British Airways says it will now issue the compensation after discovering the error

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British Airways has apologised to passengers for wrongly denying them compensation when flights were cancelled at short notice and says it will be contacting affected customers to offer them money.

BA is currently cancelling more than 100 domestic and European flights a day to and from its main base at London Heathrow due to staff shortages. Passengers already booked on the affected flights are usually given several weeks’ warning, but some cancellations are made at short notice.

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, known as EC261, if a flight is cancelled less than two weeks in advance, travellers are generally entitled to compensation – either £220 or £350 for short-haul trips, depending on whether the journey is less or more than 1,500km.

But passengers who sought compensation have contacted The Independent to say their claims were rejected by BA. The only grounds for a carrier rejecting a claim is if “extraordinary circumstances” were responsible.

After British Airways cancelled a Heathrow-Dublin flight on Monday, a passenger seeking compensation was told: “Your claim’s been refused because flight BA0828 on 9 May was cancelled as a result of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is an external factor, which is beyond the control of the airline and is an ‘extraordinary circumstance’. It is not inherent in the normal activity of the airline and could not have been anticipated.”

The airline went on to say: “The cancellation of the flight was caused by restrictions imposed as a result of a global pandemic.” No travel restrictions have been in place between the UK and Ireland for the past two months.

A spokesperson for British Airways told The Independent: “Having looked into this we’ve discovered we made an error in the way we initially categorised a number of our cancelled flights.

“We’re extremely sorry and we’re contacting customers affected to issue the compensation.”

Passengers on flights cancelled by British Airways – or other airlines – at less than 14 days’ notice are advised to claim compensation online.

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