Your rights if an airline cancels your flights – or tickets
Can an airline really cancel your flight or ticket after you’ve bought it? Well, British Airways has done just that – sort of- so consumer lawyer Dean Dunham take a look at your rights
The British Airways tickets furore, with more than 2,000 cheap seats sold and then cancelled, raises some burning consumer points.
Travellers snapped up cut-price flights to Tel Aviv and Dubai from travel agents.
Return tickets which can set you back up to £1,000 were on offer, typically between £167 and £300.
Obviously the seats were advertised for less than they should have been and BA said it was an “exceptionally rare” mistake and offered a £100 voucher as a goodwill gesture.
The company claimed there was “no binding contract” with the affected passengers. Are they right? Here are my thoughts.
Is there a legally binding contract?
For there to be a legally binding contract there generally needs to be three elements.
- An offer – that is an offer to sell goods or services, in this case the flight tickets.
- Acceptance – the party the offer is made to must accept it.
- Consideration – this generally means payment.
It appears to me that all three elements were satisfied.
You next need to look at BA’s terms and conditions to see if they have any clauses that change when the contract is formed.
I’ve done this and they do not seem to provide any terms that alter my belief that there is, indeed, a binding contract between BA and the passengers affected.
Can BA break the contract?
BA can argue the fares advertised were a “unilateral mistake”. The general rule here is that if the non-mistaken party either knew or should have known of the other party’s mistake, the contract is voidable, in this case by BA.
I read some cases where passengers got tickets for £1, plus taxes. In my opinion it must have been obvious to these passengers that this was a mistake.
Therefore, I suggest, BA were within their rights to cancel these tickets. However, I’ve seen details where people paid more like £160 – and when you search for other flights on the same route this does not seem so out of the ordinary.
In these cases, where it clearly would not have been obvious that there was a mistake with the price, my view is that BA were simply wrong to cancel these tickets.
Dean Dunham – Sunday Mirror
For more information and tips about your consumer rights, please read our other articles in the consumer news section.
If you have a dispute with an airline, please visit www.aviationadr.org.uk to log your complaint.