A Start.. – an apology from British Airways

5 Jun

Dear All,

I want to personally thank everyone who took the time to read and spread the word on my post “Indians comfort and loss of time is of no value to British Airways“.  I appreciate and I am glad that everyone shared their own experiences also. When I first decided to write this post, it was meant to be a letter to the CEO of British Airways highlighting my experience while flying BA. But your overwhelming support helped this feedback reach them and to get a response. I am glad to update you that BA has sent across their views on this case and an apology for their staff’s behavior at the Heathrow Airport. I am pasting this response for all of you below.

On my post I had also received numerous comments – some “good” some “bad” and some “ugly” but, in all, I think we received some good solutions, answers and suggestions from travelers across the world. This post was a feedback to BA, that they are in a service industry and their customer service should be equivalent for every passenger. They have assured us that they will take this matter seriously and I sincerely hope that they do. I have titled this post “A start..” as I hope that BA and all the other airlines (where people have had similar experiences) don’t wait for someone to complain, but proactively work on their customer service and improve.

Thanks and regards

Snigdha

“Apology from BA”

Dear Ms Jain

Thank you very much for your quick response. I had sent an email apology yesterday and have copied this below. Although I never received your follow up email on Tuesday, I was aware from your blog that you had requested a written response too. I hope my reply is useful, and am happy to call you later if required.

Thank you for contacting our Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Keith Williams about the difficulties you experienced following your flight from New York on 19 May 2014 in our World Traveller cabin. As a member of the Customer Relations team, Mr Williams has asked me to respond on his behalf. Thank you for also taking the time to discuss the issues you had raised on the telephone yesterday. It was very helpful to talk to you.

I was sorry to learn you missed your connecting flight to Mumbai, due to the delayed departure of another aircraft vacating the stand which your flight was due to occupy. I am afraid the delay was caused by the late arrival of cabin crew following two traffic accidents in the vicinity of the airport. These incidents affected a significant number of departures at Heathrow, and I am afraid the delay in removing a trolley left by the Airport Authority’s ground staff added to the problem. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience caused and for the impact this had on your journey.

Thank you for also highlighting the additional problems you experienced due to your missed connection. I appreciate you had a sixty-minute connection, which is within minimum connection times. However, there are a number of external factors that can affect the arrival time of an aircraft such as weather disruption and Air Traffic Control restrictions. I travel regularly for example and visit family in New Zealand every other year. This involves taking multiple flights and 24 hours of flying time. As a precaution, I always leave at least two hours connection time between each flight to allow for any unforeseen delays.

Regrettably, sometimes circumstances arise which are beyond the control of an airline. When this happens, we try to minimise the impact this has on our passengers. It is also vital for our customers and for our business that we operate our services on time, so the departure of your Mumbai flight would not have been delayed to accommodate passengers transferring from another aircraft. I realise this must have added to your frustration and I do apologise.

I was concerned to hear about the way the situation was handled when you were rebooked on a later flight. I appreciate you had a twelve-hour wait at Heathrow, and this must have been extremely distressing. Unfortunately lounge access is only provided for passengers travelling in our premium cabins, Silver and Gold Executive Club members and Emerald and Sapphire level Members of any oneworld airline frequent flyer programme. Other loyalty programmes linked to credit cards do indeed offer lounge access, but I am afraid this does not cover our lounges at Heathrow Terminal 5. I do acknowledge this will come as a disappointment to you.

During our telephone conversation, I explained in more detail about an airline’s obligations when a passenger is delayed. I have included a link to the Civil Aviation Authority fact sheet giving more information for flights departing from an EU airport, and flights arriving at an EU airport which are operated by an EU airline. The duty of care includes reimbursing the cost of two telephone calls and providing accommodation if delayed overnight, usually at a nearby hotel. Please bear in mind if passengers from some nationalities do not hold a visa allowing them to go “landside”, they would have to remain “airside” and would not be allowed to depart the airport due to their visa restrictions. In this situation, I appreciate through no fault of your own, you were not to know that you might require hotel accommodation.

http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/2211/CAA4396_Major_Disruption_DL_8P_Web_AW.pdf

British Airways take pride in our standards of service, and this certainly includes courteous, polite and helpful staff. The behaviour you describe is both disappointing and unacceptable, and fell short of the standards our passengers expect. I have passed your comments to the duty managers at Heathrow so the actions and behaviour you were subject to can be addressed internally. We do take incidents such as the one you describe very seriously, but I am afraid we would not disclose the outcome of any subsequent investigation to you. I realise this will come as a disappointment to you. However, please be assured that discrimination on ethnic, or any other grounds, is not tolerated by British Airways. The widely differing origins of our customers and our colleagues are a matter of pride rather than otherwise, and we take a very grave view of any report of discriminatory attitudes or behaviour.

