British Airways Complaint - BA walk away from their responsibility and leave us stranded
BA left us stranded on a connecting flight a Johannesberg and refused to take any responsibiilty. 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 de 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.
The was no BA representative either at the exit to the international terminal nor 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 the 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 helpcour situiation 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.