No compensation for BA passengers caught in emergency landing disruption

British Airways, a UK-based airline company, is denying its liability to pay compensation to passengers whose travel arrangements were ruined by flight cancellations during last Friday’s emergency landing procedure.

The cancellation of almost 200 flights occurred when a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Oslo was forced to turn back after suffering engine damage. The knock on effect of the incident resulted in the temporary closure of both of the airport’s runways and meant that thousands of passengers had their travel plans cancelled with little notice.

However, BA is of the opinion that its liability to those affected should not go beyond the food and hotel accommodation that it did provide for stranded passengers. Suggestions that the company should also pay the statutory GBP214 under European consumer legislation to anyone delayed while travelling to Europe have been met by BA’s firm rebuttal, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph. The airline is taking refuge behind the legislation’s ‘extraordinary circumstance’ clause, despite the fact that the incident was caused by a problem with one of its own aircraft. In its defence, the company compared the situation with the diversion of a Pakistan International Airlines flight, which also took place last week due to a suspected on-board terrorist incident.

The inclination of airlines to use the vague wording of the clause to sidestep the paying of compensation in all but the most blatant cases will result in new guidelines being issued soon by the European Commission, detailing the specific circumstances when compensation should be paid. While engine failure due to a bird strike is likely to be deemed an exceptional circumstance, failure due to a problem with maintenance is likely to place the liability with the airline.

In a statement a BA spokesman said, ‘We did all we could to offer duty of care including giving out refreshments and providing hotel rooms.’