How British Airways Threw Its Ethics Into The Winds

Have You Been Burned By British Airways?

You Lost Time & Money Because Of Them?

You’re standing in line to check your passport and drop off some luggage before an international flight. The whole process should take a few minutes because you’ve already checked in online. You have plenty of time and everything seems normal. Just as you reach the counter, someone cuts in front of you and inserts 3 people and 12 huge suitcases. There is nobody at the check-in area to help get rid of this person and the one person behind the counter doesn’t care. Half an hour later, it’s your turn and you’re told check-in is cut off for your flight.

You then stand in front of an airport agent who is trying for another half hour to reach the airline to cancel your reservation but can’t get through. The airline cancels your complete onward itinerary as a “No Show” using the circular reasoning that you missed your flight even though airport personnel couldn’t get through to the airline’s computer. They don’t want to help you get on your way. They don’t even want to sell you tickets on the later flight or put you on standby; you call your travel agent to sell you tickets so you can make your connecting flight. On the flight are plenty of open seats.

Now you try to get home because the next stop on your trip is in the path of a Category 5 Hurricane. The airline insists you should take the flight at the same time it says that your ticket is worthless because you missed the previous flight, even though you paid for replacement tickets to get you to the connecting flight. They say you lose your money and have to buy new tickets to get home. The head of airport operations tells you everything’s fine for travel to that region and doesn’t seem to notice to see that all flights are cancelled.

Later you try to call Customer Service but they disconnected their phone lines and send you a letter telling you to buzz off. You bring an arbitration proceeding against them with good evidence. Now they pay attention, but it’s a kangaroo court where you cannot win because the airline pays the arbitrator’s fee.

I’m mad as hell. Wouldn’t you be too? Zero willingness to be humane and 100% Gotcha? Wouldn’t you agree that British Airways Sucks?

Let’s Assume I’m Wrong!

  • In extenuating circumstances, shouldn’t an airline try to get you on your way or just play Gotcha?
  • Sometimes companies break their own rules to exercise common sense and be humane.

What Actually Happened

  • Someone cut the line sticking in 3 people and a dozen pieces of oversized luggage adding almost half an hour to check in. No airport personnel to help control this.
  • Airport agent had no access to BA’s computers and couldn’t reach the airline for more than half an hour to protect my ticket before departure.
  • Airport agent said no tickets available to sell or standby for later flight to make the connecting flight. Had to buy tickets myself to make the connecting flight which had plenty of open seats.
  • BA still marked us as no-shows for the connecting flights while insisting we fly on it, even though the connecting flight was going to an island destination in the path of a Category 5 Hurricane.
  • BA offered no value on our ticket toward getting us home. Had to buy new tickets.
  • It didn’t matter to them that I paid twice for the previous flight to make the connecting flight.
  • BA’s airport operations manager said travel to the Bahamas and Florida was fine even though the monitors above him showed all flights were cancelled.

The Aftermath – BA’s Response

  • BA had no telephone customer service.
  • Wrote back a terse letter offering zero compensation or refund, not even of taxes for unused tickets.
  • Filed arbitration which got BA’s attention, but the arbitrator is paid by BA and it’s a kangaroo court which offered us zero.

BA’s Defense

  • BA’s defense was circular: Admitted everything alleged, but said that as long as we missed the flight it did not matter, even if they were involved in the circumstance. The arbitrator agreed.
  • There was zero effort to do anything except play Gotcha and make me pay twice for my tickets.

What Can you learn from all this?

  • Don’t fly BA from airports with third party airport agents where BA doesn’t have its own personnel or access to its systems to fix problems.
  • Don’t expect any Customer Service from the airline even at Heathrow airport.
  • If BA codeshares a flight, have the ticket issued by a codeshare partner that is more likely to be cooperative if something goes wrong.