My British Airways Cancellation and Compensation Saga

I got a cancellation e-mail from British Airways, and had to book a new flight myself and file a claim and compensation request. This is how the process went for me, and how you can file your own claim with BA:

Flight to London

As mentioned in the introduction of this trip report, I had initially booked a one-way economy class flight from Bucharest to London Heathrow with British Airways.

Subsequently, I upgraded my flight to business class using some Avios I still had remaining.

However, my excitement about the flight and my English holiday was dampened when two days before my departure, I received an e-mail from British Airways informing me that my flight to London had been cancelled.

No reason for the cancellation was given: British Airways only notified that I was rebooked on another flight two days later and had been downgraded from business class to economy.

british airways cancellation e-mail
The British Airways cancellation e-mail I received two days before my flight. ©Paliparan


Needless to say, this wasn’t an option for me for several reasons.

Above all, it would disrupt my plans to visit Cornwall since I had a booking for the Night Riviera sleeper train from London to Penzance on the same day as my original flight.

However, also the downgrade was unacceptable, as both British and EU regulations dictate that as a passenger you have the right to “re-routing on other flights to your destination under comparable transport conditions at the earliest opportunity”.

Although I was not willing to fly a day later, I would certainly accept any rebooking in business class on the original date of travel or even a day before in order to save my English holiday.

Surely there would be some other alternatives?

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A British Airways plane at London Heathrow. ©Paliparan

Phone call

The first step you should take when your flight is cancelled is to speak with an airline representative to explore the possibility of rebooking on another flight that suits your needs.

Of course, this can either be done at the airport if you are hit with a last-minute cancellation or, as was the case with my situation, over the phone if it occurs a few days before your scheduled flight.

It helps to research alternative flights beforehand (or at least consider what would be an acceptable alternative for you) before making the call.

After a 30-minute wait in the queue at the British Airways phone helpline, I was finally connected to a human being.

The customer service representative from British Airways was apologetic about the situation and appeared to be a generally friendly person.

However, she wasn’t able to solve the issue.

The flight for the following day (the day prior to my original flight) was fully booked, and the earliest available British Airways flight with an available business class seat for rebooking was not until a week later.

She mentioned there was absolutely no availability on partner airlines, which wasn’t particularly surprising considering British Airways is the sole oneworld carrier serving Bucharest besides Qatar Airways.

Rebooking me on flights via Doha would not only entail substantial costs for them but likely contravene their internal regulations due to the considerable detour involved.

She also mentioned that she wasn’t permitted to arrange a rebooking on a non-partner airline, like Lufthansa or TAROM.

qatar airways planes doha airport
Airlines would normally rebook you on a partner airline if  you are hit with a cancellation, which in the case of British Airways would be airlines such as Iberia, Finnair, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and American Airlines. ©Paliparan

Take control

Although you should always reach out to the airline first to see what they have to offer, you can always take matters into your own hands if their solutions are unsatisfactory.

In that case, you can book an alternative flight yourself and just claim the money back from the airline.

You can also claim any additional travel expenses resulting directly from the cancellation, such as a hotel for the night or train fare.

However, it’s important to note that according to European and UK regulations, you cannot seek reimbursement for expenses such as a pre-booked hotel at your destination if your arrival is delayed due to a cancelled flight

For exactly such situations there is your travel insurance to fall back on.

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Boarding gate for a British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Venice. ©Paliparan


When rebooking your own flight and requesting a refund from the airline, it’s crucial to be reasonable in your reimbursement request.

An alternative flight booking must be “under comparable transport conditions”, so if your original ticket was in business class it’s perfectly acceptable to book another business class ticket and claim back the costs.

That doesn’t mean you get a free pass to book whatever you want.

If there are numerous business class flights priced at €500, it wouldn’t be considered reasonable to book a €1500 one solely because you prefer that particular airline.

However, it’s completely irrelevant here what the original price was of your cancelled flight.

Although my original British Airways flight did only cost me €82 plus 10,500 Avios in upgrade costs, it doesn’t mean I can’t book a €500 replacement flight if that happens to be the cheapest business class alternative.

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British Airways plane taking off from Zurich Airport. ©Paliparan

Turkish Airlines

Although there were several one-stop flight options available on the day I originally planned to travel, I decided not to book them as they all had a short connection time and the risks of misconnecting were just too big.

