Dispute with British Airways and Cheapoair

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Jun 6, 2019
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#1
I will try my best to keep it short and to the point.
I purchased air tickets for my parents from cheapoair (an online travel agency) travelling from Bahrain to United States. The carrier was British Airways. My parents were in Bahrain at that time visiting my brother. On day of travel my parents arrived at Bahrain airport well before departure time, handed their passports at check-in to the airline employee. After a while close to the departure time the employee returned their passports saying that US immigration refused to accept passengers. My parents went back home and after few days flew back to Pakistan. After two weeks I purchased air tickets directly from Emirates website and let my parents fly from Karachi, Pakistan to Seattle, WA where my sister lives. They boarded flight without any trouble and via Dubai, landed in Seattle cleared customs and immigration without facing any difficulty. They were granted 6 months entry on their passports upon arrival.

I tried my level best to get a refund from cheapoair and British airways for the service that they never provided, citing the reason that the tickets were non-refundable. Later I disputed the credit card transaction, as a result I got credit from the credit card company and then cheapoair contacted me regarding the charge back they received from my credit card company.. I explained the reason of dispute, they contacted BA and came back with the same reason that US immigration rejected passengers. I told them that my parents are already in US there was no immigration issue. Then cheapoair contacted BA again and this time came with a different reason, they said passengers did not have a transit visa to pass through UK as per BA policy passengers with Pakistani passports are required to posses transit visa for passing through UK. I did my homework already and sent them several links where its clearly mentioned that if a passenger holds a valid US visa and they are not staying overnight or changing airports in UK then they are not exempt from transit visa requirement.

To date Cheapoair is not convinced and threatening me to send the matter to collections also they saying they will respond back to the credit card company and reverse the charge back on to me. I am really frustrated. All I want is to get back the money for the service that was promised and later denied.

What are my options here? how can I resolve this? All I am asking them is to refund me the full charge, I am not asking monetary compensation for the immense mental stress my elderly parents suffered during all this time until they arrived in US.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#2
They claimed they needed a transit visa? If you have proof that no transit Visa was required, you need to go up the executive chain at BA for the request.

Were they flying into Heathrow and did they have to claim luggage (i.e - did they have separate tickets or were the flights all on one PNR?) and re-check it? How long was the connection in between flights?

https://www.gov.uk/transit-visa

Here are the company contacts:
https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/british-airways/

Here is how to write:
https://forum.elliott.org/threads/resolving-consumer-complaints-and-developing-a-paper-trail.8903/
 
Likes: jsn55
Jul 13, 2016
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#3
Firstly, you should not have filed a credit card dispute. Those are for billing errors, not applicable in this situation. The credit card was correct in denying your refund, citing US immigrant issues. At the time of denied service, that was a valid reason. The fact that now your parents are in the US with approved visas has nothing to do with the BA tickets.

Your parents hold Pakistani passports, correct?

Ba has apparently told CheapoAir two versions as to why your parents could not fly that first day. 1) Flying from Bahrain to USA via London, they were denied entry to USA by US government, prior to flight departing Bahrain. Not sure how you can prove this, but if true, it is not BA's fault, and the non refundable tickets are non refundable for any reason.

2) or perhaps they were denied entry to the UK, because they did not have a UK transit visa. Your parents obtained US visas on arrival in Seattle, correct? If so, then BA was correct to deny service, since they require Pakistani passport holders to have a US visa or get a UK transit visa. As your parents did not yet have the US visa, they were required to get a UK transit visa. If this is the true reason, then again, not BA's error, and the tickets remain non refundable.

The only reason you might qualify for a refund of non refundable tickets is if BA made a mistake reading the TIMATIC visa database on departure date.
 
Likes: Rocpool
Jul 30, 2018
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#4
Firstly, you should not have filed a credit card dispute. Those are for billing errors, not applicable in this situation. The credit card was correct in denying your refund, citing US immigrant issues. At the time of denied service, that was a valid reason. The fact that now your parents are in the US with approved visas has nothing to do with the BA tickets.

Your parents hold Pakistani passports, correct?

Ba has apparently told CheapoAir two versions as to why your parents could not fly that first day. 1) Flying from Bahrain to USA via London, they were denied entry to USA by US government, prior to flight departing Bahrain. Not sure how you can prove this, but if true, it is not BA's fault, and the non refundable tickets are non refundable for any reason.

2) or perhaps they were denied entry to the UK, because they did not have a UK transit visa. Your parents obtained US visas on arrival in Seattle, correct? If so, then BA was correct to deny service, since they require Pakistani passport holders to have a US visa or get a UK transit visa. As your parents did not yet have the US visa, they were required to get a UK transit visa. If this is the true reason, then again, not BA's error, and the tickets remain non refundable.

The only reason you might qualify for a refund of non refundable tickets is if BA made a mistake reading the TIMATIC visa database on departure date.
I believe #2 is the reason for the denied boarding by BA: without the Visa being in their possession at the time of boarding in Dubai, they would have required a transit Visa to board the flight and travel to the UK. On the Emerites flight they connected in Dubai so that wasn't an issue.

FYI: no airline compensates passengers for mental stress.

In the future I highly recommend you book directly with the airline. You will save little to no money by using an OTA and if something goes wrong, it adds another layer of complexity to the already Hurclean task of working it out.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#5
Pakistani citizens are NOT eligible for travel to the US on the visa waiver.