All colleagues including myself undertake Diversity and Inclusion training, which covers the impact of stereotyping and the need to adapt behaviours to different people and situations. Our brand promise of treating everyone as an individual is embedded into our service to our customers. I regret we let you down on this occasion and I am genuinely sorry for the distress caused.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us and for giving me the opportunity to address your concerns. We value your support as a Blue member of the Executive Club and I hope despite your reservations that you will choose to fly with British Airways again in the future.

Best regards

British Airways Customer Relations
Your case reference is:12278590

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45 Responses to “A Start.. – an apology from British Airways”

  1. Sam June 6, 2014 at 00:44 #

    So nice of BA to get back to you on this. The email from then clearly is a two folded one.

    1. Please plan for unforeseen circumstances..(This point was stressed by many on the posts and also seconded by BA itself now).

    2. There are lot of things that you/we assume which are not correct. Carrying a credit card that would allow access to most of the major airport lounges is an example..

    The silver bullet point that BA conveyed to all of us out there who complain/crib about BA is – Heathrow is the most busiest airport and plan well in advance for unforeseen circumstances which may cause delay.

    I read that one of the person had written to the Air India chief executive in March 2014 and still the mail is no where.

    Regards, Sam

    Like

    • Advait June 12, 2014 at 04:00 #

      What planning has BA done for unforseen circumstances? They should not have a 1 hr connection if Heathrow is so busy.
      Moreover , Heathrow ground staff problems are a responsibility of the airline using them…..so vicarious responsibility lies with BA.
      Insofar as compensation is concerned, sue them under CPA in India
      As far as racism is concerned, difficult to prove so just hope better sense prevails on BA and other bigots

      Like

  2. Corporate traveller June 6, 2014 at 01:30 #

    So a balanced response from BA, which basically says, we’re looking into it, we did what we were legally required to do for you, but please plan better next time.

    Like

  3. R June 6, 2014 at 02:51 #

    To me, the response from BA conveys two things –

    ** It speaks highly of the airline that they took the time to respond expediently to a frivolous issue.

    ** All that the original poster and her lynch mob got out was a letter which basically points out her own naiveté, but politely.

    Congratulations! India has won.

    Like

  4. Gaurav June 6, 2014 at 04:35 #

    Here comes the response which these people always give… sugar coated pill.. Twists and turns.. He just wrote what have been told by fools at airport…. appreciate ,, apologies ,,we understand .. These people use these words to maintAin their image… On public platform or in writing they will never admit they r racists,,,,an also he cleverly stated hd cannot disclose result of ang investigation … Whats fun of an investigation where results r not being shared

    Like

    • Corporate traveller June 6, 2014 at 13:29 #

      They’re hardly going to disclose in an internet forum that a certain member of staff has been disciplined!

      Like

    • Madhavi June 6, 2014 at 14:53 #

      I agree – it was a sugar coated pill!! no redresses but pointing out Snigdha’s carelessness of not keeping enough buffer, and highlighting the personal experience as if mocking – I do this, and you did not…

      Also iterating that you are no supposed to get a hotel and / or lounge access – the least they could have done was that the airline paid for the lounge access at the airport…

      And highlighting all the their marketing messages… what customer care does this show?

      Like

    • parwatisingari June 8, 2014 at 16:48 #

      🙂 you got it right.

