British Airways still to process 47,000 repayments for cancelled flights

UK airlines are delaying refunds even though consumers are entitled to receive them within a fortnight

British Airways planes sit on the apron at Bournemouth airport in southern England on May 6, 2020. British Airways is set to slash up to 12,000 jobs as part of a restructuring plan as the carrier grapples with the fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic. / AFP / Ben STANSALL

British Airways boss Willie Walsh said that repayment for 47,400 bookings remained outstanding as airlines came under fire for failing to reimburse travellers.

Mr Walsh said that it had refunded 921,000 tickets and provided vouchers for another 346,000 customers who had cancelled bookings.

The UK consumer organisation Which? said that it had been inundated with complaints from passengers who found it almost impossible to claim because of inadequate computer systems and failure of anyone to pick up the phone.

Some reported calling budget airline Ryanair more than 100 times to try to get their money back. Passengers are entitled to refunds for cancelled flights within a fortnight but the organisation found last month that the UK’s ten leading airlines were not paying the money on time.

Airlines have unsuccessfully applied to the government be allowed to send vouchers instead of refunds to get through the crisis.

“I believe this demonstrates the excellent work being done by the team at British Airways to respond to the needs of our customers,” Mr Walsh said.

News of the refunds came in a letter to a parliamentary committee in which he warned that the UK government’s decision to quarantine passengers had set back recovery plans for the industry. He also cited Matt Hancock’s comments that “big, lavish international holidays” were unlikely to be possible this summer.

Mr Walsh said British Airways owner International Airlines Group (IAG) intended to go ahead with its plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs even after securing government funds to pay staff while they did not work.

“We must act now to secure the maximum number of jobs possible, consistent with the reality of a structurally changed airline industry in a severely weakened global economy,” he said. “I want to confirm therefore that we will not pause our consultations or put our plans on hold.”