Passengers whose flights have been cancelled by the British Airways pilots’ strike, and who choose to take a refund, may not get all their money back if they booked via a travel agent.
BA is involved in a bitter pay dispute with the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), which represents the vast majority of its captains and first officers.
Earlier this month 1,700 flights were cancelled and nearly 200,000 were passengers disrupted by a two-day stoppage at the airline. Another day of industrial action is planned for 27 September.
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Almost all the airline’s flights are expected to be grounded on the day of the next pilots’ strike.
British Airways has already notified tens of thousands that their flights have been cancelled. BA is obliged to offer the opportunity to rebook on its own flights, or to travel with another day, or provide a full refund.
European air passengers’ rights rules require “reimbursement within seven days … of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought”.
But one of the flaws in the way the regulations were drafted is that they do not provide certainty for passengers who book through travel agents.
On direct bookings, British Airways is providing full refunds on request. But travellers who have booked through a travel agent are subject to that company’s terms and conditions – which may mean they incur an administration fee.
One passenger, Ann Marie McDaid, had booked a Glasgow-London-Florida trip for six people on 27 September through a Berkshire-based agent TravelUp. When their outbound flights were cancelled they chose a refund, but almost £300 was deducted from the amount they paid.
After The Independent intervened, TravelUp investigated and found that a mistake had been made. The agent has removed the administration fee completely as a gesture of goodwill.
But the company is maintaining a fee of £50 per booking, not per person, for British Airways customers.
TravelUp, in common with other travel agents, has had to devote significant resources to handling disruption arising from the BA pilots’ strike.
It is telling passengers that they can expect a refund in up to eight weeks, depending on how long British Airways takes to release the money to the agent.
Meanwhile a sixth day of industrial action is taking place at Ryanair.
Pilots employed by the airline in the UK are striking over a range of grievances including pension provisions and maternity benefits.
No flights have been affected, and Ryanair says it expects to run a full schedule on Thursday 19 and Saturday 21 September.
The pilots are also walking out on 23, 25, 27 and 29 September.
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