      Like

  5. Avid_traveller June 6, 2014 at 08:39 #

    Wish the reply from BA was more convincing. But like your headline says ” Its definitely a start ” . I have booked a lot of flights in my career and when they say plan your route where the transit time is sufficiently high , it just infers to book another flight from a different airline. Am sure the next available flight from BA during transit would have been 5 – 6 hours later.That is too long a time for a change over. So the point am trying to make here is that an airline needs to give ample time for a change over keeping in mind all the flights that are landing before the next flight takes off. Nevertheless I just hope the ground staff could be better trained to handle situations like these more systematically rather than have an attitude of ” Not my problem ‘ . These incidents don’t happen often , but when it does happen the airlines must go out of their way to see the passenger is totally comfortable for all the inconvenience caused. By doing that , the airline just earns some extra brownie points and may be that would help them gain a customer for life.

    Like

  6. Anvita June 6, 2014 at 10:39 #

    Am not entirely convinced of their response. The error seems to be on our side and not their side. ‘Regrettably and to your disappointment’ you were not to know. You were too naive to report the matter and the ball is in your court Singdha.

    Like

  7. Anunoy Samanta June 6, 2014 at 10:53 #

    Hi Snigdha, I’ve been following this case in your blog and glad that the much needed apology letter/call was made. I’m afraid that this might come to our disappointment that none of the conveniences we asked for were addressed positively, though an apology is always welcome for the survival of our delicate sentiment and optimism 😛
    Cheers and happy traveling!

    Like

    • getsetandgo June 6, 2014 at 12:29 #

      Hi Anunoy, doesnt their response make your decision easier (whether to fly with them or not)?

      Like

    • Madhavi June 6, 2014 at 14:55 #

      The airline provided no redresses but pointing out Snigdha’s carelessness of not keeping enough buffer, and highlighting the BA staff member’s personal experience as if mocking – I do this, and you did not…

      Also iterating that you are no supposed to get a hotel and / or lounge access – the least they could have done was that the airline paid for the lounge access at the airport…

      And highlighting all the their marketing messages… what customer care does this show?

      Like

  8. asarpota June 6, 2014 at 15:56 #

    The good thing is that they acknowledged and wrote to you what looks like a 2 Page apology letter.. What is standard is the regular Bull Shit that you probably expected. Premier Class, Executive class.. and all the BS.. Fact remains that despite being the Airlines fault, and more so considering LHR is BA is British, they should have catered to the basics… A clear message also that if you travel Coach, dont expect much from us…

    Dont really buy their comment of not being racist and prejudiced, but their effort to say it. Not surprised…. The one part where it comes as a slap (my view), is where Rick advises to have a 2 hour connecting time.. This is the ultimate BS (and I do hope Rick reads this), as the connections are advised by BA and on their plans. If Rick as a BA rep says to have a 2 hour layover, he should ensure that BA changes all its connections incoming and outgoing from Lon where BA is involved end to end, as they are incapable of doing it.

    At the end, a reiteration, that you are a “Blue Member” and “despite your reservations” you will fly with BA.. A shame that AI is incapable of improving their service and providing superior Service quality, which would put half of these Airlines out of business.. Take out India from all the Airlines routes, and half of them would not even be able to pay salaries.

    Like

  9. Harshit Gupta June 6, 2014 at 17:58 #

    I see the term “to your disappointment” written multiple times, which means they are protecting the BA staff at Heathrow.

    Also, British Airways has not offered any compensation to Snigdha or to the old lady who was not provided with wheelchair assistance.

    Response from Rick very cleverly avoids talking about the issue of the wheelchair assistance.

    Shame on British Airways.

    Like

    • Harshit Gupta June 6, 2014 at 18:03 #

      Snigdha should ask –

      1. Will registered connections at Heathrow be reviewed and any registered connection with time gap of less than 2 hours be removed?

      2. What is the policy on wheelchair assistance at Heathrow airport?

      3. Since comments from the Jeff (on Heathrow airport) were clearly racist, will a legal action be taken against him?

      4. Does British Airways provide meal vouchers to passengers who have missed connecting flights? If yes, what is the value?

      5. What is the policy for travellers who don’t have UK visa and hence can only stay on the “airside” of the airport?

      Like

      • Harshit Gupta June 6, 2014 at 18:08 #

        Also, Snigdha should send an email to passengercomplaints@caa.co.uk with all details.

        The response from British Airways is a slap and it shows that they won’t improve.

