Did I Gain €300 or Lose €300? My Experience with a EC261 Claim (Part One)

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It is unquestionably a distant memory for most, but London travel was also disrupted back in September 2019… thanks to a strike at British Airways. I was due to fly from Dubai to London on BA, but my flight was cancelled. Crucially, I was never notified of the flight cancellation. I merely noticed it when Managing my Booking online at ba.com.

I wrote about my experience with Expedia – the online travel agency with whom I booked this particular ticket – back in October (click here to re-read that post).

First Attempt – I’ll be Nice to British Airways, They’re Dealing with a Major Strike

Some travel hackers are serial compensation chasers. I’m not one of those people!  But I do think that well-run travel companies should make useful gestures when something goes wrong.

In this situation – where my flight was cancelled and I was not offered an alternative, but I did receive a refund relatively quickly – I would have been happy enough with receiving Original Routing Credit. I have written about this previously – click here for details. In summary, Original Routing Credit is where BA credits you with Avios and Tier Points as if you actually flew on your booked flights (even though you didn’t).

In response, BA replied with this form email:

Dear Mr Sowerby

Thank you for requesting Avios and Tier Points for your flight with us on 19 September 2019.

You can earn Avios and Tier Points every time you fly with us in an eligible class. Provided your membership number is correctly entered into your booking and the name matches your account, your flights are usually credited after you’ve taken each flight.

I do understand that there are often very good reasons why our Members are unable to fly. However, as I hope you understand, I cannot credit Members for flights that have not been taken.

I have checked your booking and can see that you didn’t take the above flight and you have already been refunded, so unfortunately, I am unable to credit your account on this occasion.

Original Routing Credit relies on one crucial element…  That you do indeed travel using the same e-ticket, but have been re-routed on another airline (or in a way that caused you to earn fewer Avios or Tier Points than your original booking). If you make alternative arrangements yourself and/or cancel the ticket entirely, then you are not entitled to Original Routing Credit.

From my perspective, however – and I don’t believe that this is DYKWIA or a feeling of over-entitlement, although the internet is good at disagreeing 😉 –  my situation was:

  1. British Airways cancelled my flight and did not notify me
  2. British Airways and Expedia refused to re-book me in my booked Premium Economy cabin
  3. Rather than push for my full compensation rights, I offered BA the chance to buy me off with some Avios and the Tier Points I needed for a Silver card
  4. I was politely told to go away in a manner that suggested that my email had not been properly read or considered

Second Attempt – OK, I’ll Have my EC261 Compensation Then Please…

I suspect that one of the more popular Google searches consisting of 2 letters and 3 numbers is EC261. There are many sources of guidance regarding EC261 – some accurate, some not quite – so I try to start with the official website.

When it comes to flight cancellations, the EC261 regulations are quite clear.

If you were informed of the cancellation less than 14 days prior to the scheduled departure date, you have a right to compensation. The airline has the obligation to prove if and when you were personally informed that the flight was cancelled.

Because the flight from Dubai to London is longer than 3,500 kilometres, I was entitled to 600 euros in compensation due to the cancellation (and failure to re-route).

I submitted my compensation claim to British Airways, only to receive this reply:

Dear Mr Sowerby

We’re very sorry your recent flight with us was cancelled. We never take cancelling a flight lightly, as we know how disruptive this can be. However, we know this isn’t what you expect when you travel with us, and we understand why you needed to complain.

We don’t underestimate how important it is for you to experience a high standard of service when you travel with us and we obviously didn’t get this right on this occasion. I can assure you that your feedback is already making a difference. I’ve shared your comments with my colleagues in the relevant team, and we’ll be using them to help us improve our service.

Your claim has been refused because BA0108 on 19 September was cancelled due to operational reasons. I’m afraid this was out of our control and caused unforeseen disruption to our schedule.

We take all reasonable measures to avoid disruption to a flight and we always consider if there are any other alternative solutions before, we make a decision. The cancellation was out of our control and caused unforeseen disruption to our schedule.

Once again, please accept our apologies for your experience on this trip. We hope to welcome you back on board soon. If I can help with anything else, please contact me directly using the blue link below.

The most interesting element of this form email? I couldn’t find the word “extraordinary” anywhere, which is every airline’s usual excuse to avoid paying compensation…

Where Next?

So far so expected…  Airlines rarely just pay out EC261 compensation. As infuriating as that can be, from a business perspective it makes perfect sense. Many people would simply give up trying.

I would have to take British Airways to court if I wanted to receive compensation…


  1. Lochlann says

    I’ve found that a properly worded letter or just starting MCOL makes BA see sense. At a certain point I pursue airlines via MCOL because they’re obviously trying it on and gambling enough people will give up

  2. Kojo Asiedu says

    Hi Craig
    In 2016 I was on a British Airways holiday in St Kitts on my last morning I looked at my BA app in manage my booking to see that my flight was cancelled, but the flight was leaving LGW going to Antigua as it did on the way out but wasn’t flying onto St Kitts as it did on our outward journey. I was delayed about 24 hours & had to get an AA flight home via Miami landing at LHR instead of LGW where my car was. But when I tried to claim from BA they said my flight was cancelled due to technical difficulties & gave me £100 towards my phone costs which were over £160. My argument is if the flight took off & flew to Antigua how could it have technical difficulties. I have been told this happens quite often as they overbook so don’t have enough room for the St Kitts passengers.
    Is it worth pursueing further or do I just suck it up

    • Craig Sowerby says

      I believe that you have up to 6 years to make a claim in the UK. And from the looks of it, you have a pretty solid case for the 600 euros compensation resulting from the 24+ hour delay in getting home. I assume that BA took care of you in St Kitts for the extra day (hotel, food, etc.) But “cancellation” doesn’t really matter, just the “delay” in getting home.

      If you can prove that the plane did indeed operate, but that the St Kitts leg was dropped in favour of a simple LGW-ANU-LGW, then I imagine that your case would be rock solid. As you say, it’s hard to imagine any technical, yet extraordinary, circumstances stopping BA from flying between Antigua and St Kitts. It’s far more likely that they were overbooked or running seriously delayed.

      Let us know how it goes…

  3. Jonathan Ambrose says

    Hi , I had my return flight from Orlando to Manchester cancelled on 19th March with Virgin Atlantic, they arranged for a flight that departed 3 days later but that was to Heathrow via JFK . I have tried to claim (I opted for a voucher and not money) for the delay which they have refused as it was out of their control due to covid, however the plane that should have operated the Manchester flight on the day was used to operate an extra Gatwick flight instead so totally within their control . Flights continued to operate for over a week from the US and the flight they put me on left me at LHR and was told to make my own way to Manchester and claim back the money for this and hotel costs for the extra days stuck in Orlando, it’s August and still waiting . Is there anything I can do ?

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Apart from “duty of care” – which looks like being covered, although Virgin Atlantic are very slow at processing payments right now – you are unlikely to receive any additional compensation. COVID is an extraordinary circumstance. You can try MCOL nonetheless, but you could easily lose.

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