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Rights of travelers in Europe if flights completely canceled while in country- stranded?

So many of you have been so kind sharing your extensive expertise, so hoping I can tap into your knowledge one more time. I know the rules are different in Europe than in the US for flight cancellations.

We leave in two weeks to Switzerland- hopefully.
Our flights have now been changed five-six times. I have actually lost track. The changes have been changed. In the past four days there have been two more cancelations. The last change BA actually made for us, giving us a BA flight into Heathrow that actually lands at the SAME time our BA flight to the US takes off- no printable comment.

In addition to the covid-testing concerns, I am now worried that BA might cancel all the flights from either Geneva or Zurich to Heathrow, while we are actually in Switzerland. BA has told us repeatedly that they "can't" put us on another carrier, such as Swiss Air.

So- what is BA required to do to get us home?

I am also going to re-read our 46 page travel insurance policy, and call them for clarifications.

My "no guts-no glory" mantra for this trip is getting difficult to lean on.

Thanks to all you hardy souls who take the time and energy to share your experiences and research.

Posted by
6876 posts

What does the BA terms of carriage/ flight contract say about flights cancelled by BA and their responsibilities to the ticket holders?

Posted by
1437 posts

Hi Pat, this website should help. It clearly states, that if the airline cancels your flight, it must offer you a choice between:

  1. the reimbursement of your ticket and, if you have a connecting flight, a return flight to the airport of departure at the earliest opportunity
  2. re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or,
  3. re-routing at a later date at your convenience under comparable transport conditions, subject to the availability of seats.

https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/air/index_en.htm

Posted by
2144 posts

IF I'm reading this correctly, as of Jan, 2021, we lose the EU rights because British Airways is now a non-EU carrier??
Carrie, thx so much for link.
Safe- and easier- travels to you.

Posted by
2144 posts

Agnes, thanks, I just attempted reading them and I don't have much confidence that we can't be stranded- we just don't have extra days to stay longer. I want to find clarification that BA must book us on another carrier, and I'm not reading that. I'm not an attorney, so its quite possible I have missed a salient point.
Thanks for responding.

Posted by
2144 posts

OR- last case scenario - we cancel Switzerland and put together a UK trip in the next week????

Posted by
1437 posts

Pat, this is from BA's website:

9b3) If we:
• cancel a flight;
• delay a flight by five hours or more;
• fail to stop at your place of stopover or destination; or
• cause you to miss a connecting flight on which you hold a confirmed reservation;
you can choose one of the three remedies set out immediately below.

Remedy 1
We will carry you as soon as we can to the destination shown on your ticket on another of our scheduled services on which a seat is available in the class of service for which you have paid the fare. If we do this, we will not charge you extra and where necessary, will extend the validity period of your ticket.

Remedy 2
We will carry you to the destination shown on your ticket in the class of service for which you have paid the fare at a later date at your convenience and within the validity period of your ticket on another of our scheduled services on which a seat is available. If we do this, we will not charge you extra.

Remedy 3
We will give or obtain for you an involuntary fare refund.
We will give you additional assistance, such as compensation, refreshments and other care and reimbursement, if required to do so by any law which may apply. We will have no further liability to you.

https://www.britishairways.com/en-us/information/legal/british-airways/general-conditions-of-carriage

Posted by
1437 posts

I want to find clarification that BA must book us on another carrier,
and I'm not reading that. I'm not an attorney, so its quite possible I
have missed a salient point.

BA has to get you to your destination as per Remedy 2 above. It will most likely be on their airline or one of their partners. They are not obligated to put you on another flight of your choice with an airline of your choice.

Posted by
2144 posts

BA doesnt have many partners. Getting our money back doesn't do much good if we are stuck in Europe, and the last minute flights on other carriers is multiple times the fare of our refund. We can't extend the trip. We could come back a day or two earlier. I know this is a first world problem, but I'm feeling pretty defeated right now.
Carrie, you are so generous with your time- thanks so much.

Posted by
6876 posts

We could come back a day or two earlier.

I think that's a great idea and possibly the only one to lower your risk, other than cancelling outright. But how can you change your flight itinerary without paying some penalty right now, like a change fee or potentially more airline points? There are no good options because you're at the mercy of a very constrained supply of flights. Since Europeans aren't allowed to visit, airlines are probably having a hard time gauging demand for return flights to the US. I bet many people are cancelling trips due to delta uncertainty, which makes things even worse for predicting "true" demand. I'm not surprised at all the cancellations as they probably will cull, cull, and then cull some more to ensure the flights are as full and revenue-producing as possible and they can actually staff them properly.