        Shame on British Airways.

        Like

      • Corporate traveller June 6, 2014 at 18:17 #

        I don’t work for BA, but would predict their response to such a request would be:

        1. No
        2. All passengers requiring assistance are entitled to request such assistance in advance of their flight. Provision of assistance will then be the responsibility of Heathrow Airport Limited.
        3. We are conducting a full internal investigation of the circumstances. However, UK privacy laws prevent the publication of the results of that investigation.
        4. Yes. £10
        5. They have to stay airside.

        Like

    • getsetandgo June 6, 2014 at 18:27 #

      Harshit, per my update on the post – BA had accepted on the call that since we missed a registered connection we are entitled to duty of care and compensation under the EU regulations.

      Like

      • Harshit Gupta June 6, 2014 at 20:37 #

        R – If I had gone through what Snigdha has been through; then my anger will be for the comments from Jeff – “your wastage of time and comfort has no value for us.”

        As you look like an experienced flyer, please can you confirm if this is acceptable and happens everyday to hundreds of people?

        Like

  10. Marib1946 June 6, 2014 at 18:59 #

    asarpota, you don’ fly a lot do you? If you (and others) did then you’d know minimum connection times are set by I.A.T.A. and not lufthansa,ba,klm,air France etc etc. The minimum connection times mean in an ideal world if everything goes smoothly,you’d make your connection. If you don’t believe me,go on heathrow airport’s website and check it out for yourself. After that, it’s down to a passenger to make a choice…”do I leave myself a 3 hour connection…or risk 1 hour knowing if things go pear shaped i’ll have gained 2 hours and lost 12?” I know which i’d choose!!
    Snigdha-good news on the compensation by the way 🙂

    Like

    • Harshit Gupta June 6, 2014 at 21:12 #

      I don’t think Snigdha has received any compensation yet. Maybe I have missed it.

      Nevertheless, I will continue to NOT fly British Airways.

      Like

      • getsetandgo June 6, 2014 at 21:14 #

        You are correct Harshit. I havent received any compensation from BA yet. They have confirmed we are entitled to it. But I don’t want to explain myself.

        Like

  11. sunnywheeze June 6, 2014 at 21:30 #

    Is it just me or does anybody else think that this is not an apology but instead sarcasm on how to take a gap of atleast 2 hrs between connecting flights and that BA is entitled to provide 2 Int’l telephone calls . Wow Thank you sir for your kindness.

    Like

    • Harshit Gupta June 7, 2014 at 00:11 #

      Yes this is sarcasm.

      British Airways will not respond in such a manner to a European.

      This situation can improve ONLY if all Asians collectively boycott British Airways

      Like

      • prashant June 7, 2014 at 21:22 #

        boycott BA

        Like

  12. Footydoc June 8, 2014 at 02:47 #

    The Corporate Communications department in BA appears to be pretty good. They got a suit with a title to dash off an empathetic well-worded response with a profit a apology that conceded nothing. And politely reminded Snigdha that she was both naive to leave just an hour for a connection and over-reacted by crying ‘racist’ when BA followed standard policy in such cases. The accusations by Snigdha about poor communication by frontline BA staff at Heathrow is a mere allegation, and staff at BA are likely to have been reminded of their responsibilities and perhaps had a nominal re-training. End of matter.

    The over-reaction by Indians in the comments section of Snigdha’s blog to the travails of an obviously inexperienced international traveller who seemed to see ‘racism’ in every action or utterance by BA is both disappointing and amusing. We Indians lack insight – Snigdha would have been very happy for her flight from London to Delhi to have been held back and delayed to accommodate her, despite the inconvenience and annoyance it might have caused to the hundreds of passengers already on that flight. Had this happened, Would those passengers have been entitled to scream ‘racism’ like sensitive Snigdha does?!

    At the end of the day, Snigdha has created a furore about very little, gained no compensation or nothing tangible bar a bit of ego massage via an email and telephone call from someone in BA, and is hopefully wiser for the experience. And will hopefully think twice before hollering unfounded accusations of ‘racism’ in future.

    Like

  13. Sai June 8, 2014 at 10:03 #

    Personally never travelled BA.
    But I always read reviews before
    And I have heard similar bad treatment experiences before. Glad someone took the stand. Given other choices I flew united and emirates.

