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British Airways and Coronavirus: Cancelled Flights Lawsuit

CASE NUMBER: 1:20-cv-3542
PRACTICE AREAS: Consumer Protection
COURT: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Berger Montague has filed a class action lawsuit against British Airways, PLC on behalf of passengers who did not receive refunds when their British Airways flights were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The case is Ide v. British Airways, PLC (UK), Case No. 1:20-cv-3542 filed in the Southern District of New York. A copy of the amended complaint is available here.

On March 26, 2021, Judge Furman largely denied British Airways’ motion to dismiss. The case will now proceed to discovery.

About the case

The case alleges that British Airways has illegally breached its contracts with its passengers by denying refunds to its passengers for flights that the airline cancelled because of COVID-19.

The pandemic has caused a sharp decline in demand for international air travel. Many airlines – including British Airways – have cancelled previously booked flights to reduce supply in conformity with the reduced demand. British Airways’ self-imposed Conditions of Carriage state that: “We will pay fare refunds as set out below if we…cancel a flight.”

British Airways’ Conditions of Carriage align with longstanding requirements under federal law. According to an enforcement notice issued by the United States Department of Transportation (“DOT”) on April 3, 2020, carriers like British Airways have a:

“Longstanding obligation…to provide a prompt refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels the passenger’s flight or makes a significant change in the flight schedule and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier.”

This refund obligation, DOT clarified, applies regardless of whether the cancellation arises from circumstances beyond the carrier’s control:

“[T]he focus is not on whether the flight disruptions are within or outside the carrier’s control, but rather on the fact that the cancellation is through no fault of the passenger.”

Despite DOT’s guidance and in breach of its Conditions of Carriage, British Airways has systematically refused to refund its passengers when their flights were cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis.

Why would British Airways do this?

Because of the number of flights cancelled during COVID-19, British Airways has substantial financial incentives to impede passengers’ ability to obtain the refunds to which they are contractually entitled.

The lawsuit alleges that British Airways’ scheme to breach its Conditions of Carriage and deny customer refunds relies on making its refund mechanisms difficult to access. Instead of providing the refunds required by its contract, British Airways directs individuals who seek to apply for a refund on its website to apply for future travel vouchers instead. As the Daily Mail reported: “The refund option has been removed from [British Airways’] website but the option to claim a voucher remains.” After coercing customers to opt for a voucher instead of a refund, British Airways uses the coerced voucher selection as an excuse to deny the refund.

What types of damages is Berger Montague seeking?

Through this litigation, Berger Montague seeks to obtain the refunds to which class members are entitled. British Airways’ wrongful practice of denying refunds has deprived customers of the money they paid for cancelled travel during a time of crisis when they need access to those funds.

If you are a British Airways customer who did not receive a refund when your flight was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic, please contact us by filling out the form on this page.

Do I have to pay out-of-pocket to consult with an attorney?

No. We are happy to talk with you about your potential claims free of charge. If we decide to represent you in a lawsuit, we will enter into a written contingent fee agreement with you. A contingent fee agreement means we only get paid if we win, and we will receive our fees from the amount paid by the defendant in the case.

About Berger Montague

Berger Montague is a full-spectrum class action and complex civil litigation firm. We have been recognized by courts throughout the country for our ability and experience in handling major complex litigation.

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Shanon J. Carson

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