SUDBURY -- Basically I used 300,000 bonus points via my British Airways executive membership of which I have belonged to for a number of years i.e. 2005. I have previously made flight both in first class and business class both for myself and family members. The points on this occasion were used to fly first class from Vancouver to London, London to Edinburgh and of course return.
At the time of the booking i.e. via the internet I was denied access to cancel the return flight from Edinburgh to London but since I was flying from London to Vancouver on the return journey it wasn't in my opinion a big deal to forfeit the flight from Edinburgh to London. Bearing in mind my points did have a monetary value and in my opinion that was a loss I could live with. British Airways executive club website did not allow me to cancel or manage the flights in question, it was return flights only.
On the return journey my wife and I arrived at the first class check-in counter at Heathrow and were informed that our return flights from Heathrow to Vancouver had been voided. The agent informed us that since we didn't get on the flight in Edinburgh that they automatically made the decision to void the ticket. This ticket i.e. Edinburgh to Heathrow had one boarding pass and the flight from Heathrow to London had a separate boarding pass and so I saw no connection or rational in BA's mentality or reasoning. After all, whether I booked using bonus points or money it was irrelevant in the sense the bonus/executive points had like I previously mentioned a monetary value.
My wife had a bacterium infection in her intestine and was extremely ill and it was necessary that I had to get her back to Vancouver a.s.a.p. I asked the first class ticket agent as well as the executive club agent what they could do for us. Both responses were a strong "Nothing". I was directed to the British Airway's ticket counter where I was informed that my first class seats were still available and I could purchase them for around $30,000 + if I wanted to.
I called for a supervisor as I thought this was outrageous. Here I was being denied my tickets that my points paid for. The supervisor was in one sense sympathetic but she also confirmed that the airline had done nothing wrong. The supervisor told me to wait while she went away to check on something. She returned fifteen minutes later only to tell me that she could do nothing as the (My) first class seats had been sold. Can you imagine how I was feeling and what this meant to my wife and I?
The agent then informed me that I could fly Club World but it would cost more for the upgrade from economy. My wife was poorly and this was not helping and I needed her to be as comfortable as possible. There was no compassion being shown towards me or my wife or her severe health condition. I had to pay 4800 pounds sterling in order to get home that day. The idea of my points/flights being voided and my seats being sold was an insult but British Airways didn't care one iota.
My thinking was that I would pay and accept being held to ransom by a company that speaks of customer service often but has absolutely no regard or understanding of what it feels like to have stood in our shoes that day. Please see attached letter re flight schedule, time date etc. My thinking was that my first priority would be to get my wife home and safe, then contact British Airways and hopefully discuss what transpired and again with the expectation that someone in all their wisdom would understand and appreciate what happened.
I immediately went on the internet and contacted the customer service dept. as well as BA's executive club. I sent them copies via registered mail of my documents. British Airways replied to me (See Reply #1) and in the last paragraph they mention that they did not meet their usual high standard on this occasion. The e-mail also mentions that as a "Goodwill Gesture" they have credited my executive account with 100,000 points and that they hope I will travel with them again - No chance.
In this e-mail they in a sense accept responsibility for the shabby way in which they handled the situation. Here I was an executive account member, with a sick wife, stranded in Heathrow airport with absolutely no compassion or empathy from British Airway employees. On the return flight I spoke with the crew and they couldn't believe how badly we had been treated and strongly suggested that I take this matter further.
I then contacted British Airways in response to the #1 response and told them that the points meant nothing to me and that I wanted a complete refund i.e. 4800 pounds sterling. I could have easily asked for more but I didn't. I received a second response, basically this response said that they did nothing wrong and that was that. I contacted them for a third time and insisted that they think this over. The third and last response from British Airways mentions that they have credited my Visa account for the sum of $704.00 X 2 for tickets. I have no idea what tickets they mean unless it was for the upgrade from economy to Club world.
This third response from British Airways once again is proof to me that they do in fact find themselves at fault, hence, why would they offer goodwill gestures and then deny responsibility and later credit my credit card account. I contacted them once again and informed them that I wasn't interested in points or small offerings. I am only interested in getting my complete 4800 pounds sterling refund.
British Airways may have sold my seats from Edinburgh to London to standby passengers and if they did, that's fine. I had already given/paid for the seats via points. British Airways sold my seats in first class for approximately $30,000 or roughly 19,000 pounds sterling. They were also paid 150,000 points by me of which I saw nothing. I also paid $2400 in taxes to British Airways and lost half of that amount as they took it upon themselves to void my tickets with no tax return. I had to pay further taxes in order to return home when I had to purchase two Club World tickets.
All in all, British Airways did wonderful on this transaction and the customer was robbed. This to me and to most reasonable minded people is double dipping, whereby British Airways could have easily have turned around and issued me my tickets in London or sold them to standby customers or offered them as an upgrade to other passengers had I not checked in on time but they had no right to sell my tickets and charge me a ridiculous amount in order to get us home. To the average person reading or hearing this 100% true story brings disbelief and anger.
My wife and myself were not only treated badly monetary wise but there was also a complete disregard for reasoning, understanding or even kindness. The British Airways staff act as if they are walking on a tightrope and they obviously have no decision making skills or authority to make a judgment call. They are robots who strut around and no doubt read "company policy" everyday of their sad lives. They must remember the key words - "Did you read the fine print?" "I'm sorry but there's nothing that can be done but we could or can make you an offer in the meantime." They are not customer service orientated, they are sales driven.
I realize or have since realized that most if not all airlines have this stupid policy of missing the start of a journey means that the journey in its entirety is voided. It's a policy that the governments around the world need to take a serious look at. There is absolutely no way an airline should be able to void a ticket from one destination to another if it has been paid for. If it has been paid for and nobody shows up, so what? They could I suppose try and sell it like I mentioned to a standby passenger but why should the person who has already paid for it be punished? It's a loophole whereby the airlines are rubbing their greasy palms.
I won't even consider flying with British Airways after this event. They say one thing and mean another, they tell you that they are sorry for their performance and then they deny any responsibility and then they make a small credit to your credit card account hoping you will go away. British Airways are a huge company and without doubt feel that they are untouchable.
They no doubt think "Who is this ** anyway? He will end up going away and we will have another hundred or ten thousand ** still to come. So what if we loose ** account or business, who cares? I'm sure the people of the U.K. and Canada and the U.SA. care and would be equally appalled by British Airways failure to use some common sense and reasoning . I'm sure that they will see what sort of company British Airways are and how they treat their regular travelers.
APEX, NORTH CAROLINA -- Students who are flying to the United States should be aware of the rip off by British airlines agents at airports. I bought a ticket through British airlines from Mumbai - London- Raleigh. I called British airlines customer service weeks ahead and a day before my flight journey to make sure that students traveling to USA FOR THE FIRST TIME FROM SPECIFIC LOCATIONS are allowed to carry a third checked in baggage.
I requested in writing to avoid any unforeseen complications at the airport, but the customer service agent said, "We do not have any provision to email you in written at this time, but I assure you that if you show your I-20 and screen shot of our website where it stated that students are allowed to take an extra 23 kg checked baggage at the British airlines check in counter, you should not have any issues."