It is my understanding that the parents of the OP had a proper US visa when they presented at the airport.

The BA rep has told two different stories:

1. The parents were rejected by US APIS — ie on a no fly list

2. passengers needed transit visa in UK

According to Timatic Pakistani nationals do not need a transit visa at Heathrow if they have a confirmed onward ticket the same day and have a valid visa for the US or Canada.

The BA flight from Bahrain lands at Terminal 5 and the BA flight to Seattle departs from Terminal 5.

There was either a mistake in the APIS or a mistake in entering the info into timatic by BA —

It looks as if the OP did do everything
 

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Likes: FrankL183
Sep 19, 2015
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#6
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"2) or perhaps they were denied entry to the UK, because they did not have a UK transit visa. Your parents obtained US visas on arrival in Seattle, correct? If so, then BA was correct to deny service, since they require Pakistani passport holders to have a US visa or get a UK transit visa. As your parents did not yet have the US visa, they were required to get a UK transit visa. If this is the true reason, then again, not BA's error, and the tickets remain non refundable."

There is no visa on arrival for Pakistani citizens. Only citizens of select European countries, and certain Asian countries (Japan, Singapore, etc.) are eligible.

UK immigration allows for Pakistani citizens to transit without a visa if the citizen has a visa to the US.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#7
I do not see that BA has any warnings that they are more rigid than UK border control, in that Pakistani citizens must have a transit visa even when connecting on the same day from the same airport - from BA

Depending on your nationality and the purpose of your journey, you may need a visa or an equivalent form of authorisation for every country you enter as part of your journey — even if you are only connecting from one flight to another. This is in addition to a valid passport.


Check if you need a visa via the IATA Travel Centre - it's free to check and also includes passport and health requirements, as well as customs, currency and airport information.


Check if you need a visa with our partner VisaCentral - it's free to check and you'll get a special British Airways rate on VisaCentral services if you need help with an application.
 
Jun 6, 2019
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#10
Thank you everyone for your replies.
I read each reply and want to answer some common questions.
1) My parents did NOT get US visa upon arrival at Seattle airport. They have a valid USA visit visa on their passports PRIOR to booking the flights.
2) Yes my parents hold Pakistani passports
3) All tickets are booked under one PNR
4) They had a layover of just 2 hours at Heathrow airport, they were NOT supposed to collect their luggage at Heathrow airport nor they were supposed to leave airport premises
5) My parents and I had travel through UK from Pakistan to USA many times in the past and never had any issues of not having a transit visa.

I checked transit visa requirements using a tool available at official UK Government website
https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa/
If you answer some simple questions and you will land on the following page.

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Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
18,201
16,315
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#11
You need to escalate this to the Executives at Cheapo and BA. Use the information I posted in post #2 and send that information. You seem to have covered everything and seem to be correct.

Normally this would have to all go through
Cheapo but you aren’t getting any help from them. If you had booked directly with BA this would be pretty cut and dried.

Let us know how you make out.
 
Jun 6, 2019
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#12
You need to escalate this to the Executives at Cheapo and BA. Use the information I posted in post #2 and send that information. You seem to have covered everything and seem to be correct.

Normally this would have to all go through
Cheapo but you aren’t getting any help from them. If you had booked directly with BA this would be pretty cut and dried.

Let us know how you make out.
Thank you Neil for your valuable advice. I am in contact with Cheapoair's collection and recovery department and trying my best to convince them that BA was at fault denying my parents right to fly. The fact that I did not book directly with BA I am not able to get proper attention frpm BA, but I will try to contact their executives using the information you shared earlier. Thannks and I will update you on this.

One last question, do you see grounds for filing a lawsuit against BA and perhaps cheapoair as well for the mental trauma they forced my parents to go through ?
 
May 1, 2018
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#14
One last question, do you see grounds for filing a lawsuit against BA and perhaps cheapoair as well for the mental trauma they forced my parents to go through ?
No. That's not a real thing. Suing for non-monetary damages like "mental trauma" is mostly just an overused TV trope. Generally the cases where it's a valid claim would be something like a car accident that leaves you paralyzed for life or witnessing someone accidentally kill you child. That's mental anguish. But being denied boarding on a flight? No, absolutely not.
 
Likes: Rocpool
Jun 6, 2019
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#15
No. That's not a real thing. Suing for non-monetary damages like "mental trauma" is mostly just an overused TV trope. Generally the cases where it's a valid claim would be something like a car accident that leaves you paralyzed for life or witnessing someone accidentally kill you child. That's mental anguish. But being denied boarding on a flight? No, absolutely not.
And what if in the end cheapoair and BA refuse to refund the cost of the tickets? Can I still go to court to recover my financia loss?
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#17
I do not think this was a case of someone trying to deal with overbooking. I think this was straight out not reading the rules. No where do I find notice of BA having more strict rules than the UK government— and I even checked the BA website with location set as Pakistan.

It sounds as if the OPs parents had all the proper documentation.

I think that this should go to BA. Their representative would not check the parents in.
 
May 1, 2018
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#19
And what if in the end cheapoair and BA refuse to refund the cost of the tickets? Can I still go to court to recover my financia loss?
Yes. You can recover you actual monetary damages. You have a good case for a refund of the original ticket amount.