/ Travel & Leisure

Should British Airways offer its passengers automatic compensation?

Upgrade Airline Compensation

Around 75,000 people were affected when BA suffered a massive IT failure last weekend. BA is refusing to automatically compensate those whose holidays were ruined. We don’t think this is acceptable. Do you?

Updated: 7 June 2017 – We launch the Upgrade Airline Compensation campaign

Today we’re launching our Upgrade Airline Compensation campaign.

In the wake of BA’s bank holiday blunder that left 75,000 stranded at Heathrow and Gatwick, we wanted to challenge airlines to introduce automatic compensation so no passenger is left out of pocket.

Please sign and share and together we’ll persuade all airlines to make compensation automatic.

Original Story: 3 June 2017

One week on and the catastrophic meltdown of British Airways’ IT system is still being felt. Affected passengers are now subjected to the frustration of trying to claim for the compensation they are owed.

As holidaymakers start to head home from their half-term breaks, it has become clear BA isn’t doing all it could do to make it easier for people to claim compensation.

We don’t believe BA is doing all it could, and should, to aid those passengers who have been inconvenienced; suffering the stress and financial hardship of rearranging their holidays or cancelling their trip entirely.

Unsatisfactory approach

Only yesterday, BA was forced by the insurance industry to row back from advising consumers to claim via their travel insurance.

We’ve written to BA’s chief executive, and taken the rare step of doing so publicly. We believe it is time for airlines to automatically compensate passengers when they are affected like those who attempted to fly BA were.

You can read our open letter to BA in full in our news story.

Is airline compensation due an upgrade?

BA is opting to do the bare minimum when compensating passengers for its failure. The airline could reduce the burden for passengers and give them what they are legally entitled to without waiting for them to claim – after all, BA has their details already.

Should BA offer automatic compensation for delayed and cancelled flights?

Yes (97%, 6,015 Votes)

No (3%, 156 Votes)

Don't know (1%, 56 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,227

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It’s not just BA that need to do this though, all airlines should follow suit. It’s time for airline compensation to be upgraded.

Were you one of the 75,000 people affected by the BA fiasco? Share your story with us.

Do you think BA should be automatically paying out what customers are legally entitled to in compensation?

Nicholas Previté says:
8 June 2017

Reference to your Air Travel Compensation campaign, I thought that you may like to learn of what happened to my wife and me on a bad weather day.
This letter was written 4 years ago but it tells a tale in a very good way

14th September 2013

Dear Sirs,

An Excellent Travel Tale

Earlier this year my wife and I were passengers on an Aer Lingus flight, operated by Aer Arann, from Ireland West Knock to Birmingham. Adverse weather conditions prevented the incoming flight from landing, it was diverted to Shannon, and as a result our outgoing flight was cancelled.

Within one hour of Aer Lingus announcing the flight cancellation, we were taken to a local 4 Star hotel for B&B plus a €20 credit each to go toward the cost of our dinner. In addition we were given a letter confirming the flight cancellation for us to give to British Rail in the hope that they would still honor our rail tickets, which would be one day out of date.

Sadly British Rail would not re-issue our rail tickets for the following day, but Aer Lingus subsequently sent us a cheque to cover their cost.

In these days of the cutthroat business of air travel, we found it so very refreshing not only to be recognized as customers but also as customers to be treated so very well.

Other airlines may do well to recognize that customers are their lifeblood and without them they would not have a business.

I wanted to share this with you.

Hilary Sheppard says:
8 June 2017

Luckily we were already on holiday when the BA crisis occurred and it had been resolved before we returned. However last time we were on holiday in Barbados we arrived at the airport to check in for our return flight only to be told that the plane had not even left the UK yet. We were treated very well….taken by coach to a nearby resort, given drinks, a meal and a private suite to use and then returned to the airport 10 hours later to eventually fly home. On the flight everyone was given a letter of apology from the airline but there was no mention of compensation or how to find out about it. We used the Which template letter and were compensated 600 euros each, the maximum amount for the distance of flight and the length of delay. This was paid to us promptly but only due to our own research and diligence.

Fraser McDonald says:
8 June 2017

During the cabin crews’ dispute a few years ago my wife and I flew on time with BA from Seattle to London. We arrived Heathrow 08:00 hrs and were due to take a connecting flight to Glasgow departing 10:00 hrs. On entering the lounge the departure board showed the next flight that day to Glasgow was 20:00 hrs. We re-examined our boarding cards and saw that was the flight we were now checked in for, meaning a 10 hour wait. When we asked BA for refreshment vouchers we were told we were not delayed, just rescheduled, so were not entitled to refreshment vouchers.

C. S. Mc Ferran says:
8 June 2017

To my mind the first requirement to be met in a delay situation, is to inform the passengers, WITHOUT DELAY, in proper fashion, what is causing the delay. It does not wash for the organisation to say that they “are not in a postion to …………………. because the situation is ‘still fluid’ or ‘not yet resolved'”. The need that any of us have in these situations is to know as well as possible, in timely fashion exactly what is going on.
I have sat in a small turboprop recently with one engine running, having taxied to take-off and waited for 30 minutes, whilst the pilot was fruitlessly trying to start the other engine – trouble was he didn’t say what was going on until he decided to taxi back. The atmosphere was palpable with some nervous passengers becoming upset needlessly.
Often, with timely information one can take alternative action, saving time, temper and money.

