British Airways (BA) was defeated in a dispute over canceled flights by a woman who appeared pro se and relied on contract law from 80 years ago.
Two return flights to Japan that were scheduled to depart that May were cancelled by Jennie Barber in January 2020 due to Covid restrictions.
BA offered travel vouchers, but Ms. Barber preferred a refund.
Even though she had only studied law up to A-level, when BA refused, she dove into the books and won a complete refund.
If you are. It is frightening and intimidating for a regular person who is not a legal expert to take on a company like British Airways, she said.
Nevertheless, she defeated the major airline by contesting its position in court using the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts Act of 1943).
Because she was told there were no refunds, Ms. Barber claimed that in the first few weeks of the Covid restrictions in March 2020, she had initially accepted the vouchers, which were essentially store credits equal to the value of her flights.
She said that her frustration began when her preferred destination, Japan, took longer than other countries to reopen its borders to tourists. She claimed that this rendered the vouchers useless because it prevented her from traveling to the location she desired.
By December 2020, with Japan still closed, she informed BA of the situation and asked for a refund, but was turned down.
The woman from Birmingham, who is in her 30s, told the BBC that she spent 2021 attempting to persuade BA to change its mind. When that failed, she made the decision to file a lawsuit. She did so in February 2022 rather than waiting until a case was heard in January of this year.
She discovered legislation during this time period that stated she was legally entitled to a refund because the sale involved something that was impossible to deliver for no fault of her own. .
Travel restrictions to Ms. Barber's former home of Japan did not end until November 2022.
Because there was no flexibility on vouchers while Japan remained closed, Ms. Barber claimed she felt compelled to take matters into her own hands.
Armed with an A-level in law from City College in Coventry, she started doing research at her neighborhood library, where she learned about the legal framework she relied on to support her arguments.
On January 20, it was heard at Redditch Magistrates Court in Worcestershire. Ms. Barber was given the sum of £2,523.42, which she used to pay for travel expenses, interest up to the date of the judgment, and court costs. .
Ms. Barber has since joined several Facebook groups for those who are in a similar situation and has been giving advice to those in those groups.
If I can secure more people's refunds. I believe that is the best result," she said.
An official from BA issued the following statement: "We were the first UK airline to offer customers the unprecedented flexibility to change their plans during the pandemic by giving them vouchers for future travel. " .
Customers can use travel vouchers issued during the time period up to September 2023, according to BA.
Consumer lawyer Gary Rycroft said: "It's really important for consumers to understand they don't have to accept vouchers, they are entitled to a full cash refund. It's not uncommon for businesses to offer vouchers when they cancel a service they have previously promised to provide.
"I am overjoyed that Jennie chose to investigate this case further. She steadfastly defended herself despite being fully aware of her legal rights.