    For the people who think this effort is trivial, guys something always better than nothing. Also next time CEO sits in a boardroom at some corner some one will have india and the complaint in mind.

    Like

  14. Jayasankar June 8, 2014 at 14:33 #

    Hi. I don’t think this was any apology at all. It was just a letter starting with an ” apology” but followed by the reiteration of the facts that u r not eligible for anything that u thought is normal and that whatever the staff at heathrow airport told you was the rules and regulations and that u were demanding facilities beyond your eligibility and please understand this. Would suggest that you please fly air india in future and at least you cannot be subjected to racism.

    Like

  15. Prashant Tatake June 8, 2014 at 21:07 #

    Flying from US to India has taught me only one thing. Avoid European connections be it Air France, KLM, BA, Lufthansa. All are the same….terrible. If things go as per plan then you are ok. If there is a miss either on weather or any other like you experienced then all are the same. So over time I have realized that its best to transit thru the middle east specially Dubai with Emirates, Abu Dabhi with Etihad or Doha with Qatar. The best part is if you miss a connection there are alteast 5 more flights in the day which will get you home. Plus the crew/staff is multinational and not rascist like the Biritish that you experienced. I have had many epxeriences with missed connections and the almost 100% of the times i have had issues with european airlines and in contrast with the Middle east airlines especially Emirates, the service has been exceptional. so all in all just one learning….go east or west avoid eurpoean airlines and fly with the mid east airlines.

    Like

  16. ek_ladki June 11, 2014 at 14:42 #

    Snighda, consider asking them these questions –

    Why does BA not offer equal compensation to *all* its paying customers? Some passengers get hotel rooms, others are to fend for themselves based on visa policy (not created by BA, true) – but BA chooses to compensate some customers by giving them a hotel room vs. others. So, how come a passenger from a non valid visa country gets only a fraction of the compensation money spent on another passenger who presumably paid the same ticket price?

    Also, BA is not doing justice to its shareholders by spending extra money on perks for some customers. Since BA thinks that even elderly and disabled passengers can spend hours in an inconvenient airport, why does it spend extra money on some able-bodied passengers who could also avail of the airport floor?

    Like

  17. Shilpa June 11, 2014 at 22:34 #

    “I appreciate you had a twelve-hour wait at Heathrow, and this must have been extremely distressing.”

    WTH does he mean by this? Is he really appreciating the 12 hr wait time or the fact that it was extremely distressing to Snigdha? Really? Or am I reading something else?

    Also, if BA doesn’t tolerate discrimination based on ethnic grounds then why do we have so many complaints on that ground alone?

    Snigdha, this letter is just a page load of crap that anyone who knows how to use MS Word (using multiple synonym for sorry) can draft out.

    You should seriously consider taking this to a consumer court or something like that. A mere page of apology isn’t just enough.

    In their own words “This letter is regrettably disappointing and but please be assured it ain’t over yet. I do acknowledge this will come as a disappointment to you (BA).”

    It’s time we start a campaign “Boycott BA/European Airlines”!!

    Like

  18. Ash Goel June 14, 2014 at 16:58 #

    Are you going to compile all the feedback that you received on your previous blog post? Also, are you going to write a quick guide on rights of travellers?

    Like

    • Ash Goel June 17, 2014 at 16:03 #

      Is Snigdha going to compile all the feedback that she received on her previous blog post? I think that will be a good place for travellers to know about their rights in such situations.

      Like

      • getsetandgo June 21, 2014 at 10:59 #

        I am… its WIP and shall be up soon…

        Like

  19. Ankit July 20, 2014 at 12:23 #

    Ms Jain,
    I am not convinced with the response from BA Team. Its a sugar coated response and after having such a bad experience, such “typical” call centre response holds no value.

    I have been to heathrow airports on many occasions and had layover of more than 8 hours. Its difficult to spend such long hours. You must be entitled to have lounge access. 10 GBP voucher holds no good value.

    I personal feel that with Indian carriers flying everywhere, it better to fly with Indian Carrier. Jet Airways is good to fly with.

    Regards,
    Ankit Jain

    Like

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