British Airways passengers attempting to claim compensation for their bank holiday travel disruption face further chaos as the airline battles with insurance companies over who is liable to pick up the bill.
In the aftermath of the computer systems outage, which affected 75,000 passengers worldwide, the airline promised to compensate customers who had incurred “disruption expenses” including the cost of hotels, meals and phone calls.
This is on top of the EU compensation worth up to €600 per passenger for delayed or cancelled flights.
However, BA customers attempting to claim for non-flight related expenses online are being told to claim on their travel insurance in the first instance.
This has prompted fury from consumer campaigners, who say this could leave them out of pocket if they have an excess on their policy.
Before they can enter any details of their claim, BA’s online compensation form asks customers if they had travel insurance for the disrupted journey.
If the passenger answers Yes, BA then asks if they have claimed, or intend to make a claim, on their travel insurance.
If the passenger answers No, the BA website prompts: “You should make a claim with your travel insurer in the first instance.
“If you have expenses that either you were not successful in claiming or which are not covered by your policy, you may claim for only these expenses in the form below.”
BA’s website does not make it clear if the airline will refund the cost of any excess on passengers’ travel insurance policies.
This has prompted a complaint from the Association of British Insurers, the industry trade group, which accused the airline of giving passengers the wrong information and complicating the claims process.
“Any cover available under travel insurance will usually kick in only if compensation is not available from any other source,” the ABI told the Financial Times.
“Those affected should seek compensation, and any refunds of expenses, in the first instance from British Airways.
“People affected by the disruption should be able to claim compensation and refunds for any expenses as simply as possible, not being passed from pillar to post. EU flight compensation regulations set out that airline operators should provide compensation to passengers that suffer long delays or cancellations.”
The ABI requested that BA change the wording and structure of its online claim form to reflect this, although the airline has yet to do so.
BA said: “We will update the wording on the claims page of ba.com to give our customers as much information as possible.
“We are very sorry for the frustration customers are experiencing and understand the difficulties they are facing.
“We will fully honour our obligations and would encourage customers to submit their expense claims to us, and we will investigate on a case-by-case basis. We have put additional resource into our call centres, and online customer relations teams to resolve these claims as quickly as possible.”
The company added that customers who were unable to be re-routed by BA and rebooked with other airlines would also be eligible to make a claim.
On the issue of reclaiming insurance excess payments, BA said it would encourage customers to submit claims “for any reasonable expenses they have incurred”.
“BA are making it as difficult as they possibly can so that fewer people will claim,” said Helen Dewdney, author of the Complaining Cow website and blog. “It looks like they’re trying to get back every penny they possibly can.”
The total compensation bill the airline is facing could be as high as €100m, analysts estimate.
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