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I am not allowed to travel from London to my mum in Inverness for Christmas by UK government order (see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-4-stay-at-home):

"If you live in a Tier 4 area, you must follow the rules below. This means that you cannot leave or be outside of the place you are living unless you have a reasonable excuse. You cannot meet other people indoors, including over the Christmas and New Year period, unless you live with them, or they are part of your support bubble... These rules will not be relaxed for Christmas for Tier 4 – you cannot form a Christmas bubble in Tier 4...

Travelling out of a Tier 4 area

You must stay at home and not leave your Tier 4 area, other than for legally permitted reasons [which don't apply to me]"

British Airways' General Conditions of Carriage give them the right to serve me a banning notice and refund my ticket if carrying me would break government orders (https://www.britishairways.com/en-fr/information/legal/british-airways/general-conditions-of-carriage):

"Our right to refuse to carry you or to ban you from travel

7a) Our right to refuse to carry you

We may decide to refuse to carry you or your baggage if one or more of the following has happened or we reasonably believe may happen.

7a22) If carrying you would break government laws, regulations, or orders.

10b) Involuntary fare refunds

10b1) We will pay fare refunds as set out below if we: [...]

  • refuse to carry you because a banning notice is in force against you or for some other reason pursuant to these conditions where reference is made to this clause."

=> My question: if I inform BA that carrying me would break government orders, is there anything in UK law which would oblige them to serve me a banning notice (getting me a refund in the process)? (Otherwise they will offer me vouchers which I would not have any use for in the foreseeable future.)

NB: I bought the ticket in November.

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  • Any answer may depend on when you bought the ticket (before or after the order was announced). – Mark Johnson Dec 22 '20 at 10:34
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The details published in The Guardian today offer a little (but not much) hope that Competition & Markets Authority will force airlines to refund you.

I live in a tier 4 area but was due to fly to Scotland on Wednesday. Can I get a refund?

The airlines are only obliged to refund customers if they cancel the flight. The fact you cannot travel by law makes no difference as key workers will still expect to travel and therefore flights are still available. Ryanair is offering those in lockdown and unable to travel between now and Christmas Eve a fee-free switch to a new flight – but only until 15 March 2021. British Airways is offering vouchers to those who decide they no longer wish to travel. EasyJet customers are being offered refunds if the new restrictions mean it would be illegal to take a flight.

However, if your airline is refusing a refund, rebooking option or voucher, it is worth notifying the airline that you cannot travel because of the restrictions and that you would like a refund or voucher. This is because the Competition and Markets Authority is investigating whether airlines should be forced to reimburse those in this position. You could find you receive a payout later.

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Their Conditions of Carriage say that they may refuse carry you and may ban you, but nothing obligates them to refuse or ban you. Most of the triggers for refusal of service are about customer bad behavior, but 7a22 is not clearly about bad behavior. The wording

If carrying you would break government laws, regulations, or orders

says something different from "If you traveling would break laws": it suggests that they won't do it if their act of doing so would break the law. As I understand the current regulation, the ban is on you traveling, not on them transporting, that is, they are not at legal risk if you travel illegally. It would not be illegal for them to transport you: therefore, they would not have a justification for issuing a ban notice. Under the circumstances, there is little likelihood that they would ban you thereby triggering a mandatory refund.

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