I had no other option to believe what the customer care said, which was my BIGGEST MISTAKE TO TRUST BRITISH AIRLINES. At Mumbai airport, I was tortured by the adamant agent to pay for the 3rd baggage. I tried to convince them by narrating the prior story with the customer service, but they were adamant, rude and not ready to even hear what I was saying.
My flight is in 1.5 hour and I called my sister in the United Stated to talk to the customer service and pay for the 3rd baggage with a credit card as I was having insufficient funds to pay for the baggage and the internet service was down at the airport. All in vain, even the customer service said that they cannot accept any payment 3 hrs before the flight departure. No option left to pay, I had only one choice left, to trash all the contents of the suit case at the airport and take the flight or miss the flight.
Finally, after 2 hrs of struggle, after realizing that there was no means to do the payment due to the lack of internet service they let me board the flight. Therefore, I advice students think twice before they purchase tickets through British airlines. I want to make sure that the British airlines agents working at airports and customer service know their basic rules regarding baggage allowance and what message they are conveying to passengers.
I am filing a FCC consumer complaint against British airlines to make sure that this will not happen to any other passenger, especially students traveling for the first time. I hope this incident will awake British airways officials and take necessary action to train their agents and not to mislead passengers.
DC, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA -- I am extremely disappointed with the customer service of British Airways. My situation may be unique, but it was one of the worst experiences my wife and I have ever had. We booked a trip to London from DC leaving Aug 2nd and arriving Aug 3rd (BA0216). My wife is a Jamaican citizen but permanent resident in the US. She called the Customs Border Protection in the US to see what would be needed before the trip (she had her passport and green card). They never mentioned needing a VISA.
We checked in with the reservation agent at the Dulles airport who checked our paperwork and sent us to go through security. After going through security, the TSA agent checked our information and let us on the plane. After getting to London, the customs agent asked my wife for her Visa. We were both amazed at this question and she told him that she didn't have one nor was told she needed one.
The customs agent told her that the airline should never have let her on the plane and she was taken for questioning for 10 hours. I was not able to have contact with her the whole time. It was miserable. She was literally being treated like a terrorist or threat to the country. She was terrified as a result.
After the long drawn out wait, they told me that they were sending my wife back to the US and that I was on my own to find a flight back. I had to spend another 3 hours in the airport trying to get on a standby flight, which never panned out. Finally my only option was to pay a change flight fee of $278.04 dollars and then the difference in cost for another flight to Philadelphia, PA ($178.37), which left on Aug 5th.
I then had to find a ride from Philadelphia to DC. My wife in the mean time had to find a place to say until I got back since she did not have the car keys or house keys (again they did not let me see her). After speaking with the Customer Relations person at British Airways, she stated that there was nothing that they can do as it is the passenger's responsibility to know what documentation was needed. This is not correct as the customs agent specifically said that the airline should not have let us on the plane.
In addition, the reservations attendant in London for British Airways confirmed this as well. Lastly, the Customer Relations person also stated that customs would fine the airline $2000 for the mistake (which customs in London mentioned as well). If British Airways is to be fined, that tells me it is their responsibility to check the correct documentation before letting a passenger on board.
The only offer they provided for resolution was a travel voucher for $274.04. This is potentially point less as I have no intentions ongoing back to London within the next year. It was a $3000+ trip that was wasted already and like most people, a once in a lifetime trip that we would have loved to enjoy.
I am typically not one to complain and appreciate great service, but this was beyond miserable, it was horrific and something no law abiding person should go through. I am not asking for much to be whole again. A refund back to my card (not a voucher) for the change flight fee ($274.04), difference in airline ticket ($178.37) and seats paid for on the original return flight of BA265 ($52) is more than reasonable to make this right ($504.41). If British Airways was able to check the necessary documentation fully and correctly as Customs stated, I would not have had to incur these extra fees nor experienced the traumatizing experience that went on for 12+ hours.
DEFENCE STATEMENT - ** vs. BRITISH AIRWAYS. I would like to point out to the Court that I have given BA at least 5 to 6 chances to resolve this matter with letters being sent to them since April 2010. Last of all I sent them a copy of my “Small Claims Court” summons dated 15.12.10 asking them to reconsider their position and refund my money before I take Court proceedings against them. See photocopy (A). I am 67 years old and was on my way to America to sail my Catamaran which I keep in the USA. I was looking forward to my trip and not looking for trouble, not wishing to pick a fight and I am not a load mouthed drunken trouble maker, as is being inferred by British Airways.
My wife and I are seasoned air travelers flying long haul 3 or 4 times a year to Hong Kong, Bangkok, London, New York, Boston & Washington, and are well versed with Airport security, and I might add, we agree with the high level of security necessary in today's air travel. Having stated I agree with the high level of security required at airport check-in, I am therefore unlikely to object to being search a second/third time, as is being suggested by BA, as long as I know what is happening, which is not the case at Heathrow.
The charge against me is not cooperating with the staff, even though I cooperated in full with gate 10 staff. There seems to be a difference of opinion between how gate staff interprets cooperation or being rude and the supervisor's version of rude. Gate 10 staff got full cooperation from me and my wife without being rude, the Supervisor was out of order shouting in my face. I suggest BA staff take a leaf out of the “Customs & Border Protection Agency” in the USA; they pledge to treat the public with dignity & respect & to perform their duties in a professional manner, unlike the BA Supervisor who acted like a football hooligan. I get called Sir in the USA, not treated like a PIG.
The shouting Supervisor was almost foaming at the mouth and is claiming (and I quote) I was rude to gate staff & impeding the pre-flight search procedures & I refused to discuss the matter with her. Let's look at all 3 charges as we go through my statement. I think you will find her to be wrong; and while we are at it, what shall we call her unprovoked attack on me Customer Service BA style. I was rude to gate staff. Asking questions is not being rude. I was impeding pre-flight search procedures. BA impeded themselves. I refused to discuss the matter with the Supervisor. I was never asked to discuss anything, I was only shouted at. Where was the discussion, I never had one.
My wife and I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 in good time for our flight to the USA, we preceded through all security checks and arrived at gate 10 with time to spare, ready to fly. No trouble so far, everything was fine. We sat down, I was reading my book, 5 to 10 minutes later the Tannoy announced that Passengers ** and others are to come to the desk. I went forward and quietly asked what they wanted, and was informed that an additional search was needed, did I objected.
I thought for 5-10 seconds saying to myself, if I ask questions they will become suspicious of me but, I thought my baggage might have raised an alarm, because of the “Metal Bolts” inside the case (see photos). I replied, can I ask questions without jeopardizing my position, the answer was YES, but as it turns out she meant YES it will jeopardize your position, as is the case.
I then said, I don't mind the search as long as I know what sort of search my wife will be subjected too, on reflection I think I am the only person to ask this question, all the others just said yes, and this is what dammed me, they took objection to being asked questions they could not or did not wish to answer. I was told the American Government requested it, which is not the answer to my question. I was then told by gate 10 staff that if I refused to have the search I could not fly. This put me on my guard not to say or do anything objectionable, just stay cool and ask questions, no need to do anything to prevent me flying and you have been given permission to ask questions.