Christine Hunter says:
9 June 2017

I always preferred to travel BA because although at first glance, their prices seemed higher than other airlines, when you took into account that everything was included in that price – luggage, seat allocation, on board meals and drinks – it often worked out cheaper than some of the other airlines, who tacked on the extras at the end. I also felt that BA was a ‘classy’ airline that treated you so well. Unfortunately, they have now become no better and in some cases worse than the other airlines. I guess that sadly, greed for more money, takes precedence over care and service for customers. I am saddened that our national airline company has stooped to this level and I for one, shall not be travelling with them again, unless they re-think their policies, and give us back that quality which we expect and deserve from them. C A Hunter( a frequent flyer).

Paul roebuck says:
10 June 2017

We paid BA to change our flight to an earlier one so that we could meet other arrangements in plenty of time. Because BA was late we missed our other arrangements. We paid BA to make the change & BA did not deliver and we believe the change fee (not the original flight cost) should be refunded. BA’s response is full of meaningless platitudes and in between those it refuses to refund the change fees

Karen says:
12 June 2017

By having a sliding scale of compensation based on various factors like cost of trip, personal situations eg once in a lifetime trip , who else travelling with etc. It would save time and money going through receipts etc. It would eliminate those that OVER claim and nd those that can’t claim for themselves like the elderly with no Internet etc.. It would also eliminate inconsistencies in claims eg one person in a travelling group being well versed and cheeky and another not so!! There needs to be a line of no crossing over by both sides……A benchmarking system similar to job grading to quantify severity and level of compensation.

fred says:
15 June 2017

£200 to ensure that my wife & I can sit together on our flight to USA and back. IT fiasco meant we missed our connection. Lack of BA representatives at Seattle & Loss Angeles. Awful food in Premium Economy (over cooked dry steak, rubber cheese-less (cheese) Omelette).

Donald Wong says:
17 June 2017

Big companies always try to bully or do not care about their customers.

Dave S says:
22 June 2017

The service BA provides is rapidly becoming low quality, while at the same time charging high fares.

Michael Ridgway says:
22 June 2017

For years now I have watched,and experienced,the daily deterioration in BA’s level of services at all levels.
They lost the plot long ago,but the absence of any real competition for their Club and First Class levels has led them into becoming an appalling airline when it comes to customers.
Their behaviour is arrogant and very misguided.
Commercial enterprises that perform in this way deserve to fail.BA is not exempt
from the consequences of its disastrous policies and behaviour.

Michelle Large says:
22 June 2017

Chased BA again today for my refund having bought an EasyJet flight to get myself home from the system crash. Told another week and call them then if it hasn’t come through. Shocking service…. Where’s all the extra staff the CEO said he was employing sort !!

Joe C says:
24 June 2017

Yes but BA aren’t the only ones, Ryanair are just the same, no consideration to the customers

Gordy Russell says:
25 June 2017

What do you mean by ‘Automatic Compensation’ ?

That ‘lack’ of definition is bad practice ; smacks of ‘instant gratification’.

I expected better from Which?


Where there is a set scale of compensation for specific situations, and therefore no dispute about eligibility or amount, compensation could be paid sooner and without the need for individual claims. If passengers have suffered extraordinary inconvenience as a result of a company’s failure, paying the mandatory compensation automatically is hardly a case of “instant gratification”. People didn’t contrive to become eligible for compensation.

Bob says:
25 June 2017

We had to fight tooth and nail to get our compensation from Easyjet for a cancelled flight ( not enough passengers ). So, yes, it would be much better with an automatic system.


Great – this should see all my future bookings go up in price now to pay for this

Steve Shingler says:
1 July 2017

Think you need to be specific about the circumstances of a delay. If is due to air traffic control issues for example it is outside the airlines control so no compensation is available!


Under the international scheme regulated in the UK by the Civil Aviation Authority delay compensation is defined more by duration than by cause. Passengers become the airline’s responsibility from the time of check-in and delays are counted from the scheduled departure or arrival time. The relief provided is graded according to duration and time of day and airlines are deemed to have accepted this responsibility when they sold the ticket.

Derek Bennett says:
1 July 2017

Just as most H&S legislation is written in blood, a mandatory system whereby all airlines are forced to auto pay claims directly would make them manage a tighter ship. I don’t think this would necessarily raise costs.

Roger says:
1 July 2017

Our BA flight was delayed by a French strike, and we were transferred from our Gatwick flight to Heathrow too late to pick up our car and dog from kennels. In making the switch a BA rep said they would pay for a taxi to Gatwick. When we claimed actual costs, BA only offered a gesture £50. We had to take our case to the small claims court, and there to mediation, to win what had been promised plus our extra costs. Why is BA trying it on in this way? Damaging their own brand and reputation.

George White says:
9 July 2017

We were delayed for almost three days but the airline is refusing compensation for taxi invoice which demanded compensation for wasted journeys to the airport to collect us!!


Hello all! For those who haven’t already seen, we’ve created a way for British Airways customers and our supporters to send BA CEO, Alex Cruz, a postcard with a personal message as to why the airline should implement automatic compensation. If you have a story as a BA customer that you would like to share with their boss, click the link and start writing your postcard: http://www.which.co.uk/bapostcard

Patrick Taylor says:
10 July 2017

Which? being very proactive! Like it.


Thanks Patrick. We’re already starting to see some incredibly powerful stories coming through.