British Airways is not having a good day today-to say the very least, and for the first time in history, travelers may be sincerely missing the days of paper airplane tickets. The airline was forced to cancel almost all Saturday (bank holiday weekend) flights from London Heathrow and London Gatwick due to a massive IT glitch. They’re hardly the first. This year alone- Delta and United watched as systems screeched to a halt, stranding passengers worldwide. Unfortunately for British Airways, chaos extended to arriving flights, with virtually no space to park incoming aircraft, resulting in massive knock on arrival delays. If you’ve been affected, here’s what you need to do…

Whatever option you fall into, be polite and kind to the person you speak to at the desk, on the phone or on twitter. They did not cause the systems failure and are far more likely to help people that aren’t insulting…

If You’re At The Airport, Your Flight Is Cancelled, And There Are No Other Airlines You Can Be Rebooked On Today…

Leave. You can pursue all the same rebooking and compensation issues over the phone or online, from the comfort of home without the hassle or stress. The best way to reach the airline is via their brilliant Twitter team, their customer service portal online or one of their (flooded) call centers. If you’re not a local in the UK, use Skype to call at significantly lower rates. We highly recommend Twitter to get the ball rolling on rebooking’s and the customer service portal for processing EC261 claims or cancellation refunds…

If You Still Want To Travel…

If your flight was cancelled and you’d still like to travel, you are owed EC261 compensation for the delay and or cancellation. Depending on the distance of your flight, you’re owed between â‚Ŧ250-600, â‚Ŧ600 for flights over 3,500 to a non European Union airport. If you miss out on non refundable (already booked) hotel or other accommodations due to the delay, you can also submit an expense report to British Airways-online detailing your hotel cost and asking for a refund for any unused night of your hotel, due to their fault. It’s not a guarantee but it’s a very reasonable request. So yes, to summarize, claim for delayed/cancelled flight compensation, and compensation for any non refundable travel planned today.

British Airways may fight the Ec261 compensation claim, citing unavoidable circumstances, but “tech” issues are not supposed to be included, FYI…

If You Need To Leave…Now.

If you must get out of town ASAP, and can’t wait for the possibility of a British Airways flight tomorrow, you still have options. You can ask British Airways to endorse your ticket over to another OneWorld alliance partner, or even a competitor. This is much less risky than buying another ticket entirely and hoping British Airways will refund you later, which is doubtful at best. Mention the protection agreements from EC261 in place on tickets. I highly recommend using Google Flights to look up alternate flights on other airlines, and then ExpertFlyer to see if any seats are left. Put them forward to British Airways for rebooking.

It may go something like “hey, I just looked and saw that Emirates has a flight out of London tonight, that gets me into Cape Town tomorrow, I would be very appreciative if you could endorse my ticket and rebook me onto their service”…

If You No Longer Want To Travel… 

British Airways is respectfully offering full refunds for anyone who can no longer, or no longer wishes to make use of their affected travel. Again, if you had non refundable reservations which you will subsequently lose out on because of the internal British Airways glitch, you can use the customer service portal online to submit an expense claim, with receipt of your hotel, car rental or other expenses you’ll now lose out on due to their fault- in addition to your flight refund. It’s not out of the question to ask for an additional gesture of goodwill for ruining travel plans during the long weekend, especially if you’re a ranking Executive Club member. 

Before You Accept Anything Other Than Cash, Or Sign Anything, Read This…

It’s much easier for an airline to offer a larger amount in vouchers, which are essentially play money-than cold hard cash. If you accept a voucher for your troubles, and or sign any waivers, all your entitlement to cash can go out the window. Ask for the cash. They may come back saying you can have the cash or a voucher at a significantly inflated figure versus the cash, at that point decide what’s best for you. Oh, and when it comes to submitting your claims, don’t get too emotional or long winded. Stick to the point and keep it professional, the emotional play does very little.

This is extremely unfortunate timing, given the long weekend, and I almost feel for British Airways here. Does anyone have an estimate how much this will cost them? I can’t count that high…