I was mindful of two things: my wife was searched & questioned for nearly 4 hours when she first arrived in England back in 1996 and 12 years ago when I went to Hong Kong. I was stopped by security and had my suitcase searched in an adjacent room because I had metal objects in the suitcase, like I had this day, see photographs of the metal bolts in my case.
I asked was there a heightened state of security because my baggage might be suspect (bearing in mind I had metal bolts in my case) I was told NO. I then asked what sort of search was my wife to be subjected too, staff member (1) said - The US Government required the search. I asked the question again because they were telling me who required the search, not what sort of search was required, the second staff member stepped forward and repeated the answer, puffing up his chest and standing there gesturing with back off body language, with which I did.
I pointed out that neither answer told me what sort of search it would be, only who required it, could I be told more about the search please. I felt I needed to know if my wife needed to: Remove her clothes. Internal search. Who would be conducting the search, a man or woman, NOBODY KNEW THE ANSWER? I thought this was very strange, considering that the Security service conducting the search did not know what sort of search they intend to carry out, only that the US Government required it.
So here I was, on my guard not to upset anybody but BA staff were not answering my questions and making things difficult for me. I was sent to the main desk to ask there. I posed the question again to a lady who replied “I don't know. I will phone and find out.”
No problems so far, just quietly went through the process of getting answer. I stood waiting for a minute or two without saying anything to staff members; nothing was going on, when out of the blue the lady suddenly said, the search was a simple touch search, there was no requirement for clothes to be removed, neither was there an internal search required and it would be conducted by a woman. I agreed straight away and said I would send my wife over to be search. NO PROBLEMS AT THIS POINT but I thought BA have not been very helpful & wasted time. I was told my wife should bring her hand luggage because once through gate control she would be ready to fly.
MY THOUGHTS SO FAR. I wondered why she phoned somebody to find out the answer to my questions when she knew the answer all along. Why not answer my questions in the first place, instead of being difficult. She was impeding per-flight proceedings, not me, which I have been accused of and I might add I was not rude either. To be rude you have to say something detrimental to a staff member, I only asked “What search and who by?”
That is not being rude. On two counts of the accusations I am not at fault. BA staff caused their own delays by not answering my questions which they knew the answer too & I was not rude. I went back and told my wife to have the search done which she did.
WITNESS STATEMENT: At this point my wife's witness statement should be taken into consideration: I was searched without any reference to my husband having been rude to anybody. I was asked to join the queue. I was searched and cleared to fly. I even got on the bus ready for the flight. At this point there was NO trouble, NO acquisitions that my Husband had been rude or had done anything wrong. I could see clearly from where I was sitting that my husband was simply asking questions.
Having sent my wife off to be searched, I sat down to read my book again, (not causing trouble). After about 10 minutes all hell let loose. I heard a thundering noise like a herd of Elephants thundering towards me, I looked up and saw two BA staff members heading for me. I have no idea what she was shouting at me for. I have no idea what this was all about, everything had been agreed and sorted.
QUESTION: Why did the Supervisor choose to charge at Mr. ** shouting at him, what did she hope to gain? A shouting match. Civil discussion. NO SHE WANTED BLOOD. Why not approach him in a civil manner, firstly introducing yourself to him; he did not know who you were. Why not speak to him in a calm & normal voice instead of shouting at him? Do you normally conduct yourself in this unruly manner, Mr ** is an OAP, not a kick boxer, wisely he just sat down and waited for the Supervisor to calm down - that did not come to pass, she wanted revenge and got it.
What happened next was outrageous. I was verbally attacked. There is no other description that describes what happened. I was reading my book and got verbally attacked by the BA Supervisor. There was no discussion as claimed by BA. I was just shouted at. And I want charges brought against her. I was taken aback by the heavy handed approach. I was not asked to explain anything. I was not asked to do anything. I did not have to comply with any request. I was just being shouted at.
Not being used to people shouting at me for no reason, all I could think of was that the first lady who made the phone call must have said something derogatory about me to the Supervisor, stirring up trouble, otherwise why were they both thundering towards me looking for blood, after everything was sorted out without trouble and without being rude.
What was in her mind? What had changed the situation? I had done nothing wrong. What turned a quiet Thursday morning into a blood bath? I had not even spoken to the Supervisor before. Who had said something to change the situation from all quiet to a Supervisor shouting match? What made her thunder towards me and start shouting at me? What had happened to cause this? I have no idea.
Under this barrage of abuse, I felt it best to say and do as little as possible; do not I said to myself enter into an argument for fear of being stopped from flying. After a while of listening to this barrage of abuse, I said to the Supervisor - from my point of view, would you please:
“Stop shouting at me and conduct yourself in a professional manner. Get out of my face. It's not polite to shout at people and it's very rude. Everything has been agreed with your staff and sorted out; my wife has had the search. What is all the shouting about; everything is under control and I have conformed and complied with BA staff instructions?” (Under BA rules 7a7 - 7a8).
I just sat down to distance myself from being shouted at any more, hoping to take the sting out of the confrontational stance taken by the Supervisor, also hoping that by doing nothing she would calm down. She did not calm down; she just stuck the knife in so to speak. I just sat there; I guess she was standing there fuming because I would not enter into a slanging match with her, giving her reason to ban me from flying. I was trying to cool the temperature down.
There was no further discussion as claimed by BA, I was not asked any questions, I was not asked to explain why I asked questions of the gate staff, she did not seek further cooperation from me, as claimed by BA, she did nothing but stand there Glaring at me fuming with rage. The next I heard was her saying “THAT'S IT” and she walked off. I HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG. MY QUESTION IS: WHAT DID SHE WANT TO DISCUSS?
Why her staff did not know what sort of search to conduct. Why did I want to know what sort of search was required. Was my Baggage suspect with the bolts inside? Which of BA rule have I not conformed with? In truth I conformed with all BA rules 7a7 or 7a8. She asked me nothing, she said nothing, and there was no instruction for me to conform with. She just stood there bolt upright, staring at me with rage in her eyes but asked me NOTHING.
I continued to sit reading my book waiting to check in. When I arrived at the gate I was told I/we were not flying today, I asked why, she did not have a clear answer, just something about I was rude and she decided to cancel my flight. I could fly tomorrow on BA, but not today. That was that, I collected my baggage and booked on the BA flight the next day. No problems from me the next day, neither on the return flight 5 months later. I am not a trouble maker.
Conclusion: I was not rude to BA Staff in my opinion; BA staffs were rude to me.
This Supervisor does not know the words Diplomacy and Customer service, all she knows is attack, Shout load and be rude to people and she should be dismissed. I confirmed that asking questions did not jeopardize my position, but it did. Being told I could not fly if did not have the search done warned me to be civil, I was civil. I conformed with all BA rules & requirements in a civil manner under section 7a7 & 7a8.
I do object to being shouted at but, did not react adversely, I just sat down. Not being asked by the Supervisor to say or do anything, not being asked to explain anything, not being asked to cooperate, is not being belligerent, I was waiting for the Supervisor to calm down and conduct herself in a professional & civil manner, she did not, she stormed off in a rage and took out her vengeance on me by stopping me Flying.
