Passengers Win Court Battle Against British Airways After Changing Airports in London to Fly to the Wrong Grenada

British Airways booked a husband and wife from Washington DC via London to Granada, West Indies instead of Granada, Spain. They claimed their confirmation didn’t give airport codes or countries, and just said ‘Grenada’. They discovered the mixup when they boarded the flight from London back to the Caribbean.

They sued, representing themselves. British Airways successfully removed the case to federal court, where they sought a dismissal. The court ruled against British Airways, instead remanding the case back to Superior Court.

BA had ruled that the Montreal Convention applied and claims under that Convention had to be heard in federal court. Instead, the DC Circuit Court ruled (.pdf) that the claim didn’t arise from actual transportation covered by the Convention but instead from the making of the booking itself which would not be covered.. and thus the case should be returned to Superior Court and was also not pre-empted by the Convention.

We don’t know, from the Court’s order, what the substantive facts of the case actually are — only what they were alleged in the pro se complaint.

I’d be interested to hear a recording of the phone booking, although I can certainly imagine a British Airways agent making a mistake.

I have a harder time imagining passengers actually boarding a flight that crossed the Atlantic again. And it’s even stranger considering that the itinerary actually flown would have involved a change in airports in London (from Heathrow, arriving from Washington Dulles, to Gatwick where the oneward one-stop flight to the West Indies would have departed from).

At least they were flying in First for all those extra hours, even if they did miss their vacation in Spain.

(via @20002ist)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] This one is good. A couple wants to go to Granada from Washington DC and end up in Grenada in the Caribbean. They transferred from LHR to LGW and apparently only noticed that they were going to cross the Atlantic again on board the LGW-GND leg. I would keep myself very quiet, just out of sheer embarrassment. Not only you're dim you also publicise the fact? http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea….wrong-grenada/ […]


  1. Why do you have a problem believing they would cross the Atlantic again? Maybe they were on a Tier Point run. 🙂

  2. I’m assuming they didn’t discover the error when “they boarded the flight from London” but rather when it was in the air, or they would have just walked off the plane, no?

    Remember Auckland/Oakland, circa 1985?

  3. Indeed, the plaintiffs only won a battle and not the wat, and the tribunal was the federal district court for DC, not the circuit court.

    I am, however, curious as to who the “agent” was – was this a TA or a BA phone agent? And, incidentally, a flight to GRX, as desired, would have required a change of airport – to LCY – as much as the flight to Grenada required a change to Gatwick.

  4. Sounds like they were in First and therefore 1) more likely not to know or care about what the difference in price might be, and 2) more likely to have actually been escorted or directed to the wrong airport with the wrong aircraft? Asking not telling but I’m willing to assume that if the court thinks the case is worth hearing, they must have some grounds for complaint. Why on earth would normal people think a flight originating in WAS and connecting in LON would be heading toward the West Indies? They would just naturally believe it was going to Spain until it was too late and they were in the air, wouldn’t they? I mean, we mileage runners usually go to a lot of trouble to construct these out-of-the-way itins. They’re not a normal offer that normal people should know to watch out for and avoid…

  5. Right now, here in Brussels, I find myself stuck in Boileau, when trying to get to Beaulieu. Pronouniation issue.

  6. I’ve actually seen some pretty silly routings that do involve crossing the ocean to get back across the pond, so to me that’s not the issue really.

    The problem is that there is no “Granada” West Indies. If people would just pronounce the words properly, there would be no confusion whatsoever. A little attention to spelling wouldn’t kill anyone either.

  7. Gary
    I find British airways award itinerary printouts to be quite cryptic and easily misunderstood.
    No arrival times stated as well. Ba is also not good at announcing time changes as well on the email.
    I had on one occasion almost missed a flight because the ba flight from London to Hkg flight time was changed to leave 45 mins earlier.
    No one told us when we checked in on the flight change and the four of us were booked on an award ticket in first class no less. We were lucky in this case as we decided to come to the airport three hours before the flight.
    We only realised the flight change as I had requested wheel chair assistance for my folks and the wheelchairs arrived as we were about to be served dinner at the lounge.
    My folks took the golf cart while my sister and I ran to the gate. Fortunately we caught the flight and it all ended well.

  8. @Gemmy B There is no such thing as pronouncing words “properly.” If someone is working in the tourism industry, they need to be aware that people will have a very wide variation in how they believe a word or a name is pronounced. It’s a big planet. If they are more concerned with pronouncing something “properly,” they should not be in any service or travel industry where they meet people. It’s 2014 and people have different accents. It sounds like there is plenty of evidence that British Airways has a serious flaw in their reservation system. Trying to blame the tourist for not pronouncing a word the way some person they’ve never met on the other end of the line wants it pronounced…that’s pretty outrageous.

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