Update as on June 3, 2014 – IST 8.00 pm – Thanks everyone for reading and sharing this post. I received a call from a BA representative on my complaint and he acknowledged receipt of my email to their CEO, Mr. Williams. He apologized for the inconvenience we experienced with BA. He accepted that since we missed a registered connection we are entitled to duty of care and compensation under the EU regulations. He accepted that the behavior meted out to us was unacceptable and also explained our rights in case we miss such connections (for future reference). They shall also work on improving their customer care to avoid such future incidents. I have requested them for a written apology and shall share it on the blog once I get it. Additionally, Rick’s feedback and some of the comments on my post have been very constructive in spreading awareness on our rights and possible next steps, should we find ourselves in a similar situation again. I shall write a detailed post on this and share.
Update as on June 2, 2014 – IST 5.30pm – Thanks everyone for helping me spread the word on this. I have just received a standard email from British Airways Customer Care apologising for the inconvenience and confirming that they will look into this matter. I will keep you all updated on the progress.
This post is my letter to the CEO of British Airways recounting my recent experiences while flying British Airways from New York to Mumbai. Thanks to many of you who found the concerned email id for me and I have now sent this as an email out to him. I am also posting this as a blog post and hope that this makes a difference in the way British Airways treats its Indian customers.
May 31, 2014
Mr. Keith Williams
CEO – British Airways PLC
I had recently read a blog-post (which went viral on the internet) about an Indian national flying with Air France who was stranded in Paris, only to witness inhumane treatment at the hand of the airlines staff. I have since then removed Air France from my list of preferred carriers, but I had little knowledge then of the similar experience which I was going to face from British Airways (BA) when I flew from New York to Mumbai. And I must say that the entire experience has been an eye opener for me on British Airways condescending and arrogant attitude towards its customers; especially Indian nationals.
To give you a brief introduction, I am a marketing professional with a leading bank in India and a travel blogger (amongst top 50 travel bloggers in India). Thus you should know that this was not my first international flying experience and that I am not a novice who didn’t know how international flights and connections work.
On 18 May 2014, I travelled by British Airways flight ‘BA 114’ from JFK airport, New York to Heathrow airport, London and then had to connect via flight ‘BA 139’ to Mumbai. There was an hour’s difference between the two flights in Heathrow, London. As I was apprehensive about the little time difference between the flights at London, I pestered the travel agent who in turn checked with the airline and confirmed that this was a registered connection with the airlines and thus there was no chance of missing the connecting flight. I then booked these flights.
As planned and scheduled, I boarded BA 114 from New York and landed in Heathrow, London with a 10 minute delay on 19 May 2014. After a few minutes of landing at Heathrow, while the aircraft was standing near the parking bay, the Captain of BA 114 announced that “there is a delay in parking of the aircraft because another aircraft is standing in our parking bay”. We waited and were anxious about missing our connecting flight, but checked with the cabin crew who very kindly gave us their standard reply “the airlines knows that you have a connecting flight and about this delay, someone will meet you outside the aircraft to assist you”. All this was re-assuring and we waited for the next 30 minutes. After this the Captain announced that “there was a delay in parking our aircraft, as the other aircraft had still not taken off. And the reason for the other aircraft’s delay was that – one of the ground employees had forgotten to detach the cargo trolley from this aircraft, which was parked at BA 114’s parking bay. This means that the aircraft can’t take off until someone detaches that trolley.” After this announcement, we waited for the next 30 minutes (which means an hour in total) for something which was a BA ground staff’s responsibility and error and not a mistake of our aircraft from New York.
Let me also inform you that while we were waiting inside the aircraft, the crew made an announcement about a Vienna flight and a Helsinki flight, but there was no announcement about the Mumbai or Delhi flights. And your ground personnel later told us that they had requested the crew to make an announcement, but I wonder what happened to your prejudiced crew to forget only about Indian connecting flight announcements.
By the time we de-boarded BA 114, our BA registered connecting flight BA 139 had forgotten about its six passengers who had arrived by BA 114 on time and were jammed at the parking bay at Heathrow, and had flown off to India.
At this point of time, I was really upset. And while we were all waiting in a long queue to re-issue our tickets, I noticed that your staff was extremely rude and in some cases even shouting at Indian passengers who had missed their connecting flights to Mumbai or Delhi.