Trying to stay out of trouble by sitting down is hardly me being abusive or non cooperative as claimed in BA letter dated 22.11.10 third paragraph. (You refused to discuss the matter with her that is why you were refused travel). (There was no discussion in a civil manner, only a shouting match by the Supervisor). I was not load, rude, drunk, disrespectful or bad mannered. In truth it was BA Supervisor who was load, rude, disrespectful and bad mannered, not me. I WOULD LIKE TO BRING CHARGES OF ASSAULT & VERBAL INTIMIDATION AGAINST THE BA SUPERVISOR IF I CAN ACQUIRE HER NAME & ADDRESS.
I arrived the following day, having purchased a second ticket off BA to fly to Washington. BA offer a 5* service for customers with 5* manners and codes of conduct and requirements, only to find that the staff they employ are AGGRESSIVE 2* SUPERVISORS, with the manners and up bringing to match the Gutter they come from, and are ill-equipped to provide a 2* service, let alone the 5* service both BA and I require.
My out of pocket expenses I am claiming back are as follows: 2nd BA Flight on 30th April to USA 862.00. Car ride back to Poole Dorset 20.00. National Express coach back to Heathrow 42.90. Taxi to Hotel in USA 48.00. 2nd Hotel booking in USA 93.00. Total 1,065.90 plus 8% compound interest from the 29.03.10.
BA left us stranded on a connecting flight a Johannesburg and refused to take any responsibility. We had to sort out the situation and I would advise anyone thinking of travelling to South Africa to avoid BA. Our story is below. On arriving at Heathrow the baggage drop was efficient with no real queue and a fast service. It transpires that the bags were not prioritised which I will return to later.
The Fast Track queue was ridiculously long and as such not acceptable; after 5 minutes going nowhere we moved over to the economy queue and passed through security faster than we would have done had we remained in fast track.
We went to the club lounge which was so full that we could not get a free table to accommodate the five so us. We gave up and dined instead at Gordon Ramsey's Plane Food which was a very enjoyable experience.
On returning to the lounge a few tables had freed up but had not been cleaned. There was waste paper, dirty plates and cups and magazines strewn around the place. We tidied these into a small pile - which was still there when we left two hours later.
In the past when club was full we have been directed to the Gold lounge, but it seems the policy today is to account for my wife and children as my guests and for the gatekeepers to adopt strict policy that only two guests are allowed. I do not see my family as my guests and think this is an incredible short sighted policy. This is particularly so as since BA stopped the Gatwick Geneva flight they now welcome me into the lounges on both sides whilst I am flying Easy Jet on this route. At the same time BA refuse to accommodate us as a unit when flying full fare club on a scheduled BA flight.
The flight BA0057 on 18 December was due to take off at 20.10 but due to a backlog this was posted on the departure board as due to depart at 20.30 a delay of 20 minutes. At 20.30 the flight was fully boarded and the doors locked ready for take off. The pilot announced a short delay to deice the wings, but after around 30 minutes he confirmed that the weather had improved such that the icing was not now necessary and the plane was now ready to push back for take off.
Around 30 minutes later the pilot apologized that the tug top push back the plane had not appeared and they were urgently trying to locate this and that we should be departing shortly. Another 30 minutes passed and the pilot again apologized that the tug had not appeared and assured you that he was trying his best to get us airborne.
It was over an hour later before we pushed off having spent over two hours on the tarmac waiting for the flight to take off. Once airborne we settled into the flight and switched on the in-flight entertainment. After about 5 minutes this packed in and needed to be reset. This took nearly an hour to fix and we were well into the meal service before the system was working properly. Needless to say none of the party watched the evening film they were looking forwards to.
The choice of meal was particularly uninspiring and the food was bland and tasteless. The baby leeks were limp and uninspiring and the turkey dinner was so bad I had to leave it after a mouthful or two. On arriving into Johannesburg the pilot acknowledged that we were running over two hours late and assured everyone with connecting flights that arrangements were in place and that we would be met by ground crew who would ensure that we were all placed onto a suitable alternative flight.
On leaving the plane and arriving at baggage reclaim there was no BA ground crew to welcome or explain what was happening. Our bags were not prioritised and as such were pretty much in the last few off the carrousel. Most of the flight had passed through customs by the time we were cleared and on our way to the domestic terminal.
That was no BA representative either at the exit to the international terminal or at the BA desk in the domestic terminal. On arriving at the domestic terminal we went to club check in and were told that the BA 6241 flight which we had booked on had closed and that we had to join the queue for ticket sales to get rebooked onto an alternative flight.
The queue was approx 50 yards long and must have had over a hundred people in it. There was one person at the ticket desk who was processing things incredibly slowly. After around half an hour a BA representative appeared to make an announcement. All Durban ticket holders were quickly given boarding passes to the next flight and all Port Elizabeth passengers had to remain in the queue. A second person appeared to help with ticket sales and after over one hour in the queue I was given a computer printout and told to go to check in.
After a further queue at club check in I was told that the paper was for the wrong passenger and I had to rejoin the queue for ticket sales. This was again around twenty people long so I went straight to the front and asked to seek to someone senior to complain. I was treated rudely and indifferently by the BA representative but stood my ground.
The manager who eventually appeared around 15 minutes later told me the following: We had only be waitlisted and not booked onto the next Port Elizabeth flight. If we failed to secure seats on this flight then the next available flight on all airlines would be after Christmas day. The fact that I had a gold card and that we were full fare club made no difference and she stated that there was nothing else she could do.
She stated emphatically that as the delay was due to weather that BA had no responsibility to get us onto a flight the same day, nor provide accommodation or any other assistance if we were stranded in Johannesburg whilst BA found an alternative flight.
I immediately called the gold executive line to seek clarification. The first option resulted in disconnection with a message saying sorry we are closed. The second attempt found me hanging on for approximately twenty minutes of soothing music before somebody picked up the line. I explained the situation and the BA representative put me on hold to check with a supervisor.
When she returned she said there was nothing that could be done from London. She said the procedure should be to waitlist all passengers which missed the flight on the next available flight (the 15.45) and as we were full fare club with a gold card we should be at the top of the queue. I asked her to check the status of this flight which she said was fully booked and as such there was a possibility that we would not be allocated a seat. She confirmed that if this was the case the first next available flight would be on the evening of Monday 21 December.
I pointed out the following: This was a 'once in a lifetime' holiday to celebrate my wife's milestone birthday. The holiday had cost a significant amount a major part being to cover flights with BA. We were scheduled to take two days on a safari park and then were due to leave Port Elizabeth for Cape Town at lunchtime on 21 December. As such a flight on the evening of 21 December was of no use at all. I commented that BA had made this an experience never to be forgotten - but not for the reasons we would have hoped for.
I asked her if there was anything else she could do or suggest. She said there was nothing. I asked her if she thought this was a reasonable way to treat us. She confirmed that it wasn't. I asked her to register a formal complaint and that I would be following this up as soon as I was able to do so. She said she would do so and make her manager aware.
When the flight had closed we went to the rather small waitlisted queue where we were informed rather curtly that the flight was heavily over booked and that there were no waitlisted tickets being issued. At this point I can not describe the extent of the anxiety and distress which BA had caused to my family and in particular my wife who was nearly in tears as she saw her whole 50th birthday experience falling away.
