In December 2019 I booked flights from Gatwick to Orlando with British Airways for October 2020 to celebrate my husband’s 70th birthday and our 40th wedding anniversary.
I booked three adults and one child but the following day realised I had made a mistake on the internet booking and had only booked one week instead of two.
I phoned British Airways and was told that to change the flights it would cost me an additional £1,400 which I paid, making a total charge of approximately £4,500.
Due to Covid, BA cancelled the flight out to Orlando so I asked for the booking to be refunded.
But then they informed me that £600 of the original additional fee was a penalty charge for changing the booking and this sum would not be refunded to me. What can I do?
British Airways charged a passenger a penalty fare on top of a fee to change flights
Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: Both airlines and holidaymakers have had a tough time this year, thanks to the ongoing pandemic.
Travellers have struggled to get refunds from their carriers since March when thousands of flights to countries all over the world were cancelled.
Many are still now trying to reclaim money from airlines for bookings cancelled months ago, with some carriers seeming to delay refund payments and blaming the backlog of applications.
In your situation, however, the refund itself is not the issue but rather the penalty fare that British Airways is charging you.
You admit the initial booking mistake was your fault and willingly paid the £1,400 to rectify the situation – despite how costly this was.
At the time, you assumed this was the end of the matter as all flights had been changed and paid for in advance.
However, when trying to claim a refund after the holiday was cancelled, you were told it would be made minus the £600 penalty.
Thousands of flights were cancelled earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic
You say you were never informed that a penalty fee was applied and were led to believe that the £1,400 you paid back in December last year was the difference in flight prices.
Since being told this was in fact partly the difference in flight costs, and partly a fee to change your booking, you have emailed British Airways four times but each time you say it has ignored specific questions you have asked them.
These includes providing the name of the body that regulates their actions.
You have also said that BA staff keep repeating that according to their terms and conditions penalty charges are non-refundable.
After speaking to British Airways, This is Money was told that the £1,400 paid by you in December 2019 was the fare difference in flights and a £600 penalty fare consisting of a £150 per person charge for changing the flights.
BA told us that there are a variety of flight options, for example, flexible tickets that allow customers to change with a small charge.
However, you booked tickets where changing the flights would be more expensive.
Fortunately, since we contacted the airline, they have agreed to refund the £600 to you.
A spokesman for British Airways replies: We are in contact with our customer to confirm the refund has been made.
Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: In situations like this, it is frustrating that such a large charge can be made with no explanation.
On the BA website, it has a calculator that shows how much customers might be charged if they decide to change their flights.
When putting in the option to change flights through an airport ticket office, the maximum fee comes up at £40 – although BA does say extra charges could be made.
It adds that penalty charges may differ depending on cabin class and fare price.
For those who have a problem with their airline booking and getting a situation resolved, the first thing they should do is contact the carrier directly.
If you have made a written complaint and are not satisfied with the outcome or have not received a reply within eight weeks, the Civil Aviation Authority’s passenger advice and complaints team may be able to help.
They will advise on whether they think you have a valid complaint and, if so, will take it up with the business concerned. However, the CAA does not have the legal powers to impose a resolution on an airline.
If a traveller is dissatisfied with the opinion the CAA has provided, they can take legal action against the airline or airport, but cannot appeal against the CAA’s decision.
In addition, there are strict time limits in relation to taking legal action therefore, the CAA will not handle complaints where there is less than a year to take legal action.