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COMPLAINT: BA 0031 (booking reference Y2WSGJ)- Utter contempt for customers

 
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Old Jan 12, 2017, 12:09 PM
Rosemary Rosemary is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
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On 12th December 2016 I was travelling with a friend to Hong Kong. We left home in plenty of time to reach the airport, but due to a combination of factors well beyond our control - the bus being 20 minutes late, a massive traffic jam caused by a pedestrian being knocked down and then the bus driver dumping us at the Cargo bus stop miles from Terminal 5 and telling us to 'wait for the next one' - missed the flight. A young BA crew member also on the bus told us there were seats on the 20.50 flight (we were in business class) and that they would put us on that, so we weren't too concerned.

However, when we got to the customer service counter and explained why we had missed the flight, we were told that there weren't any seats 'at the price you paid' (I had bought the tickets in July) and that there wouldn't be for four more days. Waiting four days would have meant missing our time in Hong Kong AND failing to get our flight to Manila to meet up with the group we were due to be travelling on with. When I explained that, the BA staffer said the only alternative was to pay the difference - a total of 1478.20. I had paid the difference for my friend to be in business class with me as a 60th birthday present, and she was horrified at the idea of my paying still more. When we enquired if there were any premium economy class seats and were told yes, I asked for confirmation that BA would reimburse the difference between the price of those and our business class seats if we took them. "They might', he said, and when I asked what he meant, explained that since the airline had no legal obligation to do so, it probably wouldn't. There was nothing else he could do, he said, because we had 'voluntarily' not taken our original flight. I'd be interested to know which dictionary British Airways consulted to find a definition of the word 'voluntarily'. What he really meant, of course, but no doubt wasn't allowed to say by his corporate script, was 'it's your fault, not our problem', and that was certainly the impression he gave.

In the end, faced with the choice between a ruined holiday, taking an over-priced downgrade and being royally fleeced, I paid the supplement and we took the 20.50 flight. Fortunately, I could pay it, although it went against every grain of my being to do so. I shudder to think of the same bored, contemptuous, greed-fuelled treatment being meted out to say, a family with children or someone travelling for urgent compassionate reasons, to a funeral or a sick relative's bedside, for example. Two weeks after this incident my friend and I arrived at Manila airport four hours earlier than we needed to (once bitten, twice shy) for a flight back to Hong Kong. At check-in Cathy Pacific immediately offered to put us on an earlier flight without needing to be asked and without demanding additional payment of any kind. I believe they and BA are in the same One World Alliance. Perhaps BA could learn a few lessons about customer service from them.

Just to pre-empt BA's standard template reply, I know what the small print says. I'm only too aware that unless you purchase THE most expensive ticket without discount or the use of Avios points British Airways is not interested in your custom and not bothered about retaining it. And I know that the sole interest of airline management lies in squeezing every last penny they can get from their customers while providing the most basic, spartan service they think they can get away with. But there are no words to explain my disgust and disappointment at the total lack of understanding and flexibility with which we were treated. I am a very frequent flyer and over the last 35 years have given my preference to British Airways for both business and leisure travel because I wanted to support my home airline. Not any longer. Had BA shown some flexibility and re-booked us on the later flight on 12th December without demanding an extortionate supplement for it, they would have retained my loyalty and custom, something that I think they might have cared about 20 years ago. Now, sadly, I think their only focus is profit at any price, and I have no further desire to give my custom to an airline that sees me, and worse, treats me, like a milch cow and nothing more. In future, I will fly BA only when there is no alternative, and on flights to Asia I will give my custom to the Gulf airlines who actually seem to care about their passengers. So bravo British Airways, your untrammelled greed has lost you two good and loyal customers. You also ruined my friend's birthday treat and my pleasure in offering it to her, since it will be forever tainted by the memory of what happened. I'd like to think you might feel ashamed enough of yourself to offer a meaningful apology (NOT a standard reiteration of company policy sent out by an automated answering system) and even, God forbid, make a gesture by offering us some compensation for the considerable distress you've caused. But I'm not going to hold my breath.

Rosemary Hill
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