DR. DAVID Fotheringhame has successfully taken British Airways to court over its voucher refund policy.
The 50-year-old, who lives in South London, was awarded £333, which covers the cost of his cancelled flights and his court costs.
The IT worker challenged BA in Croydon County Court, saying he should have been offered a cash refund, instead of being forced to accept vouchers online.
When he won his case, he was given £283 – the cost of his return flights to Barcelona for a cycling trip, and £50 for court fees.
As a result of his experiences, he’s set up a free website RefundsNotVouchers.org, to help other people forced to accept vouchers in lieu of cancelled flights get their cash back instead.
He told the Sun: “The law is clear, you’re entitled to get a cash refund. Just because the airlines made that very difficult doesn’t mean you can’t get your money now.”
Even though British Airways was offering customers money back at the time, David says that option wasn’t available to him online and he couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone.
That meant he was effectively forced into getting a voucher, which he did not want. As soon as it came through, he submitted a complaint to BA saying he wanted a cash refund instead.
Unfortunately, his complaint went nowhere, meaning David had to go to court instead.
He says: “My flight was cancelled due to COVID back in 2020, I naturally wanted a cash refund but BA had deliberately made it extremely hard.
“After failing to get anywhere with their complaints department I used the very simple and cheap Small Claims process.
“[I] represented myself in a video court hearing and won the full value of my ticket and the small costs I had incurred in making the claim.
“I’m not a lawyer and have no legal training, anyone can do what I did at very limited expense and with a good chance of success
The consumer champions at Money Saving Expert say that the court case isn’t binding for other disgruntled airline customers, but that “it could be used as an example of case law when bringing similar complaints to court”.
David suggests trying the complaints department before going to court – even if you think it won’t be successful – as it looks good to show you’d exhausted this avenue.
If you do end up bringing a small claim, you can start the process here. For this to work, your claim will need to be for £10,000 or less.
There are fees involved, which vary depending on how much you’re claiming – starting at £25 and rising up to £410 for a top claim. But if you win your case, you should also win back the costs.
The next stage is that you’ll be asked to write a short witness statement and then eventually go to court, either in person or by video online.
David says: “This is quick and easy – you DON’T need any legal help… Half of claimants represent themselves. The system is deliberately designed to support ordinary people representing themselves.”
He also provides tips on his website to help with writing a statement as well as suggestions and guides for when the case eventually goes to court.
Some airlines may choose to settle out of court and refund the cash and costs without having to pay expensive legal bills.
David told the Sun: “Opening a case in the small claims court online is as easy as writing to a complaints dept. but gets real results.”
If you’re not keen to go to court, there are some other things you can try before you make a challenge, such as escalating your complaint to the relevant Ombudsman.
Money Saing Expert explains on its website: “If an airline refuses your claim, take your complaint to the relevant alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme. For BA, this is CEDR.”
You may also be able to get your money back via your travel insurance, or via Section 75 on your credit card, or Chargeback on a debit card.
A British Airways spokesperson said: “Where a customer’s flight is cancelled we always contact them to offer options including a full refund.
“Customers who are unable to travel, or choose not to, can continue to change their flights or request a voucher for future use as part of our Book with Confidence policy, which has been available since the beginning of the pandemic.”
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