Posted by
1437 posts

Pat, I don’t recall the amount of time you will be in Switzerland. Could you maybe cut the trip short a day or two, take the cheapest flight you can find to London (would be at your expense unless you can later convince BA or your insurance to cover it) and then take the BA flight from London back home? Or like you suggested, save Switzerland for another time and go to London this time. With a good guidebook you could put something together in a week if you had too. Even if you’re just their walking around and seeing everything from outside, that I think would still be a great trip. Good luck!!!!

Posted by
2070 posts

British Air is a member of OneWorld so is partners with American, Alaska, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malaysia, Qantas, Qatar etc. More than likely American Airlines would be BA's first choice.

Posted by
2144 posts

One of the problems I just learned from my sh-show domestic cross-country trip this weekend is that there are NO empty seats on the planes that are flying. When my flights had major delays, there were no other options to change flights. So no amount of money gets you on a full flight. I would expect that to be the issue in Europe.
I'm afraid to book another carrier for the Zurich- London leg, as BA could cancel our flights to the US again, with all new flight time constraints.
I will look at American.
Thanks to all for the brainstorming!

Posted by
2144 posts

I just looked at American, and they listed BA flights to Switzerland, so it's a catch 22 situation. Thanks anyhow.

Posted by
2142 posts

Pat,
I don’t want to rain on your parade but maybe you should spend your vacation in London where you know your have more control over your flights. Someone already suggested this. If it were me, I might consider it a sign that this trip isn’t going to happen and you have spent so much time and angst over it. Switzerland will be there for another trip.
It’s a tough time for us passionate travelers!

Posted by
458 posts

Pat I think some of the above remedies might help. We originally booked using BA round trip but we did it with Avios mileage. After the fourth change by THEM which then had us going on AA with bizarre times and terminal changes I called them again and just got all the mileage redeposited for the outbound leg. They did this because it was THEIR changes, not ours. I think you have the right to refuse THEIR changes. BUT we were prepared to pay our own way over on another carrier and we will be using the redeposited mileage next year on a trip to the UK. On the return trip they also had some weird changes so the BA agent and I worked it so we are flying back now from Paris to LHR then direct to LAX. That flight has been running all the time. We weren’t planning on Paris but it made sense so we will head to Paris two days before, get our tests there to return to the US which will also work in lieu of the Pass Sanitaire for the short two days we are there. I guess the most difficult thing for you is trying to get in and out of SD without having to do LAX. Also could you try Zurich rather than GVA? Everything in CH is a train ride away. Anyway good luck, we’ll be headed to Zurich next week.

Posted by
2144 posts

cchapin,
it's the Zurich flights that have been canceled. Geneva was the creative alternative. This flight is booked with money, not Avios, and our choice is Business Class, which in now about triple our original cost on other carriers, plus availability is almost gone.

Thank for you input.

Posted by
2144 posts

CChapin,
our problems are not getting over the "pond", its getting into/out osf Switzerland, so going into LAX doesn't change that. I really do appreciate your help and sharing your experiences.
Safe travels!

Posted by
11432 posts

Is your ZRH-LHR-USA all on one ticket? If it is, and BA cancels your flight from ZRH-LHR, then they have to provide alternate transportation to your destination in the USA. It doesn't necessarily have to be via London.

If it is two separate tickets, you could have a problem.

If it's one ticket, them saying they can't put you on another carrier is false. They may not want to but they have other options. (Other airlines in their alliance. SwissAir is not in their alliance.) They might switch you to Iberia and instead of flying you via London, you might fly via Spain. Or even Finnair via Helsinki. There are plenty of options. American flies to the U.S. from Spain.

If it is two separate tickets, then you might have a problem. My suggestion for this is to get to London the day before. If you go the day before, you could go to any London airport or if need be, catch the train.

From Zurich, BA flies to both LHR and LCY (London City). From Geneva they only fly to Heathrow.

Posted by
2144 posts

Frank, it is on one ticket. After reading the Terms of Carriage, I THINK BA could just return our money- not sure.
Transferring thru other countries would obviously involve research into their covid policies.
Our Zurich connections have been canceled on both legs.
Other carriers are getting full and options at this late date are very limited.
Our dates are set as our house sitter [dogs] is already booked at each end of our [supposed] trip.
But I do thank you for trying. I feel the walls are closing in. :)

Posted by
11432 posts

If you do decide to skip the Switzerland portion, make sure BA knows about it. Just no showing up will cause the remainder of your itinerary to be canceled.

Posted by
759 posts

Pat, first and foremost you have my upmost sympathy. Your husband should be very proud to have a wife who will go toe to toe with adversity but-

How would you like about $25,000 worth of free 'advice'. That is my companies minimal charge- most matters I'm involved with go 10 to 25 times that rate. I'm both a CPA and an attorney whose firm (mine) specializes in corporate repairs. Understand it is not just fixing the screw up that put the immediate hole into boat but going to the heart of the screw up (often caused by bad business decisions 3 years prior) and training on the first warning signs (red flag) that were issued and how to make intelligent course corrections. If you have unlimited time and money then go for it--live that carefree life and roam the world (that I would love but my wife is younger and dedicated to her work so I still work, woe is me-- before I get yelled at by the forum- she was/is a dedicated mother, kids are grown and went after her PhD late in life. She is now in her zone I wouldn't deny her a thing-she has well earned the road she is on so I work to keep myself out of trouble, not for $ ).

