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BA seat reservations - BA refusing to refund charges

BA seat reservations - BA refusing to refund charges

Old Dec 2, 19, 9:01 am
  #1  
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BA seat reservations - BA refusing to refund charges

Using the 2-4-1 voucher, a return trip was booked for September 2020 to the USA in Club World. Unfortunately, this had to be cancelled. BA returned all the Avios and all the taxes, less the administration fee. This is fair.

However, seats had also been booked which cost £500 (yes you read that right, £500 for two reserved seats each way). BA have confirmed there is no refund for the cost of the seat bookings. The reason is that I ‘voluntarily’ cancelled the booking. Yes, I have now got the rules, but it is not clear when you book the flights what the rules are.

So, BA have taken £500 for a service that are not having to provide. If the flights can be refunded, less the administration charge, then why not the seats? Or is this simply a money-making exercise based or sharp business practice?

A formal complaint has now been made to BA. The complaint is based on two issues:
1. It is not immediately and sufficiently clear when booking seats what the rules are. On the page where seats can be booked there is no mention of seat reservations being non-refundable.
2. The rules are unfair contract terms as they weigh the contract significantly in BA’s favour by providing for automatic loss of all upfront payments.

Have you had a similar experience? And advice would be welcome.
CousinsJ is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 9:06 am
  #2  
 
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Originally Posted by CousinsJ View Post
Using the 2-4-1 voucher, a return trip was booked for September 2020 to the USA in Club World. Unfortunately, this had to be cancelled. BA returned all the Avios and all the taxes, less the administration fee. This is fair.

However, seats had also been booked which cost £500 (yes you read that right, £500 for two reserved seats each way). BA have confirmed there is no refund for the cost of the seat bookings. The reason is that I ‘voluntarily’ cancelled the booking. Yes, I have now got the rules, but it is not clear when you book the flights what the rules are.

So, BA have taken £500 for a service that are not having to provide. If the flights can be refunded, less the administration charge, then why not the seats? Or is this simply a money-making exercise based or sharp business practice?

A formal complaint has now been made to BA. The complaint is based on two issues:
1. It is not immediately and sufficiently clear when booking seats what the rules are. On the page where seats can be booked there is no mention of seat reservations being non-refundable.
2. The rules are unfair contract terms as they weigh the contract significantly in BA’s favour by providing for automatic loss of all upfront payments.

Have you had a similar experience? And advice would be welcome.
Regardless of what the rules may actually be and the legal standing of that it does seem ridiculous to refund the Avios for the flights but not the money for the seats really, I'd have that firmly in the money grabbing camp.
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Old Dec 2, 19, 9:15 am
  #3  
 
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There was a thread about something very similar a few weeks ago. I think the upshot was that you get the Avios/fees back but not the seta reservation, as in your case, with people quoting bits from the T&Cs. I must say, knowing that the rest is refundable I would have made the assumption that the seat reservations were, too. I don't think this is made clear enough at booking, You'd have to be in the know or read all the fine print.
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Old Dec 2, 19, 9:15 am
  #4  
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Welcome to Flyertalk and welcome to the BA forum CousinsJ, it's good you see you join up with us here, and I hope we will hear more from you in the future. Note that in your first 24 hours on FT, there is a one off restriction of 5 posts, which will be automatically be lifted after 24 hours.

In terms of custom and practice, this is indeed BA's standard procedure with seating fees. There are some circumstances when fees are refunded, but if you volunteer to cancel your flight, then they aren't refunded. If this was due to unforeseen circumstances, then maybe your travel insurance would help (though I suspect not).

As to the underlying fairness of this, well you may be on to something there but I really wouldn't get your hopes up too high here. One possible remedy (though I am not a lawyer) is in terms of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, and over in the BA Forum Dashboard there is a thread on this. This prevent contracts being tilted too far in favour of the merchant (here BA) and I guess your argument is that provided you give BA plenty of notice the airline isn't materiality penalised by your cancelling your booking, given the £35 fee on the ticket itself, ergo the seat cancellation fee should be a similar amount. I think you would need some tenacity to pursue this, and to to do quite some research, but I can see circumstances where Money Claim Online (MCOL) could work in your favour. Again I don't want to overstate the plausibility of this.

There have been very few cases of the CRA being used against BA, and that's despite me researching this from time to time.
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Old Dec 2, 19, 9:16 am
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Originally Posted by CousinsJ View Post
And advice would be welcome.
From the T's & C's at the time of booking:
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Old Dec 2, 19, 9:16 am
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When you cannot claim a refund

  • If you cancel your flight.
  • If you are upgraded by us.
  • If you are not suitable to sit in the seat type you have selected (according to CAA safety regulations) e.g. an exit row seat.
  • If you choose to change your flight, you will be entitled to choose an equivalent seat on your new flight. If you change to a lower priced seat, we will be unable to refund you the difference.
  • If you booked a British Airways operated flight through another airline, e.g. Iberia, and you change your flight, you will not receive a refund for the reserved seats and you will need to reserve and pay for seats again on the new flight.
  • If it is more than 30 days since the completion of the last flight.

https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb...es-and-refunds

While BA MAY offer yous something for goodwill, I believe the refund policy is documented clearly
scottishpoet is online now  
Old Dec 2, 19, 9:17 am
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This was raised on Head for Points recently https://www.headforpoints.com/2019/1...selection-fee/ with the advice being to make a legal claim. It does seem very unfair that BA can essentially cancel your seat reservation at any point citing 'operational reasons', you, however, cannot.
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Old Dec 2, 19, 9:30 am
  #8  
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It is hard to argue that something is unfair when it is clearly disclosed in simple terms, agreed to by the passenger, and is a purely voluntary non-necessary add-on to the basic product.

