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Thousands caught up in British Airways disruption – your rights

British Airways has apologised over a systems issue which caused hundreds of short-haul cancellations and delays. 

Passengers have been posting images on social media showing long queues at the airports throughout the day, and also complained about issues with checking in online.

British Airways, which announced at 4pm that it had fixed the problem, had been using back-up and manual systems to try to cope with the problems. It has said that although flights are now returning to normal there will be some ongoing disruption. 

British Airways says you should still check the status of your flight on before leaving for the airport. 

The problem mainly affected Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports, but caused knock-on delays and cancellations at other airports too. Around 20,000 passengers have had flights cancelled.

British Airways is offering customers booked on short-haul services departing from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City today the opportunity to rebook to another day. At the moment, we're not sure if accepting this offer would exclude you from being awarded compensation under flight delay law if you were offered it. We've asked British Airways and will update this story when we hear back.

See below for your rights if you're stuck at the airport, and how to check if you're entitled to compensation.

See our Flight Delay Compensation guide for more information.

What did BA passengers say?

Many BA passengers have taken to social media about the disruption. Most cancellations and delays were on flights from London airports, but there was a knock-on effect on other airports, and some flights into London from other destinations were also affected. Here is what some had to say:

Stuck at the airport? You may be entitled to food and drink

EU flight delay law applies to EU-regulated flights – so all BA flights going to and from UK airports are covered. It means you have rights if things go wrong.

Under the rules, your airline must look after you if you're delayed or waiting for an alternative flight. If you're delayed by more than two hours on a short-haul flight you're entitled to food and drink. 

British Airways says it is handing out water and snacks, but if it's unable to provide these, you can buy your own and claim back, but make sure you keep receipts – remember only reasonable expenses are covered, so it's unlikely you'd be able to claim for alcohol.

See our Flight Delays guide for more information on what you're entitled to when delayed.

You may be entitled to compensation

Under EU flight delay law EU261, passengers can also be entitled to compensation in some circumstances, if the delay is over three hours and was caused by something within the airline's control – so this systems issue is likely to qualify. We've asked BA if it intends to pay out under EU261, and it told us: "We always meet our obligations under EU261."

  • Flight delayed by more than three hours? British Airways says that only short-haul flights are affected by this issue, so under EU261 flight delay law you could be owed €250 (£230).

    See our Flight Delays guide for the rules on claiming, and use our free online reclaim tool to track your claim. 

  • Flight cancelled? The amount of compensation will depend on the timings of the alternative flight you're offered, and will be between €125 (£115) and €250 (£230).

    See our Flight Cancellations section for the rules on claiming, and use our free online reclaim tool to track your claim.

To reclaim consequential losses, such as if you can't make a hotel booking because your flight has been cancelled, you could contact the hotel or other provider to see if it can offer a goodwill gesture, but if not you'll need to contact your travel insurer. You could also complain about any extra losses to British Airways, though there are no guarantees this will work. 

What should I do if I miss or am going to miss my connecting flight?

You should try and speak to a British Airways member of staff at the airport as soon as possible. You could also try calling British Airways, though it's likely many passengers will be trying to get through too. 

If your connecting flight was part of a single booking, British Airways should be able to help find an alternative flight. If, however, you had booked the second leg of the journey with a different airline this could be more tricky, speak to both British Airways and other airline to see what they can do. 

In terms of compensation, if the initial disruption causes you to arrive at your final destination over three hours late, then you should be able to claim compensation. What matters is when you arrive at the final destination on your ticket. So if you book a London to New York flight via Manchester, where both legs are on the same ticket, what counts is when you get to New York.

But if you book your connecting flight separately from your original flight, meaning it's on another ticket, then you can only claim based on the delay to each individual flight. So using the same example, if you book London to Manchester separately from Manchester to New York, and the London to Manchester journey is delayed by less than three hours, causing you to miss the Manchester to New York flight, then you can't claim compensation.

What does British Airways say?

A British Airways spokesperson said: "We have resolved the temporary systems issue from this morning which affected a number of our flights today.

"We apologise to all our customers caught up in the disruption, and appreciate how frustrating their experience has been.  

"Our teams have been working tirelessly to get the vast majority of customers on their way, with most of our flights departing.

"Our flights are returning to normal, however there may be some knock-on operational disruption as a result of the issue earlier."

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