Six days have now passed and I have received no communication by phone or email to confirm than the complaint is being investigated, to apologize for the scandalous treatment received at the hands of BA, nor even to inquire if we had managed to sort things out. This is truly a disgrace of the highest magnitude which BA should be thoroughly ashamed of. At 3.15 after four hours of hell the realisation dawned that BA had simply abandoned us on the other side of the world and were not going to do anything to help our situation and as such we would simply have to fix this ourselves.
A quick call was made to our travel agent who suggested we check with South African Airlines to see if an indirect flight could be arranged. The SAA representative was a complete breath of fresh air. He was helpful, polite and completely empathised with our situation. With a good humoured approach he helped ease the tension and quickly found us a flight from Durban to Port Elizabeth leaving first thing the next (Sunday 20 December) morning. There was a regular service from Johannesburg to Durban and after a short while while he checked to get us the cheapest fare and then provide a free upgrade to club on the first leg we had our tickets and were on our way to Durban.
This is the complete text of the complaint written to British Airways moments ago. Subject: Complaint regarding Events of Friday 18th 2009-Sunday 20th 2009 at Washington Dulles International Airport and the treatment of passengers of flight BA 0292
My name is ** and I was a passenger on flight BA0292 from Washington Dulles (IAD) to London Heathrow (LHR) originally scheduled for Friday the 18th of December at 1010pm and experienced a tiny piece of travel hell at the hands of British Airways. I am writing this letter to express my displeasure with British Airways and to request compensation for both myself and my fellow travelers for the inconvenience caused by the incompetence of the organization.
I am a British national who lives and works in Washington DC and travels between the USA and the UK frequently and as such I understand that there are elements that are beyond control but in most cases airlines are prepared to deal with these situations and have contingency plans in place. This experience was not one of those times and I feel that my fellow passengers and I were treated without regard by the airline.
As I am sure you were aware over the course of the week preceding Friday the 18th the weather forecasts predicted a nightmarish weather situation that would form the night of the 18th. This storm was anticipated to bring a significant amount of snow to areas of the United States not used to such weather and as such were ill-prepared. This weather system arrived the evening of Friday the 15th and was the catalyst for a series of events that created a hellish situation for me, my fellow passengers and those passengers on flight BA0624 (scheduled to leave shortly before my own flight).
This situation was compounded by the lack of preparation for these events by both the ground crews at Dulles and the British Airways ground staff and further distressed by the incompetence of the British Airways ground staff over the period of time from Friday the 18th to Sunday the 20th December 2009. I would like to express my understanding that British Airways cannot control the weather and the magnitude of the storm was “once-in-a-lifetime” but there was a week of warning in which both the airline and the Dulles ground staff should have spent preparing. My complaints are listed and detailed below:
Initial Delay on Friday 18th. There was an initial delay indicated for the flight during the day on Friday the 18th. Efforts should have been made to expedite the turn-around once the plane had arrived due to the oncoming storm. No information was provided to explain the nature of this initial delay and this 1hour would cause the plane and its passengers to be grounded at Washington Dulles for 48 hours. We understand that it was probably related to the weather conditions in the UK but the fact that no information was provided to passengers was unacceptable.
7 hours spent on the plane overnight. We finally boarded the plane at 1145 and were told we were being deiced. This process had been going on for hours but inside the aircraft we only saw our windows slowly get covered with snow. In an attempt to get us off of the ground that evening the ground staff did everything within their power to get us airborne but the passengers knew the flight would not depart when they saw BA264 return to the terminal (we were later told they had been skidding all over the runway).
The passengers were eventually given their dinner at 630am and deplaned at 730am Saturday (coincidentally this was about the same time we were supposed to land in the UK). The passengers personally felt that the plane was not departing at 3am and were frustrated with being kept onboard when this fact was clear and apparent.
Lack of Information during delay on Tarmac. During this 7 hour delay the captain gave us information updates only twice. The passengers understood that we probably wouldn't be leaving but the fact that we were not given any information regarding our status or what decisions were being made was unacceptable. The fact that we had to discover that the trucks had run out of deicing fluid though whispers from flight attendants was also unacceptable and we feel that the airline should have treated us as adults and not kept information from us.
Lack of coordination upon disembarking on Friday night/Saturday morning.
There was a serious lack of coordination between BA operations and Ground staff concerning instructions for rechecking/delay procedure for disembarking passengers. Staff told passengers that they needed to recheck in on later flights and to coordinate this with 1800 number. This caused a sense of general pandemonium as passengers all raced to secure the few open seats on the flights the next day.
It was only from these calls that it became clear that if we rechecked then the next flights available were days later. After talking to ground staff again it had become clear (after they had spoken to BA operations) that we would all be simply held on this flight and that it would try to depart at the same time the next evening. The complaint is regarding the general state of panic resulting from mixed information from the various conversations with BA staff and customer service.
Incorrect instructions On Saturday the 19th. Passengers were instructed to travel back to the airport at 3pm in order to collect their baggage and check-in for any new flights. Any proposed flights for this day were obviously not going to happen due to the increasing intensity of the blizzard. The instructions concerning our baggage was incorrect also as we were told only later in the day that it was all still in the hold of the plane and could not be retrieved (understandably)due to hazardous conditions for baggage handlers. The complaint is regarding the lack of correct instructions and information from BA ground staff to passengers which increased their already frustrated state.
No facilities provided to contact relatives/pickup at end of journey. There was no facility provided, be it a phone or a computer with email access, for passengers to use to communicate with people at their eventual destination. This showed a lack of regard for passenger welfare and that BA was operating under the assumption that all passengers had means of communication.
Assumption that all passengers had means to purchase food and provide hotel with credit card. It became clear that there were some passengers that had no dollars or credit cards they could use and as such had to borrow money from other passengers on faith as there were no food vouchers provided by British airways. Their problem was compounded by the fact that they had to provide a card at hotel check-in (even though BA would eventually reimburse this) but they could not do this and had to rely on other passengers to provide this credit.
2nd Check-in. The check-in process for all 5 flights on Sunday the 20th was a complete nightmare. 5 flights of passengers had to check in via 8 check-in desks. There was a single line for each flight that stretched backwards until it became a single snaking line through Dulles. There was no information about how this was organized and this caused severe frustration throughout the line. I was personally in this single snaking line for 2 hours until on investigation I found I could just join the back of the line for my flight.
I was in this line for 2 more hours until the 2 BA staff serving my flight were taken to process an earlier flight (this only served to make us feel like second-class passengers). This was eventually resolved after I was waiting in line for 6 hours, when I was finally given my 2nd boarding card of this trip (which would turn out to be useless). The lack of organization and public information at this point of our journey was unacceptable.
Limited Staff on Saturday (no on-call staff for emergency). There was a 4 day warning of the approaching storm that BA could have used to make appropriate staffing arrangements in case it hit. The fact that the storm did hit and there were only 2 BA staff to serve hundreds of BA passengers was unacceptable. An on-call system should have been set up with a number of BA staff available to come in on an as needed basis. The fact that on Saturday there were so few staff, even in the face of the severe conditions, was unacceptable.
Limited Staff on Sunday (BA staff refusing to stay and assist). This caused remaining staff to be pushed to their emotional limit dealing with a plane of frustrated passengers and would also cause the flight to leave later as when it became clear that they would have to manually recheck-in every passenger and the 2 staff that left could have served to expedite this process.
