SALLY SORTS IT: Forced to book new flight but BA won’t cover the cost

I claimed almost £600 from British Airways but I’m having difficulty getting any response. 

The sum includes a refund and compensation relating to a flight in January from Portugal to London that was delayed by 18 hours.

I supplied the airline with all the required paperwork but it has not answered my repeated requests for an update. 

I would be most grateful for your guidance.

A. G., Perthshire

No payout: BA has failed to respond to a reader’s compensation request after their flight Portugal to London that was delayed by 18 hours

Sally Hamilton replies: After a weekend’s break in Faro, you were due to take a British Airways (BA) flight to London Gatwick early on Monday, January 30. You had booked the early flight so you would arrive in time to start your Monday work shift at 1.30 pm.

However, your plans stalled when it emerged one of the flight cabin crew had fallen ill and there was no one to replace them. 

The flight was cancelled and after a long wait you were offered a free coach to a hotel 50 minutes away, a late-night snack and the promise of a return BA flight on Tuesday around 5pm.

Worried that this would mean you would also be late for Tuesday’s work shift, on your own initiative you booked an alternative flight with Portuguese airline TAP for early Tuesday morning at a cost of £191.

You jumped in a taxi and headed back to the hotel you had previously been staying in — and got back to London in time for your Tuesday shift.

When you made a claim against BA for the statutory compensation due to passengers when flights are cancelled (£350 for medium haul flights such as yours), plus your extra costs, you were met with stony silence.

You made repeated requests for a response through BA’s online portal and contacted the airline using social media platform Twitter. You were told that staff were busy and that your case would be dealt with in good time.

But you had a sense of humour failure and contacted me. Claims for refunds from airlines often get stuck in a holding pattern, so I was unsurprised to hear of your experience. However, what I found intriguing was that BA was resisting covering the cost of your alternative airline ticket because your BA flight wasn’t technically cancelled — but simply ‘delayed’.

Apparently, you weren’t meant to take things into your own hands and buy a ticket with another airline and claim it back.

BA rules say that, with delays, passengers must ask staff if they wish to explore alternative airlines instead of waiting for the rescheduled departure.

However, you felt that this was not made clear and thought it easier to take control of the situation yourself.

Although happy to meet your taxi bill and other expenses and pay the official £350 compensation due for the flight delay, in normal circumstances BA would not reimburse your ticket.

But after my intervention, and as a goodwill gesture, BA agreed to pay you the £191 TAP ticket price, giving you a total reimbursement of around £600.

With the summer holiday season just taking off, it pays for travellers to get up to speed with the rules of where they stand when flights are delayed or cancelled.

Most airlines will offer vouchers for food and drink, and for a hotel room and transport if there is a long wait.

Passengers should keep all receipts but ensure that they keep their spending at sensible levels — three-course meals with expensive wine are unlikely to be accepted. As we saw with your case, the law says airlines must pay special compensation for lengthy delays (usually three hours or more) but only if the tardiness is the airline’s fault. Bad weather or an air traffic control strike are out of an airline’s control, for example.

In your case, BA was responsible because it should have been able to organise a replacement for the sick crew member. How much a passenger receives depends on the flight duration and distance, with £220 paid out for short haul, £350 for medium haul and £520 for long haul. 

To qualify, the flight must usually be with a British airline or be departing from or destined for a UK airport.

William Hill called off my £444 winning bet

In late March, I placed a £2,000 bet at the William Hill betting shop in Cleveleys, Lancashire.

On April 29 the bet won and the next day I went to collect my winnings. However, after the cashier spent 20 minutes on the phone to someone at head office, I was informed there was a ‘security issue’ and I didn’t get my money. 

My emails and calls are being ignored. I am shocked and feel cheated. Please help.

J. B., Lancashire

Sally Hamilton replies: You placed your £2,000 bet — with odds of 2/9 to win — on AFC Fylde to top the National League North division at the end of this year’s football season. 

This it did, and the team was declared the champion after beating Bradford Park Avenue 2-0.

You were over the moon because this meant your bet returned £2,444 — a net gain of £444.

Scam Watch

Holiday season has officially begun — but keep your guard up because it’s a time when the fraudster sharks circle.

Last year, more than £15 million was lost to holiday fraud, according to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for cyber crime.

It received 6,457 reports, with victims fleeced of an average £2,372. This was a 41 per cent rise on the previous year — and £5 million was taken over the summer.

Scammers use fake adverts, bogus sales calls, emails and text messages offering incredibly cheap rates to tempt you to book with them.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, says: ‘We are entering a period when fraudsters ramp up their efforts — preying on people wanting cheap flights, hotels close to the beach and package holidays that undercut other deals. 

But sadly, if it sounds too good to be true, it definitely is. You must do lots of research before handing over any money.’

Scammers often choose a website name close to that of a real firm, so check the suffix. For example, fraudsters have used the Airbnb name and swapped the real ‘’ suffix for a crook-friendly ‘’.

They will include worthless promises, such as ‘bookings cancelled four weeks before arrival eligible for 100 per cent refund’. 

And they may also steal pictures of real places to pass off as their own on websites. 

To check an image, hold your cursor over it, right-click the mouse, then scroll to ‘search image with Google’ to see if the picture has been used elsewhere.

A real holiday company will often use a secure website system that has the prefix ‘https’ — the ‘s’ is for secure — and comes with a padlock icon on the address bar.

Type in ‘fraud’ or ‘scam’ alongside the website name in your search engine to reveal potential warnings.

Be wary of any unsolicited emails, texts and phone calls offering ‘deals’. Phone firms that you are unsure about.

Before booking, you should also visit TripAdvisor for reviews.

William Hill, which is owned by 888 Holdings, kicked the ball around in its own area, delaying payment by more than two weeks by asking for photo ID, passport, proof of address and, eventually, a copy of your bank statement.

Instead of enjoying the excitement of your win, you were left deflated and scratching around for paperwork to send to the company. 

I had sympathy for your position as such procedures should have been undertaken before you placed the bet. Also, if anything extra was required, it should have been carried out faster.

I was intrigued to know why you were having to wait so long when you were a genuine, undisputed winner, so I asked William Hill to investigate. Within 24 hours it gave a vague response that referred to security checks being behind the hold-up.

But I’m pleased to say that, after receiving your bank statements, which it is entitled to ask for, your winnings were finally released.

A spokesman says: ‘We have legal and regulatory obligations that we must meet. Our request for additional information and our processes for dealing with these are designed to comply with those.’

Such stringent checks are in place to fight crime. The Gambling Commission is keen to ensure the industry is free of money laundering. 

This is the process of illegally concealing the origin of money obtained from illicit activities, such as drug trafficking, by converting it into a legitimate source.

Betting firms need to verify customers’ identities to confirm that the source of the money used to place bets is legitimate.

Delays can also happen because firms need to check if customers can afford to bet in the first place or if they have self-excluded themselves from betting. 

Some people choose self-exclusion when they realise that they have a gambling problem and need help staying on the straight and narrow.

It seems likely that William Hill is just generally being extra vigilant. A month before you won your bet, 888 was landed with a record £19.2 million fine by the Gambling Commission for ‘widespread and alarming’ social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures at three of the companies in its stable, including William Hill.

Following the fine, 888 said this related to a period when William Hill was under previous ownership and management, and that, after it was taken over in July 2022, the firm ‘quickly addressed the identified issues with the implementation of a rigorous action plan’.

  • Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.