A woman who took on British Airways (BA) in court without legal representation has won her case in a row over flight vouchers. Jennie Barber was awarded a full refund of £2,523.42 to cover the cost of two return flights to Japan she booked in January 2020, departing that May, that were pulled due to Covid restrictions.
BA initially offered a refund in the form of travel vouchers, but Ms Barber wanted her money back. The airline refused.
Speaking to the BBC, she said: “If you’re an ordinary person, who is not a legal profession, going up against someone like British Airways is scary – and it is intimidating.”
Using the A-level she has in law, she was able to beat the airline giant in court using the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943.
She originally requested the vouchers to the value of her flights in March 2020, after Japan closed its borders to foreign travellers during the first wave of the pandemic.
But since her preferred destination of Japan did not reopen its borders to visitors as quickly as other nations, she argued that it rendered the vouchers useless as she could not travel where she had originally intended.
Ms Barber, from Birmingham, said she spent approximately 12 months trying to persuade BA to reconsider her request for a cash refund, but they wouldn’t budge.
Left with no other clear option, she decided to mount a legal challenge in February 2022, ahead of a case heard in January this year.
It was during this period that she came across legislation stating that because the sale involved, through no fault of her own, something that was subsequently impossible to deliver, she was legally entitled to her money back.
Ms Barber said she was moved to take matters into her own hands because she “didn’t feel it was right” there was no leeway on vouchers when Japan’s borders remained shut.
The case was heard at Redditch Magistrates Court, Worcestershire, on 20 January, where Ms Barber was awarded a full refund to cover flights, interest up to the date of judgment and costs.
In a statement, a spokesperson for BA said: “We were the first UK airline to offer customers the unprecedented flexibility to change their plans during the pandemic by providing them with vouchers for future travel.
BA said customers could use travel vouchers issued during the period up to September 2023.
Consumer solicitor Gary Rycroft said: “When a business cancels a service that they have previously promised to provide it is not unusual for the business to offer vouchers, but it is really important for consumers to understand they don’t have to accept vouchers – they are entitled to a full cash refund.
“I am absolutely thrilled that Jennie decided to see through this case. She absolutely knew what her legal rights are and she stuck to her guns.”