Instead, I decided to book a flight a day earlier.

Even though Turkish Airlines’ business class flights to London were fully booked on that particular day, I did find availability with them on a business class flight to Birmingham, which cost €421.32.

It did have a horrible nighttime layover in Istanbul, but theoretically I could book a hotel there and claim those costs back as well with British Airways.

The same would have counted for a train ticket from Birmingham Airport to London, but as I already had an Interrail pass that gave me free and unlimited train travel through the UK, this wasn’t necessary in my case.

In the end, I really liked this alternative as it did have a silver lining.

Not only does Turkish Airlines offer a much better experience than British Airways on European flights, providing a proper business class seat instead of BA’s Euro-business with just the middle seat remaining empty, but it also allowed me to earn Star Alliance frequent flyer miles.

In case you are rebooked on another airline you can basically double-dip by retro-claiming the frequent flyer miles you would have received on your cancelled original flight, and earn some miles on your newly booked ticket as well.

turkish airlines birmingham rebooking
I rebooked myself on Turkish Airlines to Birmingham. ©Paliparan


Regardless of the reason for the cancellation, you have the right to be rebooked on alternative flights or to opt for a refund of your ticket costs, according to your preference.

However, you may also have the right to compensation.

All of this is governed by the EC/261 regulation in the EU, which has been adopted by the UK government post-Brexit as well.

If you’ve been notified of the cancellation within two weeks of your initially scheduled departure and the airline is at fault, you’re entitled to compensation if they’re unable to rebook you on an alternative flight with similar arrival and departure times.

For a full overview when can you claim compensation, check my guide to EU rights and compensation regarding cancellations, as there are a number of exceptions (force majeure in case of adverse weather conditions, for example) and other things to note.

Fortunately for me, this seemed to be an operational issue with British Airways, which meant they were fully on the hook to pay me EC/261 compensation.

The compensation amount is based on the flight distance between your first point of departure and your final destination (any intermediate stops are irrelevant).

In case of my cancelled Bucharest to London Heathrow flight, the distance between the two airports is 1,311 miles, which meant I was entitled to 400 euro compensation.

British Airways offers an accessible page on their website outlining your passenger rights and providing clear instructions on filing your claim and requesting compensation.

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It’s easy to file a claim on the British Airways website. ©Screenshot BA

Filing my claim

It took me just ten minutes to file my compensation claim on the British Airways website, which I did a day after I received the cancellation e-mail.

My claim request included the €421.32 cost of my newly booked flight on Turkish Airlines and the €400 in EC/261 compensation.

When you file your claim, make sure you attach all the required documentation, such as receipts of your expenses.

When you write your story in the comment box, it’s important that you keep it short and to-the-point.

Never write details about inconvenience or emotional impact caused by the cancellation in your claim, as these are entirely irrelevant and may distract from your compensation claim.

Whether or not your claim will be honoured depends on basic facts and regulations, not on how much it victimised you.

It’s therefore best to write a concise timeline encompassing details about your original booking, the cancellation, and a justification for the expenses you’re claiming.

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A British Airways Airbus A320 at Madrid Barajas Airport. ©Paliparan


Twelve days after submitting my expenses and compensation claim, I received an e-mail response from British Airways customer service.

I was happy to read that my claim was fully accepted, and my expenses claim of €423.32 and €400 in compensation would be deposited to my bank account in two separate transactions.

It took a further two to three weeks until I received the money on my account.

Nevertheless, I found the overall timeline for British Airways’ response to my claim and the subsequent money transfer entirely acceptable.

Overall, the entire process couldn’t have been easier, and I can also commend British Airways for transparently outlining its obligations and the rights you have as a passengers in case of a cancellation.

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My expenses and compensation claim was approved by British Airways. ©Paliparan


Despite the inconvenience of having to deal with a British Airways flight cancellation two days before the start of my trip, I managed to solve the situation quite easily.

When British Airways wasn’t able to rebook me on an acceptable date, I rebooked myself on a Turkish Airways flight to London and successfully lodged an expenses and compensation claim with BA, which was approved after 12 days.

While British Airways deserves praise for offering clear and transparent information regarding passenger rights, you should make sure that you are familiar with these rights in advance and are pro-active when it comes to effectively enforcing them when needed.

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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