Following the emergency landing of one of its aircraft at Heathrow, and the subsequent preliminary findings of the Air Accident Investigation Board, British Airways is facing a potential compensation bill running into many millions of pounds.
The airline had initially claimed that the incident should be deemed an “extraordinary circumstance” and that, under EU Regulation 261 which governs such incidents, the airline was therefore not liable for compensation. That however was in the immediate aftermath of BA 762′s dramatic return to Heathrow and before anyone knew the reason for the emergency.
Subsequently, when it became clear that the problem was down to human error, namely the failure to properly secure the cowls which protect the plane’s engines, British Airways suddenly went very quiet. The airline have remained largely silent ever since and are unlikely to make any further official decisions until the full report comes out later this year.
Without wishing to pre-judge that report, if, as likely, human error is confirmed as the reason for the emergency then British Airways is set to face a flurry of compensation claims. The airline will no doubt hope, and argue, that any compensation it is forced to pay out will only apply to those passengers who were on the affected flight. However, as a consequence of the emergency landing, one of Heathrow’s two runways was forced to close and this resulted in some 193 flights being cancelled. While some passengers were able to catch flights later the same day, others had to overnight in nearby hotels. Will the airline refund their direct costs as well as providing compensation for inconvenience?
Worse still, other passengers had their flights cancelled and were unable to re-book at all. As an example, and as noted at the time, my niece and nephews (ages 11-15) were meant to fly out to their parents in Amsterdam that day with British Airways but were unable to do so as their flight was cancelled and later potential flights were booked up for several days ahead. In the end, the only solution was for their mother to drive from Holland to the UK, pick them up, and head straight back. Will British Airways refund them not just for their unused flights but also fuel, return Eurotunnel bookings and the inconvenience?