/ Travel & Leisure

LBC Consumer Hour: flights and holiday complaints

I joined Clive Bull as guest expert on LBC’s Consumer Hour last Sunday evening – and complaints about flights and holidays dominated the agenda.

With the school holidays drawing to a close, many callers I spoke with wanted to raise issues they’d had with flights and holidays.

And it’s no surprise the issue dominated a good part of the show: our latest analysis shows 1.3 million passengers had flights delayed by at least 3 hours last year alone.

One caller, who’d been delayed for 18 hours with his family, told me he was being sent round the houses by his airline when trying to claim compensation.

He said he’d followed all the instructions about how to claim on the airline’s website but it kept crashing; then he called up and asked to claim and the airline told him to email them; and then he was told to write a letter to the airline…

This caller’s experience is far from unique – many airlines are failing passengers who are owed compensation – and that’s why we’re calling for automatic compensation from airlines.

In the meantime, we’ve developed a handy step-by-step tool for claiming airline compensation if your flight is delayed or cancelled.

Compensation confusion

Another listener, who’d flown from London to Toronto for a family wedding, told me her airline had lost her luggage, leaving her with nothing suitable to wear for the event – and although her bag had turned up eventually, she wanted to know if compensation was available for the ‘anxiety and stress’ of the experience.

As it stands, airline compensation covers actual loss only – and, unfortunately for this listener, distress caused isn’t compensated. If you’d like to know more, here’s how to claim compensation for lost luggage.

Another caller wanted to know if passengers can submit claims to both their travel insurance provider and the airline if their flight is delayed or cancelled.

Generally, you’re best to claim first from the airline and then claim for additional costs you’ve incurred because of the delay on your insurance, which are not covered by the airline.

Distressing delay

One caller told me about a shocking experience on a flight from Malta to Cyprus.

He said there had been a problem with the plane’s air conditioning that caused a 3.5 hour delay. But he, his family and the other passengers were kept onboard throughout, with no ventilation – ‘the kids were nearly passing out’, he told me.

The caller subsequently wrote to the airline twice complaining but said he’d heard nothing since and wanted to know his rights.

Unfortunately for the caller, because the flight was between non-UK destinations, the delay and the passengers’ treatment aren’t covered by the regulatory body in the UK.

If you’re in this situation, it’s a case of checking your travel insurance to see if you’re covered at all, but otherwise there’s not much more you can do apart from perhaps writing to the airline again.

Alex will be appearing every Sunday evening on LBC between 20:00 and 21:00 to cover these and other consumer issues.


The flight compensation calculator looks a useful tool to help claim. However it would be good if it were publicised to all travellers – most will not read Which?.

There is a parallel Convo going on about TAP where some useful comments have been made about claiming automatic compensation. It might have been useful to combine these Convos? It might add more weight to the argument.

I did comment there on the practise of presenting numbers without the context. It makes a striking headline but can be quite misleading:

Which? News reads “Around 3,500 passengers are delayed flying to or from UK airports every day – Which? calls for airlines to introduce automatic compensation “ That’s the 1.3 million a year. But there are around 2.2 million flights a year in the UK, carrying 288 million passengers. So the 1.3 million affected represents 0.45%. I don’t think this is bad considering the congestion in the air and on the ground.

Giving raw numbers without looking at their context, or their part of the whole, is a misleading way of presenting information.

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/09/flight-plight-1-3-million-passenger-journeys-at-least-3-hours-late/ – Which?

Hi Malcolm, flight compensation is something which we regularly discuss on social media, where we also promote the tool as well.

@Alex. Thanks. Do you record how often it has been used?

We don’t aim for a specific target because we promote a lot of our free tools and services. We see an increase in tool uses during the summer months and during strikes or adverse weather conditions.

What you may think is local radio …..


and the explanation why Global banned the story remains untold.

Providing a Which? employee to add weight to a commercial programme on a regular basis seems to be a rather cleft stick. Is Alex also paid by LBC?