Anyway this is really a cost benefit issue-- do you have extra time and money? From your post over the past month it appears not. You got a great deal on Business Class sets and you want to keep/use them; almost to the point of risk be damned. I fully understand, I haven't flown coach in 20 yrs and I understand it has changed greatly since. Thus you need to preserve your costs (those seats) and NOT risk time delays (you cannot afford extra time regardless of price-your hitting a hard wall there). I have seen countless corporate executives do this--so focused on X that they totally miss Y and Z and it destroys their company or at a min their careers. BA is not going to get you to and from Switzerland. Period. What do you need to see to accept that reality?

Yes, you have flight rights...and really what is jumping up and down while stuck in an airport in Switzerland about your rights going to get you except tired? Look at the language they have provided. Language that you have read but are resistant to absorb fully; they can get you on another flight..when it is convenient. You have already noted other flights are limited and clearly booked up. So what flight do you expect them to get you on??? And what will a cash refund do at that point? And will that flight they find get you back to Heathrow in time to make your scheduled flight home??? And if not, then what?? Sure BA can get you home but on the next flight to your destination so you will either sit in London for days ($$$) waiting for an opening (opps, you said NO delays were allowed) or they might say tomorrow but in COACH. They. cannot put you into a seat that is already full. Your willing to pay Business seat rates for a coach seat?

Your best shot- get BA to let you keep your US to Heathrow seats (and back) at the price you paid (save that deal and your mandated time schedule). Then either vacation in England or get your own tickets to Switzerland (but get back to Heathrow a few days early as you will have no safety net there).

Sorry to be harsh but your flying down the road blasting past the warning signs flashing "bridge out" and then wondering why your car is suddenly airborne and headed into the river. Just how many warning signs do you need?

Repeated edits, sorry if your getting repeated notifications- typing on a train is a pain...

Posted by
2144 posts

bob,
you took a lot of time with your response, and I thank you. I'll just give a few reasons for our still hanging in there-

-our house sitter's schedule - with three dogs, [one special needs] a house sitter is our only option [no boarding.] She is now booked at both ends, as the good ones always are, and is usually booked six months out. Actually, she can give us one extra day at the end.
-I'm healthy and my arthritis seems settled down. Once something flares up, it seems to take several months to address the problem. As many of us 70-ish seniors have learned, you can't assume good health months down the line. I have seen too much happen to too many friends- the lesson is do it NOW if your body is capable. THIS IS A REALLY IMPORTANT FACTOR.
-This is the best season to be in the Alps- and by all reports, a great time to be in Europe, with fewer crowds.
The reports on this Forum from folks on the ground in Europe seem to confirm this.

The price we paid for the tickets is the average price I have paid over the last several years. In fact, I paid much less for our spring trip business class seats- if that trip comes to pass. So this wasn't a "once -in-a-life-time price." [Spring is too early for the Alps.]

We are considering changing the return to a few days earlier, to have a three -day pad, and we have agreed that one of us can come back alone, if there was only one available seat. Because two legs of our return trip have essentially been canceled, we will have this option when my husband calls BA at 4:30 am tomorrow. [We have learned that one of the first questions asked is: "can you adjust a day or so?"]

I spoke to the trip insurance company and think I understand the coverage for "Trip Interruption" and "Itinerary Change", so expensive last minute seats from Switzerland should be covered if we are stranded. I know- IF there are seats.

If the trip doesn't happen, life goes on, and we are still within the free cancelation timeline for the hotels and Swiss Travel Pass. I have one more week of this freedom. Next Sunday will be the heavy decisions day.

My husband seems to be getting more determined than less determined, which has surprised me.

I'm fascinated with the fact that you generously gave so much of your professional time and energy to address this.

Thanks and safe travels!

PS -Didn't find any typos!

Posted by
759 posts

Pat -- Good luck and the best of wishes. I see where your going with this..I see the desire...I also see that the last minute flight back may not be there..normally I wouldn't care as much but you have repeatedly stressed that you have to be back on time for that dog sitter.....that is a severe failure point for you. If you had time flexibility I wouldn't be so strong in my advice. I'm still liking BA to Heathrow and end BA there. Use a local European airline to get back and forth from Switzerland. That will of course cost you 'extra' but in the overall expense that will be far cheaper then a BA meltdown leaving you stranded for a day..or longer...even with insurance. AND more importantly- you will get the trip you want, now.

