British Airways cancels flight and then refuses refund

When British Airways cancels Carrie Christensen’s flight, she asks the carrier for a refund. Instead, it accuses her of missing her flight. Now, it’s refusing to return all of her money. Can it do that?

  • By Wire Service
  • Sunday, August 7, 2022 1:30am
  • Life

By Christopher Elliott

Q: British Airways canceled my recent flight from Boston to London. The airline said it canceled the flight because of “operational constraints.” British Airways sent me an email promising to “do everything [they] can to get you where you need to be.”

I asked the airline for a refund, but instead, I received another email that accused me of being a “no-show” for my flight and refused a refund. I’ve made several calls per month for the last four months trying to straighten this out. Finally, I received an email from British Airways that said per its fare rules, it could not offer a refund. But, British Airways canceled my flight, so doesn’t it owe me a refund?

– Carrie Christensen, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

A: It most certainly does. If an airline cancels a flight, it owes you a full and prompt refund under its fare rules and federal regulations. British Airways can’t keep your money under any circumstances.

I’m kind of shocked that your refund request dragged on this long. I reviewed the correspondence between you and British Airways. The facts were clear: You received an email from British Airways that said, “We’re sorry your flight has been canceled due to operational constraints.” And you sent that email to the airline when you requested your refund. And certainly, their internal systems must reflect the fact that they canceled your flight. How much more do they need?

You did a terrific job of keeping all of your records with the airline. If only British Airways had paid attention to its records, then you wouldn’t have a complaint at all.

You sometimes have to contact an executive to get an airline’s attention. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of several British Airway executives on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/british-airways/. I think a quick, polite message might have gotten this resolved.

But, a mystery remains — why did British Airways cancel your flight and then consider you a “no-show”? To find out, I contacted the airline directly on your behalf. It looks like your flight wasn’t canceled after all. British Airways generated the cancellation notice by mistake. The airline still agreed to issue a full refund.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org.

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