British Airways and other leading airlines are “ripping off” passengers who miss their flight, Which? investigation finds ahead of Christmas getaway
It has been revealed airlines are cancelling passengers’ return flights if they miss their outward plane – forcing them to pay thousands of pounds to rebook their tickets.
At least 11 carriers including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are leaving customers stranded by removing their booking details from the system, the probe by Which? has revealed.
The consumer group is calling on companies to scrap the “rip-off” no-show clause often buried in terms and conditions, which it claims could be a breach of consumer law.
It allows airlines to sell the passenger’s seat on a return or connecting flight to a new customer and does not oblige them to provide a refund – meaning they double their money.
Travellers often only discover their tickets have been cancelled when they arrive at the airport for their homeward journey and are left with no choice but to buy a seat at an inflated price or pay a penalty fee of up to £2,685 to use their original ticket.
Which? managing director of home products and services Alex Neill said: “Missing a flight because you’re stuck in traffic or on a delayed train is frustrating enough, but for the airline to then turn around and say your return journey is cancelled as well is completely unfair and unjustified.
“We don’t think there’s any good reason for a no-show clause to exist. It only works in favour of the airline. It should be removed immediately by airlines, who need to show more respect for their passengers.”
Some airlines claim the clause is a way of stamping out “tariff abuse” – when passengers buy return tickets that are cheaper than a single flight. But Easyjet and Ryanair, two of Europe’s biggest airlines, do not have the clause in their terms and conditions.
The practice has caused outrage on social media, with customers complaining of their shock when they discovered their return journey had been cancelled.
One Twitter user said her husband’s flight was cancelled without him being informed and he had to buy the seat back again for six times the original price.
Another traveller told Which? she paid Virgin Atlantic an extra £1,354 to get home from New York after she missed a flight from London.
Which? has written to nine airlines telling them their policy potentially breaches section 62 the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, which defines an unfair clause as causing “a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights” to the consumer’s detriment.
The group has also joined forces with counterparts in nine European countries to “stamp out the unfair practice”.
A British Airways spokesperson said: “More than 45 million customers choose to fly with us every year and we value their loyalty.
Many of our tickets allow customers to make changes to their flights if they inform us before they travel. And if a customer arrives at the airport after genuinely missing their flight, their return flight will – of course – be protected.
“It is common practice within the airline industry for customers to be required to use flights in the order stated in the booking, and they are asked to agree to these terms when they make a booking.”
Virgin Atlantic said in a statement: “We are aware of the report and are in the process of investigating further. We never want to disappoint our customers and make our terms and conditions clear at the point of booking.”