As for time...Officially I live on the East Coast. A 18 month plan for the West Coast has been extended. My work is in San Francisco (I have employees all around the country)...my wife needs to be near UC Davis. For 25+ yrs she took care of 'family' while I worked and traveled. Now it is her time. So we live in Davis and I take the train into San Francisco. Lots of time to kill somedays on the train and the site gives me a chance to clear my mind.

Posted by
1437 posts

Pat, I hate to even mention this, but do you have a plan in place for your dogs in the unlikely event you or your husband or both test positive and can’t return as scheduled? It's always good to be prepared just in case.

Posted by
528 posts

Pat: who did you book your flight through? Was it BA or AA?

Posted by
2144 posts

Carrie,
that's today's project. My daughter is a professional in a high-powered job in the Bay Area, but I think it's time to pull the biggest mommie guilt-trip card in the history of her lifetime- and I have never called in a marker!!!

Seriously, I am working on local options today, which obviously could all be canceled on Sunday, our BIG DEADLINE day for free hotel cancelations.

Thanks for all your concern.

Safe travels for your trip !

Posted by
2144 posts

Ed,
our original booking was thru BA, but BA has changed us to AA on the San Diego to Chicago route. In Chicago, we pick up BA to Heathrow.
Have you also had cancelations?
Good luck and safe travels!

Posted by
2144 posts

Bob & Carrie,
our house sitter just had a cancelation after us, and we are now covered for an unlikely quarantine period and/or airline delay. The sun does look brighter today!

BA did put us on a Zurich to Heathrow flight that has been flying. It wasn't available to us with the other connections. If that flight is canceled, we have two Swiss air flights we can hopefully access that morning, or two flights the night before. There are also two Swiss Air flights out of Geneva [via train] that morning, and two flights the night before. Our Heathrow flight doesn't leave until 4:00pm now, so that gives us the day to scramble, if necessary.

And we did decide to come back Heathrow to LAX, as that flight has never stopped flying and has documented reliability. We will use a car service to San Diego.

The kids inheritance just got smaller, and heck, we didn't go anywhere in 2020. I THINK we just bought ourselves some potential peace of mind.

Thanks for the support. Hopefully no more cancelations!

Posted by
1437 posts

Pat, things are looking up!!! 😊 I refused to travel when my dog got older so I completely understand making sure the dogs are taken care of. I’m glad that part is covered. I might still be in Switzerland when you get there. Quarantining. 😊

Posted by
759 posts

Great news Pat. Having that hard stop with the dog sitter removed really opens up 'alternatives' regarding any disruptions (hopefully none!). Have a wonderful trip!!!

Posted by
863 posts

I'd broaden the strategy from making the LHR connection to just getting home.

BA will be able to accommodate you on a partner airline, as someone mentioned above. AA is their transatlantic joint venture partner, and Iberia and Aer Lingus are under the same corporate ownership. I'd have my preferred routing on those carriers handy to offer the agent if BA cant get you there on their own metal.

Posted by
2144 posts

Carrie,
pls keep us posted. I just did look up the standard Swiss quarantine period- 10 days- for securing the house sitter. Obviously, one needs to test negative to get out of any quarantine.
Still some moving parts- we all need to test negative BEFORE we leave!
And, we still have the rest of the human condition of unknowns.
Safe travels!

Posted by
458 posts

Well Pat things are looking up! I was coming here to relay this to you which was part of a blurb from another traveler on TA about their flights getting changed by BA. Like them, we ended up refusing some of the changes to ours and finally got things worked out for our return trip. Here is what she said:

“Our flights have changed a few times and we just roll with the punches these days. The airline (British) offered some unattractive alternatives (like staying overnight in London) which I declined. I suggested flying into Geneva and they agreed to pay the difference.”

So anyway this is probably late to the party since it seems you have worked things out. I think the LAX was the right choice, that’s what we’re doing, also paying for a car service as it is a two to four hour trip for us, depending on the traffic. BTW I insisted the car service provide a vaccinated driver.

Cheers!

Posted by
2144 posts

cchapin,
What I thought was intolerable [paying for a car service and going to LAX] is now looking pretty good to me. It's a wonder what six flight cancelations does for one's perspective. I feel like it's a "last man standing" experience. Wonder if we'll make it?
Thanks for your support. Safe travels to you!

Posted by
759 posts

"What I thought was intolerable [paying for a car service and going to LAX] is now looking pretty good to me. It's a wonder what six flight cancelations does for one's perspective."

Yes it does. Stepping back for the 20,000 foot view instead of what is immediately in front of you can be very educational. You will make it- you set up your safety net (extended animal sitter) !! Enjoy, you will!

Posted by
2534 posts

Pat, I don’t have any advice, just wanted to let you know I’m following this post and rooting for you. Feel like you can’t give up now after all that has happened. Good luck.