BA delays: Insurers clash with airline over expenses

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Insurers have clashed with British Airways over covering the cost of expenses incurred by passengers caught up in last weekend’s travel chaos.

The BA website suggests that customers should initially make a claim on their travel insurance for expenses such as meals during the delays.

But the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and a consumer rights expert say responsibility is with the airline.

BA said it would update the language, but its website has yet to change.

Saturday’s IT fiasco grounded hundreds of flights and disrupted the travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers around the world.

Passengers travelling in the EU are entitled to compensation, but insurers are angry with the airline for claims over non-flight expenses such as hotels, meals and phone calls.

BA’s website says: “You should make a claim with your travel insurer in the first instance. If you have expenses that either you were not successful in claiming or which are not covered by your policy, you may claim for only these expenses in the form below.”

However, the ABI contacted the airline earlier in the week pointing out that the initial claim should be to the airline, and only if that was unsuccessful would some policies pay out for these costs. A payout from the airline means passengers are more likely to get the full refund, rather than be liable for an insurer’s excess.

“No-one wants these passengers pushed from pillar to post,” said Malcolm Tarling, of the ABI.

This position has been backed by consumer rights campaigner Helen Dewdney.

“Looking at the claim for expenses online, once you start the online process, it suggests that you should claim from your travel insurance first. For EU flights, this is in breach of EU law – the airline must pay for reasonable expenses, For all flights, BA even says this as part of its terms and conditions,” she said.

“It is the airline’s responsibility to inform people of their rights and it does not appear to me that BA has done nearly enough.”

In an interview on Thursday, Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways’ owner IAG, said: “Clearly we will do everything we can to make up [for] the disruption they suffered.”

The airline said: “We have been encouraging customers that were affected by the weekend’s events to submit claims for their expenses, including those beyond flights, so that we can compensate them.

“We have created a dedicated page on ba.com providing customers with additional information on how to make a claim. We will be updating the wording on the claims page to ensure our customers have clear information.”

It has now also added a link on its homepage for compensation advice.

Questions still remain over exactly how the IT fiasco occurred. The airline said on Wednesday that a loss of power to a UK data centre was “compounded” by a power surge that took out its IT systems.

An email leaked to the Press Association suggested that a contractor doing maintenance work inadvertently switched off the power supply, although this has not been confirmed.

The email said: “This resulted in the total immediate loss of power to the facility, bypassing the backup generators and batteries… After a few minutes of this shutdown, it was turned back on in an unplanned and uncontrolled fashion, which created physical damage to the systems and significantly exacerbated the problem.”


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