Plane not prepared for departure on Sunday 20th. Both flight 624 and 292 were not prepared to take passengers on their eventual departure date. They were not re-catered or cleaned after passengers were on the aircraft for 7 hours on the 18th and even the captain and flight crew were disgusted with this fact upon their arrival. The plane was not deiced and ready to go; our delayed planes should have had priority on all services.
Any excuse for this not being the case is unacceptable. The plane had been sitting stationary for 3 days and had not been monitored and this is unforgivable as BA only has a small number of flights a day from Dulles as opposed to the large number of AA and UA flights.
The AA and UA flights had no problem leaving on time on Sunday the 20th. The lack of preparation by British Airways was completely unacceptable and this was not a direct result of the weather but rather a direct result of the incompetence of the British Airways ground crew. This incompetence directly resulted in us arriving to our destination 5 hours behind our anticipated arrival time on Monday afternoon GMT.
3rd Check in. As a result of our information being in the system for over 48 hrs the system had removed our stored information and the ground staff needed to re-check-in the entire passenger list. This was the 3rd time many passengers had checked in. This only served to anger everyone as it is RIDICULOUS that this was not foreseen by anyone in the organization. It became clear that our original boarding passes from Friday would have got us through security; completely negating the reason for me and my fellow passengers to stand in line all day and check-in a second time.
This process was rumored to occur from 2300 and then was confirmed by an announcement from the ground staff at 0025. I personally was not able to board until 0246. The fact that this would occur and cause us to all check-in manually was unacceptable. This situation was also compounded by the staff that refused to stay beyond a certain time to assist the other ground staff, their presence would have expedited this process and we would have boarded at a time closer to our original departure time. The lack of foresight was unacceptable.
Lack of Priority given to delayed or cancelled flights (delayed by days!). 5 flights were flown from Dulles (IAD) on Sunday and every flight was allowed to leave before flight 0292. Every passenger feels that it was unacceptable that us and flight 264 were not given priority for departure on Sunday and that those flights that were scheduled for the 20th at 615pm, 930pm and 1010pm were allowed to leave before us and the fact that our delay was compounded by the lack of preparation and organization of our aircraft created a situation that threatened to boil over.
Lack of email communication from BA. My flights were booked by the people who were picking me up and as such they were expecting to be informed of any cancellation or sever delays via email as this form of communication had been used for confirmation of flights and supplementary notification. To get any information it required multiple phone calls to BA in the UK who on repeated occasions knew nothing about the flights predicament. The fact that we had indicated email as the preferred preference for communication did not appear to matter. This was unacceptable.
Lack of information at Heathrow T5 caused “worst case” speculation. Upon arriving at Heathrow T5 for passenger pickup there was no information on the boards or from ground staff. As the plane had been sitting in freezing conditions for 3 days and “looked after” by a ground staff in Dulles(IAD) that had demonstrated earlier on Sunday that they had not monitored the plane (catering and cleaning) there were fears of plane safety amongst both the passengers and the families waiting.
Upon talking to BA staff at T5 they told us that there were “unable to find any trace of or flight status of” flight 0292. Experiencing this lack of information from BA only caused speculation of a plane crash to spread amongst those passengers waiting at T5. The emotional stress this caused on top of the existing situation was unacceptable
Lack of information regarding complaints procedure and compensation from BA. Our flight was not the only flight at Dulles delayed and other airlines also had flights of frustrated passengers to contend with. On Sunday evening it became apparent to us that other airlines had already discussed with their passengers how they could complain and had already explained the levels of compensation that would be available to them. British Airways passengers at Washington Dulles received no such communication.
This weekend would have been a lot worse had it not been for the accommodation provided by British Airways for passengers on this flight and for this myself and the other passengers I have spoken with are very grateful but the consensus is that this was inadequate considering the events of Sunday 20th 2009.
I would like you to think about the other passengers on this flight. I was lucky in the sense that I had no connections that I had to catch and had people to pick me up from the airport but there were plenty of people who were not so lucky and this experience caused far greater stress for them that it did for me.
Some particular passenger situations that were on my flight are listed below: A young Indian man in his 20's flying home for his grandfather's funeral in India. If our flight took off after 1am Monday morning (which it did) he would miss the funeral as the next available flight he could get on was Thursday the 24th. This poor fellow was in tears as we were boarding our flight at 4am Monday morning. 2 families with 4/5 small children. 2 families that had autistic children (one teenager, one young child). A pregnant Polish woman in her 20's who didn't speak English and had a connection to Eastern Europe.
In spite of these complaints I would like to single out our captain, Captain **, for his thoughtfulness in constantly communicating the situation to us passengers on Sunday night and taking control of the situation in regards to the catering, cleaning, and deicing of the plane that evening.
This whole experience was created by a freak weather system that the area was ill-prepared for but was compounded by the incompetence and efficiency of the airline that I had chosen to fly with and a timely offer of compensation would be appreciated.
My total travel time from arrivings (9pm on the 18tH) for my first check-in until arrival at LHR T5 (530pm on the 20th): 63 hours. Amount of time spent in lines: 15 hours. Amount of time spent of aircraft: 15.5 hours I look forward to receiving a formal response from you addressing all of the issues above.
Here's a copy of the letter I submitted to BA: After receiving your response to my request for a refund on the price difference between the tickets I purchased on your website and the lower fare I discovered the morning after my purchase, I am stunned, aggravated and offended. I carefully reviewed the information given on your website and it is clear that you have been purposefully and deceitfully manipulative in your presentation of information regarding your "Price Promise" program.
You say "If you find the same British Airways flight you've purchased on ba.com cheaper on another website, we'll refund the difference.*" The asterisk at the end of the sentence refers to a paragraph at the bottom of the web page, "Terms and Conditions," which further clarifies the rules of the game, yet nowhere in those T & Cs is there a mention of a midnight deadline.
In fact, nowhere else do mentions of your "Price Promise" program indicate any such deadline -- the only place said deadline is mentioned is buried deep in the language of "FULL terms and conditions," on a page quite cached away. There are no warnings about limitations to the program other than those mentioned on the first "Terms and Conditions," nothing that indicates that it's important to read further. You don't give any warning language such as "time limits apply" or "other terms and conditions apply."
The customer reads "Find Our Cheapest Fares to London All Year Long" on the home page; then when the prospective customer clicks through to book tickets, he reads, "If you find exactly the same flight cheaper on another US website, we'll refund the difference." No time limits or warning clauses mentioned.
When the customer clicks on the link to "BA Price Promise," he goes to another page to read BA's noble promises to the customer..."If you find the same British Airways flight you've purchased on ba.com cheaper on another website, we'll refund the difference." And then, "Book with Confidence...Always feel confident you can book online at ba.com for our best fares." And then, "If you have made your booking on ba.com and happened to have found the same flights, on the same day, in the same class but cheaper on another website, don't worry, just complete and submit our claim form."
A Reasonable Person would assume that if a lower price appeared within less than one day after tickets were purchased, a refund for the difference would be happily issued by BA. So Tuesday afternoon, after much research and study, I decided to buy our annual RT tickets to France on British Air. I didn't worry. I "Booked With Confidence."
