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Help! Japan Airlines Downgraded Us From First Class and Skimped on the Refund.

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In late 2021, Mark from San Diego and his wife were flying home on British Airways premium economy from Split, Croatia, via London and Dallas, but missed a connection. They were rebooked in economy on Virgin Atlantic and tried for two years to get reimbursed when finally, in December 2023, they were told they had agreed to the downgrade, which he denies. (It shouldn’t matter anyway, both Mr. Leff and Mr. Radchenko said.)

They finally received $746 from British Airways earlier this week. But the full cost of their original round-trip itinerary (two tickets from San Diego to Ljubljana, Slovenia, and back from Croatia) was $5,821, and it is unlikely that their refund could account for 75 percent of a premium economy trans-Atlantic flight. British Airways confirmed they calculated the difference in fare rather than using the parameters laid out by the British government and offered no explanation to me as to why.

A year later, Cynthia and her partner had a very similar situation, missing a British Airways premium economy connection in London on their way home to Los Angeles, ending up in economy. They had booked through a travel agent, who tried unsuccessfully to get a refund. Then Cynthia ran into a brick wall when she tried herself. She has still not received a refund.

In the third British Airways case, David of Carmel, N.Y., and his wife were booked to fly first class from London to New York when their flight was canceled. On their rebooked flight, they were downgraded to the equivalent of business class. Their initial request for a refund was rejected by someone who almost comically misread their complaint, responding that they were not entitled to compensation because their flight had arrived with only “18 minutes delay.” Subsequent calls to customer services led nowhere. And even after I got in touch with the airline, another representative wrote the couple with the coup d’absurdité: They were not entitled to a refund because “based on our research, your final flight was in First Class, hence there is no downgrade refund due for your booking.” (I can attest that their boarding passes say otherwise.)

British Airways did finally send the couple a refund, of $1,036, this past Saturday. But their original fare for first class (plus a short hop from Amsterdam to London on the return) was just under $10,000 for both, which presumably means the return flights from London to New York cost a total of close to $5,000. Again, British Airways said it calculated the difference in fares rather than the appropriate percentage of the original fare. I have advised David to look at Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority’s guidance on rejected claims.



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