Reply To: Cancelled Flights – Who Is Responsible?

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A neighbour of mine has just undergone a torturous few days trying to rescue his Xmas holiday from ABZ to MLA via LHR. The booking was made online directly with Air Malta while the ABZ – LHR sector was operated by BMI but with an Air Malta Code. All BMI flights from ABZ – LHR were cancelled for the day of travel. This became apparent before from the information released by BMI on their website. My neighbour then spent hours trying to contact Air Malta on their UK number. Each time he called the message stated that nobody was available to take the call and the line was then automatically cut off. He eventually made contact with Air Malta’s International Call Centre but this proved to be useless and extrememly frustrating. The representative insisted that because BMI had cancelled their flight they were responsible for dealing with the problem. She also stated that he would lose his connection from LHR – MLA as this flight was scheduled to leave as proposed. Despite 2 lengthy calls to the Call Centre, requests to speak to a supervisor (which were refused), long periods of being put on hold as the representative could not answer his questions, he was no further ahead by the end of the day before his cancelled flight from ABZ which was originally scheduled for 06.25 hrs the following morning.

As a result he felt obliged to turn up at the airport the next morning at 05.00 hrs knowing that the flight was not going so that he could speak to a BMI representative. He had also unsuccesfully tried to contact BMI the previous day. He found a very sympathetic BMI rep who stated that the problem lay with Air Malta and that BMI did not have access to Air Malta’s systems to allow them to resolve the problem. The BMI rep did however manage to provisionally re-book the same flights originally booked; for Friday of this week but he may decide not to fly due to continuing problems with weather and at LHR. The last thing he wants is to get to LHR on Xmas Eve only to find the MLA flight is cancelled and he is stuck in London over Xmas as Air Malta do not fly on Xmas Day. A subsequent call to Air Malta has been made but they continue to wash their hands of the situation saying BMI are responsible.

If he decides to cancel Air Malta’s response suggests that he may have an issue in obtaining a refund for what were quite expensive air tickets. My question is who is responsible here? My view is that he entered a legal contract with Air Malta and they have failed to deliver what they sold to him. In the circumstances they should have made arrangements to re-book the flights or offer him a refund. Am I correct or are such circumstances in the airline industry more complex as regards legal liability?

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