through a number of options and what to do.

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British Airways Executive Club members will see a list of past and future bookings and are able to select one of those as the itinerary that this claim is related to. Non-members can add their booking reference and the website should display details of the booking in question.

Passengers are then able to upload any receipts should they also be claiming for expenses over and above the statutory EU compensation before submitting the form.

British Airways recently has experimented offering some Executive Club members flight vouchers with increased amounts to be redeemed against future travel rather than a cash transfer into a bank account. Depending on the individuals’ circumstances and if they are likely to be able to use such a voucher, this can be a good idea. For example, this has been reported to be €600 in flight vouchers vs €400 in cash.

TPG UK staff have previously been paid out EU261 compensation through this method within 24 hours for mechanical delays, although given the volume of claims the airline is likely to receive this week, this may take longer.

Featured image by bunhill / Getty Images

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