This practice is also consistent with seat assignment fees on most other global airlines. Quite relevant when one compares trading practices looking for outliers.

All of this must be separated from BA's practice of charging for CW seat assignments. That is a rare practice indeed, but people seem willing to pay for it.
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Old Dec 2, 19, 9:31 am
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While I can understand why they do it for cancellations closer to departure t does seem unfair so far out.
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Old Dec 2, 19, 9:36 am
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I just searched the BA website for reserved seating and the following page came up:

https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb...sandconditions

It clearly states the following:

When you cannot claim a refund

  • If you cancel your flight
It goes on to state in the detailed terms and conditions:

Refunds

  • You will not receive a refund for paid seating if you cancel your flight, are involuntarily upgraded or do not meet the requirements to sit in the seat type you have selected.
You can pay for your seat reservation using Avios which is refundable if the flight itself is refundable.
  • When Avios have been used as full or part payment, the Avios will be refundable only where the booking is refundable, please refer to the refund section of the Commercial seating policy for more information.
This seems inconsistent that if paying by Avios it is refundable but if paid in cash it is not.

I am not sure whether the above is specifically referred to when you pay as part of the booking process (you say not) but it seems that BA is right.

I am a Silver member so can reserve for free but would never pay to reserve any seat as I think that is a waste of money. I am not bothered whether I sit next to my travelling companion but in most instances when you are on the same PNR you get seated together anyway.

I do not agree with this policy and think you should be refunded especially as the Avios were and BA can resell the seats to another passenger. I wonder what legal redress you have as it seems a rather one-sided clause designed to favour BA.
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Old Dec 2, 19, 9:38 am
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There is the following example of this circumstance documented recently:

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/...ose-seats.html

In that particular case, the passenger filed via MCOL and BA refunded as a goodwill gesture. Presumably that sets no precedent, but it suggests there may be some hope if you are prepared to go that route.
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Old Dec 2, 19, 10:04 am
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Originally Posted by cosmo74 View Post
This was raised on Head for Points recently https://www.headforpoints.com/2019/1...selection-fee/ with the advice being to make a legal claim. It does seem very unfair that BA can essentially cancel your seat reservation at any point citing 'operational reasons', you, however, cannot.
The same goes for any booking. BA or any airline can cancel. You cannot if not a flexible ticket. (Some cancellation options apply, but they would often prefer you to take your money and go).
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Old Dec 2, 19, 10:07 am
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Originally Posted by scottishpoet View Post

When you cannot claim a refund

  • If you cancel your flight.
  • If you are upgraded by us.
  • If you are not suitable to sit in the seat type you have selected (according to CAA safety regulations) e.g. an exit row seat.
  • If you choose to change your flight, you will be entitled to choose an equivalent seat on your new flight. If you change to a lower priced seat, we will be unable to refund you the difference.
  • If you booked a British Airways operated flight through another airline, e.g. Iberia, and you change your flight, you will not receive a refund for the reserved seats and you will need to reserve and pay for seats again on the new flight.
  • If it is more than 30 days since the completion of the last flight.

https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb...es-and-refunds

While BA MAY offer yous something for goodwill, I believe the refund policy is documented clearly
So in hindsight it would be better if he upgraded the flight to First (change fee but seat reservations refunded) and then cancelled?
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Old Dec 2, 19, 10:14 am
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I'd love to see the Involuntary Upgrade tested in court...

Somebody shells out £500 for a seat, but then don't get to sit in that seat due to no fault of their own. How can BA refuse to refund? OK, BA may think the upgraded seat is better, but as we hear on FT, this isn't always the case.
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Old Dec 2, 19, 10:19 am
  #15  
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
It is hard to argue that something is unfair when it is clearly disclosed in simple terms, agreed to by the passenger, and is a purely voluntary non-necessary add-on to the basic product.

This practice is also consistent with seat assignment fees on most other global airlines. Quite relevant when one compares trading practices looking for outliers.

All of this must be separated from BA's practice of charging for CW seat assignments. That is a rare practice indeed, but people seem willing to pay for it.
It isn't 'clearly disclosed' - read my article.

No T&Cs are shown on the initial screen. If you click the button, you are shown 'summary terms' - which do NOT mention lack of refundability. Only if you open the full T&Cs and scroll to the bottom are you told they are non-refundable.
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