British Airways passengers whose flights were cancelled as a result of the recent IT meltdown have been mistakenly told their compensation claims have been rejected even though they're eligible to claim, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal.
The fresh blunder emerged after a passenger who had been delayed for 19 hours contacted MoneySavingExpert to query why her claim had been turned down. British Airways later admitted passengers on eight separate flights have been affected by a "genuine mistake" which resulted in claims being wrongly rejected, and said it would compensate those due.
If you were one of the tens of thousands of passengers caught up in the disruption at the start of last week, you may be able to claim between £110 and £520, plus extra expenses you incurred. See our BA flights help guide for full info, and our free Flight Delays and Cancellations Reclaim Tool.
'It was a shock – we thought it was an open-and-close case'
Rachel Melbourne, a 37-year-old environmental consultant from Bristol, got in touch with MoneySavingExpert after she was delayed flying back to Heathrow from Sardinia on Saturday 27 May, when British Airways was forced to ground flights to and from Heathrow and Gatwick due to a system crash.
Rachel was due to leave Sardinia at 1.55pm on 27 May, but instead had to wait at the airport for seven hours and return the following morning to fly home.
She used our free Flight Delays Reclaim Tool to submit a claim for herself and her fiancé, but was stunned to see her claim turned down, with BA insisting the flight had been "cancelled because of operational circumstances outside of our control".
She said: "It was a shock to get that email. As soon as we knew we were caught up in the IT meltdown, we thought it was clearly the fault of BA as we were all googling 'flight compensation'.
"We thought it was an obvious open-and-close case, covered by EU law, so it was a surprise to have it rejected."
She praised Neilson Holidays, which organised her package holiday, for its response to the delays. She added: "We consider ourselves the lucky ones, being two adults without a large group or children. It was a very long time to be in an airport, which came with its own challenges getting refreshments and water."
She says she was later told by BA her claim had been wrongly rejected due to some chartered flights being incorrectly labelled as not due for compensation.
BA sorry for 'genuine mistake'
After we contacted BA it quickly confirmed it would pay Rachel compensation. Under EU flight delay law, passengers could be due €250 compensation for eligible short-haul flights such as this that are cancelled.
However, BA admitted it wasn't an isolated mistake. In total eight chartered flights have been wrongly labelled as not being eligible for compensation. A BA spokesperson declined to say how many passengers were affected but said only a "small number" of people had completed claims in the first few days.
The spokesperson added: "We are very sorry for the frustration customers are experiencing and understand the difficulties they are facing.
"We are sorry for this genuine mistake, and encourage any customers who think they have been incorrectly denied compensation to contact us again."
'Latest mistake adds insult to injury'
Steve Nowottny, news and features editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "This latest mistake from BA really adds insult to injury for passengers who were affected.
"After the massive disruption caused by the IT outage, you would expect BA to be falling over themselves to ensure passengers are paid the correct compensation. Yet here it seems they've rejected claims and blithely told passengers the problems were outside of its control.
"It's vital BA now does everything it can to make the claims process as easy as possible for all those who are owed. In particular, it should urgently contact any passengers on these eight flights who've been wrongly rejected – and make sure they get the compensation they're due straightaway."
What are the rules on compensation?
Under EU regulation 261/2004, if your flight was delayed by more than three hours or cancelled, and it was the airline's fault, you can often claim between £110 and £520 in compensation. To qualify, your flight must have left an EU airport, or arrived at an EU airport on an EU airline.
In this case, BA says it's been providing customers with information on how to apply for compensation and has said it will pay out to those affected provided the flight meets the usual EU criteria. It has confirmed it has already made some payments but declined to say how much has so far been paid.
See our BA flights help for full info and how to claim.