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)

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