Reaching a settlement with British Airways


Back in October British Airways had a sale for travel to India that was apparently too good to be true.  At least that was the claim they made when they decided – three days after the tickets were sold – that they didn’t want to honor the tickets.  Instead they simply canceled them, refunded everyone’s money and pretended that all was right in the world.  Sadly I actually understand why they made such a decision and it doesn’t really do much to engender customer loyalty or really present the brand in a positive light at all.  It seems that customers like me simply don’t matter to the carrier.

After a couple weeks of phone tag, emails and other relatively useless communication from the carrier we were at an impasse.  The bad press from their actions had forced BA’s hand a little bit: they were offering a $300 discount on fares to India for travel booked in a 30-day window.  That was pretty poor, especially when the costs of comparable trips had roughly tripled.  The voucher was essentially worthless.

And so I took them to court.  Small Claims Court in New York City, to be precise.  That actually matters a bit in that it skewed the ultimate outcome of the case.  At the initial trial date the attorney for BA showed up late and immediately requested a delay of four months in the case.  We settled on a six week delay in the end and that day was today. The same attorney was present as was the Director of Customer Service and Refunds, Americas, for BA (I’m pretty sure that title is correct; she said it pretty quickly when I asked).  She actually had a copy of one of my blog posts about this fiasco, I believe, which I found a bit entertaining.

While waiting for our turn in front of the judge they made a settlement offer to me. My initial reaction was that I was still unwilling to accept the cruddy $300 voucher only valid on limited dates and only to India.  It was a bad deal then and it is still a bad deal today.  Their offer in the courthouse, however, was slightly better.  Only slightly, but enough that I decided it was probably worth taking. 

The credit granted was a $600 total credit (same $300 for each of two tickets, but in a single lump sum which is a good thing for me) that can be used in either of our names.  That bit of flexibility was quite nice.  In addition, the credit is valid for a year from now, not just for the short window that was originally offered.  And, finally, the credit is valid on any ticket that British Airways can sell through their call center, including the OpenSkies product.

Ultimately it looks like I’m going to get a bit of a discount off an OpenSkies flight out of all this.  It is a shame that BA chose to not honor their sale (or “mistake” as they claim it to be).  It is a shame that they chose to offer such cruddy options to most customers.  And it is a shame that they wasted so much of my time with visits to the courthouse rather than having a reasonable conversation on the phone about the situation from the get-go. 

I know that this will cost them a bit of cash on legal fees, likely more than they had to credit me in travel vouchers, and it definitely is going to cost them a customer.  Moreover I’ll go out of my way to make sure that people know just how little respect the carrier has for its customers.  Any company willing to hide behind a “whoopsie” claim rather than own up to their mistakes doesn’t deserve my business.  After all, when I say “whoopsie” they tell me to pound sand.

As for the significance of the case being in Small Claims Court in NYC, apparently the rules are different there than in the regular proceedings.  Specifically the ability to claim damages changes a bit.  That fact was lost on me until I got to the courthouse this morning and ultimately was the deciding factor in my willingness to accept the settlement. My other option was to switch to the regular courts and I wasn’t up for that adventure.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

7 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting the update.

    From past experience with BA credits, watch out for significant devaluation because the credit cannot be used online and the cheapest online fares cannot be booked through the call centre.

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