Hi Patrick, thanks for the question. No Alex is not paid by LBC.

We are working with LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation) because there is a unique opportunity to reach our to and help consumers on Clive Bull’s Consumer Hour programme. Which? messages will also appear in Eddie Mair’s programme, the award winning journalist has just joined from BBC Radio 4.

LBC is now reaching 2.2 million people a week, so it’s a good opportunity for Which? to showcase the work we do and to reach new audiences.

Thanks for the prompt reply.

I should mention the figures for listeners is for the entire station. RAJAR figures as quoted by Global show two of their presenters each have audiences of around 1m each. One being the morning presenter Ferranti and the other James O’Brien who is on air 10a.m to 1 p.m. I cannot see the figures for the Clive Bull audience.

Overview for LBC Survey period January 2018 to June 2018
Total population covered 54,752,000adults (15+)
Total listeners per week 2,100,000 (4.0%)adults (15+)
Hours per listener 9.6 hours per week
Total hours listened 20,262,000hours per week
Market share 2.0%

You can listen to the program here
which is not only about flights/holidays. There is an interesting question on the BA hack which is rather fuzzy in that Which? does not appear to have a communicable policy on making companies pay when they lose customers details.

There are the ethical questions about linking with commercial companies. For example the HSBC censorship case if it happened now would Which? wish to be associated with LBC?

And overall is the benefit mainly to LBC rather than Which? ? They fill a programme, they do play a Which? jingle – but does Which? pay for this.

Hi Patrick, we have to try new ways to reach new people, and a Consumer Hour on a popular radio station looks like a great way to do it.

We won’t know the impact until the end of the series of shows, where we can measure the awareness of Which?, the journeys to our website and any new customers. Of course, we also get to help consumers who might never have heard of us, so that’s a success in and of itself.

Ultimately, it’s a huge opportunity and we need to make the most out of it, so I hope you try to tune in when you can.

There’s only so much time on the show – so here’s some more information and advice on the BA breach: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/09/ba-promises-to-compensate-customers-after-data-breach/
You can also read more about our policy research into data, including data breaches, in our report here: https://www.which.co.uk/policy/digitisation/2659/control-alt-or-delete-the-future-of-consumer-data-main-report

Hope you find it interesting!

Thanks again for the quick response. Regarding policy for Which? – what BA have offered is a joke as it is very limited to financial loss:
“Chief executive Alex Cruz promised on Friday morning to compensate any of its customers who lost money as a result of the breach. He told the BBC’s Today programme: ‘We will work with any customer affected and we will compensate any financial hardship suffered.’ He added that he was ‘extremely sorry for what happened’.
Read more: which.co.uk/news/2018/09/ba-promises-to-compensate-customers-after-data-breach/ – Which?

You might well think that every name on the stolen data list will have been panicked and required to take time out to sort out the mess by contacting their Bank. I would think a basic law/policy that everone receives £25 to cover the time spent would be a good idea and also make companies very much more careful and boost spending on security.

Regarding LBC. I can see the attraction, and the theory that the more well-known the Which? “brand” is the better it might be in membership terms.

The big big thing about Which? is the hard-earned reputation; based for independence from outside interests and being paid for by subscriber/members. Anything that potential links Which?’s name with an unethical company has to be a concern.

On the broader question of awareness of Which? – or brand recognition. You will appreciate I think that for many the use of a pronoun/adjective as the main name of the Consumers’ Association was an error of some magnitude in this era of search engines. Having a unique name that is easily searchable and recognisable is what most organisations seek.

Anyway simply having a high recognition factor is not necessarily that useful in persuading people to “buy” the product. Particularly so if the name is subsequently tainted by revelations of double-dealing, profligate spending, or being less than what it claims to be.

I have very great hopes that a new broom will sweep clean and that the efforts of Which? staff are not stymied by over-reaching for illusory figures whilst leaving behind the bedrock of it’s reputation for independence and honesty.