If you didn’t hear about the recent British Airways global IT failure fiasco, you must be living under a rock. Just in case you are, I’ll briefly sum it up:
At the end of May, BA experienced a global IT computer outage that resulted in an immense number of cancellations and delays from Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London. At least 75,000 frustrated passengers were stranded and the flight irregularities continued for three days, with a total of 726 cancellations. The extremely unfortunate event is expected to cost British Airways up to £80m.
I have been in the heathrow airport so long I have picked an English accent. Thanks #britishairways
— Brad Keen (@Bradleykeen) May 27, 2017
— Sandra Kitlinska (@sandrakitlinska) May 27, 2017
— Meganathan Kanagaraj (@MegaSQLBI) May 27, 2017
Then, just last week, a computer malfunction at Manchester Airport forced airline personnel to check-in passengers manually, resulting in lengthy delays. It seems as though passengers flying from the UK are having some bad luck at the moment.
Thomas Cook Airlines was severely affected by the glitch, as the airline had a number of early-morning departures that were delayed for up to five hours. Other airlines affected included Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Scandinavian Airlines.
So, for those of us who are well versed on passenger rights and EU Regulation 261/2004 (and trust me, the team at refund.me are extremely well versed on this topic!), we know that passengers travelling to or from Europe are entitled to compensation from airlines for flight delays over 3 hours (depending on the operating airline).
But unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. Airlines don’t just willingly hand out compensation as soon as the delay time ticks over to 180 minutes. If they did, companies like refund.me wouldn’t need to exist.
There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to eligibility, and the most important one is whether or not the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances (EC).
In the above examples, we believe passengers affected by one of these two IT failures are eligible for compensation. Can you guess which one? (Hint: it’s the one caused by British Airways).
I asked Jonathan, one of our Settlement Managers, to explain why.
“In this case, it’s quite simple. The BA IT failure was an internal mistake caused by the airline that only affected it’s own operations, therefore it’s something that could have been avoided if reasonable steps were taken to do so. It is the airline’s responsibility to ensure things like this don’t happen – that risk cannot be passed on to passengers.”
Jonathan – Settlement Manager
“Conversely, the problems in Manchester were caused by a general computer system error at the airport itself, rather than a specific airline, and therefore caused delays indiscriminately. Airlines affected, such as Thomas Cook and Cathay Pacific, cannot be held responsible for delays as a result of this, as it was completely outside of their control.”
For this reason, we believe passengers affected by the BA failure are eligible, whereas, unfortunately, all those affected by the outage in Manchester will not be able to claim any compensation from airlines.
The main thing to remember: if the delay is caused by the airline, you’re most likely eligible for compensation under EU 261/2004. Common reasons for delays that are NOT considered EC include technical issues, mechanical faults, de-icing, overbooking and tight scheduling/knock-on effects, to name a few.
In any case, we always encourage passengers to submit their details to us via our website, and we’ll do the investigative work to determine whether or not eligibility applies. And if you’re at the airport experiencing a delay, always ask for the reason.