The next morning, I read an email from a price-shopping website and clicked on a few links to see what their prices were to Europe. Within a few clicks I came across the BA flight itinerary identical to that which I had just purchased from you (same date, same flights, same times, etc.), for approximately $50 less per person. I smiled...I wasn't worried, I was confident. After all, you'd promised to refund the difference.
I reread the page about the Price Promise, dutifully clicked on the link to file the claim, patiently and carefully filled in all the boxes correctly and accurately and sent it on its way, thrilled I had chosen to buy tickets with British Airways this time instead of my usual airline, American Airlines. After all, you told me to book with confidence and you were guaranteeing me the best price. I was a very happy BA Customer.
Then I get your piece-of-mealy-mouthed-garbage response. Apparently, somewhere deep in the bowels of your "further terms and conditions," there's a limitation that the request for refund must come by midnight of the date of purchase. So, theoretically, someone could buy tickets on the BA website at 11 p. m., watch the late night news, go to shut down the computer and read a new email advertising a cheaper fare, and you would shoot them down on your promise because they didn't get their claim in by midnight.
I would like to know, on a HUMAN level, how you feel about this deceitfulness. How do you feel about blatantly LYING to your customers about this so-called "Price Promise?" I suppose you can always fall back on a smug, self-serving "Well, they should've read the fine print" response, right? Sure, I should've.
I didn't realize I was taking out a bank loan to buy a house when I bought a ticket on your airplane. I actually believed your advertising, your lies of omission, and your deceit. I read VERY CAREFULLY all the information on the BA Price Promise page, including the Terms and Conditions, and followed all the rules...except for the hidden rules (I should have clicked on "further terms and conditions"). Boy, BA, I'll bet you were a lot of fun on the playground when you were a kid, huh? Were you the one who won all the games, but had no friends, because you made up new rules all the time, in the middle of the game?
I would really like to hear back from a human being about this. It's not even about the silly $100 -- that really doesn't mean much to me. It's about the goodwill you just lost from me. I was your happy customer, looking forward to my trip, pleased with the reasonably priced tickets I'd found. And now I'm truly ticked off and will be telling this story to everyone I know.
I will fly on your airplane for this trip, because I've purchased my tickets...but now, instead of extolling your virtues I'll be blowing the whistle on your deceit. Very simple: I believed your advertisements, bought the tickets, found a lower price WITHIN 24 HOURS, followed all your apparent rules, and you shot me down for a lousy $100 US dollars. And made a hater out of me.
WHY ONE SHOULD NOT TRAVEL BY BRITISH AIRWAYS. Our flight from Delhi to San Francisco via Heathrow started off on a rather bad note with fog delays causing the flight to move from 3:30 AM on the 30th December, to 7:30 AM. However, we were informed of the same by phone, and accordingly changed our plans to reach the airport by around 5 AM. I think I can pinpoint that THIS is probably where the nightmare started.
As we were standing in the check-in line, we were interrupted by a BA employee who surreptitiously informed us that the flight, BA 142, on the 30th December 2008 was further delayed to 11 AM. We looked around in confusion, since no sign reflected the change. However, due to her insistence, we called up our pickups in San Francisco, and informed them of the change.
When we reached the counter, however, we were more confused since the BA check-in lady, a young woman named ** seemed completely unaware of any change and calmly disregarded the info change to pack off our luggage. Since she was so convinced, we called our people back to tell them that there had been no change in our programme.
However, I insisted that she call the representative and tell her to stop spreading wrong information - which is when she made a call and realized that the flight had been changed. I found it highly unacceptable, that a BA desk representative did not even know that there was a change in itinerary and in fact after that, behaved like having that information was not her problem. Unbelievable!
The only high point was because of the mix-ups, we got to travel Club class for the first part of our journey (or rather because they had to stuff lots of people into our flight) which was to Heathrow. But since we reached Heathrow late, we missed our connecting flight to San Francisco, originally planned for 10:40 AM on BA 285 and had to stay a night in London.
When we finally boarded our flight to San Francisco, which was the same flight as above, but an entire day later, I had to go through the entire flight (a good 9 hours) with no food - simply because the travel information had not been updated by BA, and so there was absolutely no extra vegetarian food on the flight. I was curtly told I should have informed the officials during the booking, and they completely ignored me when I insisted that my preferences were even on my tickets more than 3 months ago, it was just that BA had not bothered to transfer the data.
However, through the trip, there was no effort made by the crew to try to help us out (there were more people like me, who's food prefs had not been updated by BA), and instead we had almost feel like it was our fault for not eating the 'sea bass'. (In fact one crew member insisted rudely that I should try it as an option - she just did not seem to understand that it was not a matter of fussy eating, it was a matter of vegetarianism).
Finally when we reached San Fran, our troubles reached their zenith when out of our 3 bags, 1 bag did not make its appearance. On questioning the BA staff, they told us that it was coming on the next flight and would be couriered to our house. Tired, hungry and in no mood to argue with such incompetence, we didn't even put up a fight. But days passed, and there was no sign of the bag. Repeated calls were to no avail and finally after 6 days, we physically went to the airport, hoping to get some answers there.
However, after waiting for almost 4 hours, the baggage services were nothing short of rude, saying that they had tons of bags lying at Heathrow and that we should stop complaining or creating a fuss - almost like its a gift to get your luggage along with you when you arrive at your destination! When we asked for at least compensation, since my husband was left in San Francisco in single digit temperatures with no shoes, coat, sweaters or clothes - we were made to wait till finally because of our insistence, anger or just because they wanted to get rid of us, they gave us $400 to temporarily keep us happy.
It has now been 15 days since we reached the US, and not once has BA on its own accord even called to let us know anything about our luggage. I am truly disgusted at their behavior, and what is more shocking is that everyone seems to know that BA is never to be trusted in terms of customer service or luggage. We have consciously decided never to travel BA again, and to inform all our friends and family as well (who already seem to know anyway) and would like to advise everyone to do the same.
3 months ago, I paid £3650 (approx $6387 USD) to British Airways to fly business class, full flat bed service from London UK to Cape Town SA. They decided not to provide me with the service that I had paid for, and have since lied and altered their story to avoid paying an acceptable refund.
On trying to complete an online check in 20 hours before departure, I received an error message saying that I couldn't check in online and could only check in personally. This I did in good time and was surprised to be told that there wasn't a seat available for check in and I had to wait for “seat allocation”. 20 minutes before take off, it was confirmed to me that “due to the malfunction of a first class seat”, that first class passenger had been downgraded to my seat and I was being downgraded. Being a late evening flight, it was left too late to make alternative arrangements.
The thing was, I had three colleagues flying first class and they confirmed that there were no unused seats in first class. I questioned this with the purser on board who modified the story to say that the first class seat would not recline and so was being used as a “crew rest seat”. My colleagues confirmed after the flight that all first class seats reclined, and all people in those seats enjoyed the “full hospitality” of first class. Staff member on a “jolly” perhaps, or just a lie to hide the overselling of business class?
Needless to say being a business class passenger with British Airways, a company I previously thought to be of good reputation, I didn't expect to have any problems getting my money back for the leg of the journey they chose not to provide. This is very much not the case though. 3 months later, I am still battling with them.
