The right of European Union (EU) carriers to insist that connecting tickets are used in sequential order is being challenged by two passengers forced to buy new, higher-priced tickets by British Airways at London Heathrow.

The two passengers, who both held UK passports, had bought tickets for travel from Italy to Dar es Salaam via London, but arrived at Heathrow having failed to use the first leg. BA then refused to honour their tickets for onward travel from London. Law firm Stanbrook & Hooper has filed a complaint with the EU competition authorities against both BA and IATA on behalf of the passengers.

In common with other mainline carriers BA routinely offers tickets on connecting flights at cheaper prices than those available to originating passengers. The airline then demands that the tickets are used in sequential order to prevent domestic passengers buying these cheap connecting fares but using only the second leg. BA says the reduced fares are to compensate passengers for the inconvenience of taking a connecting flight, and that it is within its rights not to honour the tickets as the passengers had not travelled as ticketed.

Stanbrook & Hope notes that IATA's Recommended Practice (RP) 1724, which provides the basis under which airlines insist on sequential use of tickets, has been criticised by the European Consumers Association.

The BA case closely parallels a US lawsuit brought against Northwest and Delta Air Lines in the US District Court in Michigan. That gave passengers the go-ahead to pursue a class action against the carriers for using a similar ticketing policy under the IATA guidelines. The carriers went on to challenge the ruling, but in early June, the US Supreme Court declined to hear their case.

Source: Airline Business