British Airways has been rebuked by the UK’s aviation regulator for telling customers that they will be unable to travel on strike days early next month.
BA pilots who are members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) are set to strike on 9, 10 and 27 September in a row over pay and working conditions.
On its website, BA told customers: “We have been working with the pilots’ union, BALPA, to reach an agreement on pay. Unfortunately, the union has announced it will strike on September 9, 10 and 27, causing serious disruption to the travel plans of thousands of you, our customers.
“We are now making changes to our schedule. If you have a flight booked with us on those dates, it is likely that you will not be able to travel due to Balpa’s strike action. We will be offering all affected customers full refunds or the option to re-book to another date.”
The Civil Aviation Authority, the industry regulator, has said BA has not provided customers with all of their available options – including the ability to fly with another airline in their chosen day of travel – leading to confusion among its customers.
CAA director Richard Stephenson said: “We have been in contact with the airline to determine what has happened and are seeking an explanation to confirm how it complied with its re-routing obligations to consumers.
“Passengers who have seen their flights cancelled should be offered the choice of reimbursement for cancelled flights, alternate travel arrangements under comparable conditions at the earliest opportunity which includes flights on other airlines, or a new flight at a later date at the passenger’s convenience.
“We also expect airlines to proactively provide passengers with information about their rights when flights are cancelled.”
The strikes will not BA CityFlyer, which flies out of London City Airport.
BA has said it has agreements in place with airlines to provide rebooking options for its customers, which it is looking to expand, and that it is also trying to provide larger aircraft to take more passengers on the affected dates.
A BA spokesperson told City A.M: “We appreciate the frustration and inconvenience that this strike action has caused our customers and our teams are working tirelessly to help them.
“As soon as we were issued with dates, we contacted airlines across the world to support with rebooking agreements, and since Friday we have been providing customers with the option to travel on other carriers.
“Our contact centres are operating 24/7, and we have brought in additional resource, with over 500 colleagues working to support customers during this time.
“Our teams are providing customers whose flights have been cancelled with options to seek a full refund or rebook, including to a different date of travel, or flying with an alternative airline.”
Consumer watchdog Which advised customers to contact the airline and asked to be booked on to another flight free of charge.
“BA have a legal duty to book you on an alternative flight as close to your original flight time and airport as possible – even if this involves using a different airline,” it said.
“You’re entitled to a refund of all reasonable costs of travel or accommodation involved in catching your rerouted flight, including travelling at another time or day, or from a different airport.
“If you’re near your travel date, but BA hasn’t rerouted your flight you can book your own flights and claim the money back from BA later, as long as the cost of the new flight is a reasonable alternative.”