Thousands of British Airways passengers faced Bank Holiday chaos as they spent hours on the phone trying to rebook cancelled flights in the wake of the pilot strike. The pilots are on 9, 10 and 27 September, but the airline also told customers with tickets booked on other days that their flights were cancelled. However, it later admitted that these emails were sent in error, after many passengers had already rebooked flights at their own expense. As so many passengers were affected, the phone lines were jammed all day, with customers spending up to four hours on the phone during the hottest Bank Holiday August weekend on record. Some said they had tried to call the airline up to 200 times – and received no reply. The BBC’s North America editor, Jon Sopel, was caught up in the chaos. He tweeted: “Dear British Airways. “This morning you wrote saying our flight was cancelled from Washington, and that we needed to rebook. We rebooked. Now you’ve written to say our flight is not cancelled after all. So what the ….. are we meant to do now? Thanks”. BA said it received nearly 40,000 calls in the first 24 hours and had put on 70 extra members of staff to deal with the chaos. Ellie Kormis, from Surrey, spent almost £2,000 rebooking the flights for her family holiday to Greece – only to be told her original flights hadn’t been cancelled. She told the BBC: “You’re left in a situation where you can’t speak to anyone – and you fear you’ll either lose your holiday or be left out of pocket.” The chaos happened on Sunday, on the centenary of the business, and frustrated customers who visited the Twitter page of the company were greeted with a screen full of animated balloons. Travel expert Simon Calder said: “British Airways: on the airline’s 100th birthday, thousands of prospective passengers are stressed, upset and out-of-pocket as a result of BA’s botched communication about the impending pilots’ strike.” Adam French, consumer rights expert at Which?, said the issue had caused “a lot of confusion and anxiety”. “It is vital that the airline ensures that any customer who was initially informed that their flight was cancelled and has booked an alternative flight is not left out of pocket,” he said. A British Airways spokesperson told The Telegraph that all those who had rebooked flights after the email error are eligible for a refund. She added that customers should keep all records and receipts handy for the refund process. BA has told passengers that they can request a full refund, rebook the flight for another time in the next 355 days, or use the value of the fare to fly to a different destination. Rival airline Virgin Atlantic attempted to get some business out of the chaos, and wrote on social media: “Has British Airways cancelled your flight on the 9, 10 or 27th September due to their pilot strike? We’d love to help keep your travel plans on track.” The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said on Friday the strikes were a “last resort” born out of “enormous frustration” with airline management. Balpa said more strike dates could yet be announced, adding that they were “a last resort and with enormous frustration at the way the business is now being run”. Pilots have rejected a pay increase worth 11.5 per cent over three years, which the airline put forward in July.