Should British Airways follow its own ticket rules? It’s not brain surgery — oh wait, it is brain surgery

By | February 5th, 2010

If you’re holding a nonrefundable airline ticket, the rules are clear: You can get credit, valid for a year from the date of your booking, by informing the airline before your trip.

That’s what British Airways’ ticket rules say (see Rule 3b2).

What if you fall ill? Rule 3b3 stipulates:

If, after beginning your journey:

* you become ill
* your illness prevents you from travelling on your next flight within the validity period of your ticket; and
* you want us to extend the validity period so that you can continue your journey;

you must give us a medical certificate. The certificate must:

* state the facts relating to your illness and
* confirm the date you will be fit to travel again (‘the recovery date’).

BA may extend the validity period until either the recovery date, as long as there is a seat available on the relevant flight in the class of service for which you have paid the fare.

But what if it doesn’t? Leslie Foote wanted to know after she and her husband, Stanley, were scheduled to fly to Spain last fall on British Airways.

I ended up having to cancel the trip because my husband needed emergency brain surgery to remove a cyst that was blocking a ventricle. I called BA and canceled our flight and was told that to get a refund or credit voucher I had to fax customer relations with a doctor’s letter.

I sent the fax October 17th. About three weeks later, when I hadn’t heard back, I got on the BA website and searched around until I found an email address for customer relations and emailed them. This resulted in a generic computer generated response saying they had received my email and would respond.

I waited several weeks and still no response so I sent a second fax with the same doctor’s letter, the information about our flights, etc.

I have still not heard anything back from them. I provided my email address, street address and phone number. Nothing. Is there something else I should be doing?

The answer is: no. Foote had done all she could to get a response from the airline. The least she could have expected was a timely acknowledgment of her request.

By the way, BA’s rule is written in such a way that there’s some wiggle room for sick passengers — the airline could have denied her husband a credit voucher. However, most airlines, as a matter of practice, will offer a voucher for up to a year when your plans change, regardless of your health. Change fees apply, of course.

I contacted the airline on her behalf. A day later, I got the following note:

I heard back from them today. They’ve issued us a credit voucher for the full ticket amount to be used within one year from today.

Bravo, BA. I think the delay may have been caused by the holidays and the threat of a strike, rather than the airline’s negligence. Either way, I’m glad it helped Foote and her husband recover their ticket. I wish him a speedy recovery.

(Photo: FrancoisRoche/Flickr Creative Commons)

  • Northrop

    I vacm face ng the same type of dilema. I had appendicitis seveal days before me flight to Scotllanda. I needed surgery to remove my appendix.

    I COntacted BA via email and mail, canceling my flight and sending in the letter from the surgeon.

    What I got was a credit to my credit card for $177 for each of two $890 tickets. This crazy and I cannot get anyone there to respond to my email requests for at least a full credit … Which we would gladly accept so we can take. The trip we worked so hard to afford.

    How do I get to BA to talk with them and have them live up to their own rules.

    Can you help?

    Thanks for your time and consideration … Rob and JoAnn

  • Shelley

    Hi, I have a similar situation. Booked a flight to USA next week and now my consultant has said she needs to do emergency operation. Am concerned enough about this but really need this refund to help pay for pirate op. stupidly I didnt take out insurance, but might have some via my bank acc. If not, will BA refund on a dr’s and hospital cert? Who should I contact? Flight is next tues? Thnk you ..worried :(

  • Shelley

    Private…op… Lol. ( I’m not having a life change into a pirate!!) it’s serious, worrying surgery…but I’ve managed to make myself laugh!

  • Anon

    Hi i work for ba call centre. The customer relations department deal with complaints and are normally a busy department. It would be customer support you are best to phone regarding something like this. In most cases like this the booking is held open and when you can travel can add new flts for any difference in fare or taxes. Shouldnt be charged change fees or service fees.

  • Anon

    Just for the record my views dont represent those of ba. However im very shocked that it took this long to deal with. My experience of dealing with cases of serious illness etc where proof is required is that they are resolved relatively quickly. That is around 2-3 days and this is usually due to waiting for faxes once have spoken to a customer about this. Really if i hadnt received a fax within this period i would make every effort to check back with the customer. Although i normally advise customer to call on the day they have send it to make sure it is received. At least this was resolved eventually in this case.

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