In contrast their behavior towards foreigners i.e. EU travelers was extremely polite and courteous. In fact on several occasions I even heard your staff say to the Indian passengers that the entire reason for us missing our flight was in fact not an airlines error at all, it was a risk of travel. Honestly do you expect us to accept this logic?????
Finally after waiting for an hour we reached the re-issue ticket window and had a chance to speak with your representative, Jeff. He checked and informed all of us that the next flight to Mumbai was after 12 hours. Since there was such a long gap for the next flight we requested Jeff for some place to rest. And he informed us that “since the flight was in less than 24 hours, we were not entitled to any hotel”. We then requested for a lounge access, to be declined again, saying that “since we were not traveling business or first class we were not entitled to any lounge access”. I have a travel credit card that entitles lounge access at all major airports, and again they denied as we were not traveling business or first class. We were even ready to pay for the lounge access but they again declined. Exasperated we asked if our comfort and wastage of time mattered to BA at all and Jeff’s exact words were “No Sir, your wastage of time and comfort has no value for us. As a goodwill gesture we are giving you a GBP 10 voucher (which also we are not required to) and that’s it. In fact legally we just have to reissue a ticket”. Thanks for the eye-opener Mr. William, that our comfort and time has no value for BA. Additionally let me inform you Mr. Williams that if anyone can afford a ticket worth GBP 1,000 then they can definitely afford food worth GBP 10. You don’t have any respect for your customers then why do you ply to India. Why don’t you just cater to the EU and Americas’ region if you and your staff are so prejudiced?
We were then left to fend for ourselves on the uncomfortable airport chairs for the next 12 hours. I had an urgent and important meeting back in India, the morning of May 20, 2014 but clearly there was no value of my urgent meeting or loss to BA.
In the long list of people to have missed the connecting flight, there was also an old lady who had wheel chair assistance. But from the moment they dropped her at the ticket reissuing counter there was no wheel chair assistance provided. In fact when we were to board the next flight to Mumbai (which was from Gate C of Terminal 5 and we were on Gate A), your customer care asked her to walk to the wheel chair assistance office and they would be happy to assist her from there. In this scenario, I totally fail to understand the meaning of wheel chair assistance or even your customer care.
The only saving grace was the next flight took off from London on time without any further mishaps.
On my return, I looked up at the laws prevailing delays in flights and lo and behold found this on your own BA website, which talks about a compensation for delays above 4 hours for all flights !!!!!- http://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/legal/flight-cancellation-compensation.
And please don’t even bother to tell me that this was a delay due to extraordinary circumstances, as it was not. This was a delay due to an error of your ground staff.
Needless to say, I am glad that this entire episode is now behind me but I would still like to spread a word amongst my friends and family – about our value (i.e. customers and Indians) to BA. During this entire episode not a single member of your staff had the courtesy to apologize for this human error at your end and behave with us in a courteous or an accommodative manner. BA flies to and from five or six Indian cities and with the pace at which you’re expanding (and trying to woo Indian consumers), we do contribute to your revenue as tourists or as business travellers.
I work in the service industry myself and can conclude that your company and employees do not know the definition of customer service, are unprofessional and do not know how to interact or behave with customers. A quick Google scan and I realize that I am not the first person to get such a treatment from your airlines, still it has done nothing to improve your attitude towards your customers or improve your service deficiencies. Also, please do note that we don’t fly your airlines for free but pay a full price and expect an equal level of customer service that you are obligated to provide without having any prejudice.
I shall definitely spread my BA experience amongst all my friends, colleagues and travel blogging communities. And in case anyone now wants to book a BA, at least they can be mentally prepared for your service levels and attitude towards us.
So let me safely conclude this letter and say that the next time I see a BA India ad of a husband gifting a romantic holiday to his wife and how BA makes it all happen, I will only recall the words that my loss of time and comfort is of no value to BA.
And everyone reading this post, please avoid BA and if for some reason you do travel on their flights, then please do it at your own risk and be prepared for similar prejudiced treatment from their staff at all stages.
Thanks and regards
Name: Snigdha Jain
Booking Reference Number: 5DDQ5D
Flight and First Port of Boarding:BA 114, John F. Kennedy Airport, USA
Connect Flight and Airport: BA 139, London Heathrow
Complaint Reference Number: 12278590