Jennie Barber, a Birmingham resident, recently won a legal battle against British Airways (BA) after requesting a cash refund for two return flights to Japan she had booked in January 2020. The flights were later pulled due to Covid restrictions and BA offered a refund in the form of travel vouchers. However, Ms Barber wanted her money back and, representing herself, took BA to court.
Using the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943, Ms Barber was able to beat the airline giant in court and was awarded the sum of £2,523.42 to cover flights, interest up to the date of judgment and costs. Ms Barber had requested the vouchers in March 2020 after Japan closed its borders to foreign travellers during the first wave of the pandemic. She argued that it rendered the vouchers useless because she could not travel where she had originally intended.
Ms Barber had studied A-level law at City College in Coventry and conducted research at her local library to find out about the law she used to make her case. Restrictions on travel to Japan – where Ms Barber once lived – were not lifted until November 2022. She 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.
In a statement, a spokesperson for BA said they had provided customers with “unprecedented flexibility” by offering them travel vouchers for future travel. However, 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.”
Ms Barber’s case has inspired others in similar situations and she has been offering advice through Facebook groups. She said: “If I can get more people their refunds….I think that is the ideal outcome.” Her victory serves as an example of how individuals can successfully challenge large companies when their rights are not respected.