Their first response was to only offer a handful of air miles as “compensation”. Their second response was to say they had “lost” my claim for refund/ compensation. Their third response was to claim that they had a policy that prevented them from ever making a refund of greater value than 50% of the one-way portion of a flight. When asked to show the existence of this policy, they couldn't. They maintained their story that one seat in first class had failed, and despite the statements from my three first class colleagues, BA maintained that there was one empty (broken) seat in First Class. (Remember the purser on board confirmed it was not empty).
Two months into my claim against them, they suddenly switched their story to confirm that British Airways had oversold the business class cabin. I believe they changed their story because they could now try and limit their refund by using a European law designed to protect passengers! While they held on to their lies about first class seats being broken, they were confirming that the business class cabin was not technically oversold, because there were an equal number of business class seats and ticket holders for that class. If they held this position, they could not use the European law that exists to protect passengers from the practice of airlines overselling seats.
In the event that a flight is intentionally oversold by a European airline, EU law requires that they provide a 75% refund (this level is set because of the length of flight), pay compensation, call for volunteers prior to bumping, and provide compensation and refunds within 7 days. Since I was blocked from completing an online check in 20 hours before departure, it was clear that BA chose not to ask for volunteers to be offloaded. Their responses to a refund request were designed to hide their legal minimum responsibility to repay at least 75% in the event of overselling.
Finally, they paid 75% (to the penny) of the one-way flight portion less tax as a refund, claiming that this is all the law requires them to do and “that is the end of the matter”. This meant that they still charged me over £450 for a one-way flight – an economy ticket on that route is £250!
As a business class passenger, I did not pay the airline the minimum amount for the minimum service. I therefore did not expect British Airways to initially hide from their legal responsibilities and then twist European law to make the absolute minimum payment available, whilst not complying with any other element of that law – for example making the refund automatically within 7 days.
My advice to fellow business class passengers who need an airline they can rely on to keep their business commitments is to avoid British Airways. Their clear policy of overselling BA business class means that your seat is not guaranteed no matter what you pay. Their true regard for you as a business class passenger is clear if you try to get them to make a refund for choosing not providing a service that you have already paid for.
LONDON, ENGLAND -- I am a disabled person and I have always flown with British Airways when travelling to Europe. Their service had been exemplary until this year. Only two days into my holiday in Oxford, UK, I fell and broke my hip. The accident occurred on 21 July 2008 and I had to be hospitalized for 15 days to get my hip repaired and get me back in a condition to travel home.
My cousin who is also my care giver when I travel called British Airways immediately to transfer our return tickets as due to my hospitalization we would not be able to travel on our original return date of 24 July 2008. She got a note from the doctors stating that I was unable to travel and recommending a return date of 4 August 2008. She told them I was being released on 2 August 2008 and would need to return to the US by 4 August 2008 as I have several heart and diabetes medications and I would only have 48 hours worth of medication when released from the hospital. They refused to transfer the original ticket unless we could fly after 28 August 2008 (4 weeks later).
So now we are out of medicine, out of money and have no place to turn and since they would not honor our original tickets to return home in order to do so we had to purchase two new coach tickets $1,400 each. She purchased these tickets one week prior to the flight to be sure we had them for our return.
As I am disabled with a bad heart and diabetes, my care giver cousin always arranges for a wheelchair as I can no longer walk the long distances at the airport to get to the gates. She has done this for the past 4 years. She once again called and requested a wheelchair to take me to the plane but when we arrived at Heathrow, Terminal 4, we were told she would have to take the doctor's note into the airport and go to the ticket desk to get the wheelchair.
Meanwhile I am standing on the drop off zone right next to the construction going on. I have a four legged metal walker which they issued me on release at the hospital. I am 10 days post surgery on having my hip replaced and am in terrible pain but there is nowhere to sit and wait so I am standing next to the luggage cart our taxi driver had brought us when the driver has to leave and I am there waiting for her to get the wheelchair.
Inside the airport terminal she was having a problem getting assistance for me. My doctors had written a medical release so she not only had documentation as to the need but she had arranged for this service at the time of ticket purchase. Still they would not bring a wheelchair unless she saw the British Airways ticket agent.
While she was going through this, an elderly priest that was also travelling with a handicapped person, saw me and asked if he walked alongside me and held me up do I think I could walk into the terminal to try to get help. It was a very slow, very long and extremely painful walk but as I had been standing in the parking area for a lengthy period of time I agreed and we walked slowly together into the terminal.
When I arrived inside the terminal, the fellow that was following my cousin with the wheelchair trying to get approval from the ticket agent saw me and immediately put me in the chair. He took me to the ticket desk where my cousin was arguing about something with the ticket agent.
As we neared the ticket agent I finally could hear what was going on. The ticket agent was denying me access to the airplane even though I had a valid ticket and assigned seat. She insisted that I buy a Business Class ticket at an additional $6,000. I lost it and started crying. Both I and my cousin told her we did not have $6,000. We had already spent everything we had to pay for additional hotel nights and transportation while I was in the hospital. When she uttered her response "Well you better start calling your friends and family because you're not getting on the plane without this upgrade." it was with so much venom that you would think I had done something to her just by existing.
After a half hour of begging her supervisor to come talk to us (which he/she never did) we used her credit card to purchase the ticket. Since they do not allow walkers or wheelchairs on the plane (only in the luggage compartment), I am now unable to walk or stand without assistance. They had told my cousin that she could not come to see me in Business Class "UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES". As she is my care giver, I was unable to leave my seat to do as the doctor's ordered and "mobilize" which meant I couldn't even go to the bathroom.
When we finally landed 8.5 hours later and everyone else had deplaned, she was allowed to come to my assistance to get off the plane and into a wheelchair waiting at the door of the plane at the airport (the wheelchairs do not fit in the aisles of the plane). Upon standing, urine started leaking out of me because my bladder was so full from not being able to go to the bathroom. My medications were out of wack as she was unable to visit me and help me get them from the overhead where they were stored.
I am now so completely humiliated and ill that when my daughter met us at the airport she cried. It wasn't until I got into my home with the assistance of my daughter and husband and told them the entire story that they became angry at my treatment at the hands of British Airways and their representatives.
Because of this, my daughter did some research online and found out that British Airways has violated the law under the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Laws under the Air Carrier Access Act of the U.S. Department of Transportation, 14 CFR Part 382, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel, Subpart C, Section 382.31 and Section 382.37 as well as Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and the Council of 5 July 2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air, Article 3 and Annex II, paragraphs 4-6.
So she wrote a letter to British Airways customer service (you can't call them as they do not allow you to talk to any of their customer service representatives) and they responded with a refund of the $1,400 as they agree they should have transferred the ticket but they would not refund the additional $6,000 they charged for making me sit in Business Class as I had sat in the seat.
I call this a hostage situation. My life depended on my returning home to my doctors and getting my medications. They held me at the airport until I tallied up with another $6,000 even though I had a valid ticket to fly coach and my care giver had our seats assigned next to each other so she could assist me on the flight home.
Considering they forced me to purchase a total of three sets of tickets to fly home when the original should have been sufficient, I feel they owe me a refund on the additional $6,000 whether or not I rode in the seat as it was not my choice to do so. All I can say is don't fly British Airways. Any company that has to sequester their "customer service" so as not to allow the customer to have their say is telling you that as a customer you are not important enough to be heard.