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To be royally peed off with BA

(39 Posts)
sweetleigh Fri 19-Aug-11 07:41:53

The following account happened from catching a return flight to Cape Town via connecting stopover in Joburg on Virgin Atlantic and British Airways while I was 30 weeks pregnant. (VA flight from London to Joburg then connecting BA flight to CT).Would you be annoyed? To this date, British Airways rung me once from a hidden number, lied and said they had tried me twice (funny how they still bother to lie even though there are mobile phones with missed call facilities). I emailed to get a number for customer service. When I got one it turned out to be an automated lost baggage line. A further request for a service line was not responded to. A week later I get an automated email from BA asking me about whether I'm pleased with their customer service. - Grrr! Anyway, here goes....

The flight out was standard, without a problem. The flight back was nothing short of disaster. Upon check-in at the BA desk in Cape Town, I was told that the flight to Johannesburg was delayed by half an hour. Obviously concerned by the time constraints, when I questioned whether I would make the connecting flight I was assured that there would be no problem and that I would still make the connection. My bag would be checked through to London.

After waiting through the delay, I boarded the plane. While waiting for take-off a disgruntled young man approached the cockpit (I had no idea someone could do this without being arrested) arguing with flight attendants aggressively until everyone was staring, he was obviously bothered by the delay as he too probably had a connection, this seemed to concern a few other passengers.

At the end of the flight, after the plane landed but while the plane was till taxi-ing there was an announcement that all connecting passengers must move towards the front of the plane in order to proceed as quickly as possible. I have never ever heard an announcement on a plane telling passengers to get up while the plane is still moving. Not only that, the passengers were all getting their carryon luggage down from the overhead lockers which caused mayhem due to connecting passengers almost dropping their luggage on those who were still seated. As a pregnant woman it was very difficult to steady myself.

Strangely despite all the announcements on the plane by the time I got to the connecting flight it had closed and I was not allowed on. The Virgin check-in desk told me they were closed (I had already checked through in Cape Town though so not sure why that would matter). The Virgin staff refused to help me, telling me to go to the BA desk instead.


BA staff were completely unhelpful and would not give me any answers. There was no apology, they just told me that ?a woman is coming with a hotel voucher?. They could not give me any answer as to the whereabouts of my bag although they thought it would not have gone to London. By now, most of the desks are closed, the BA staff are looking at pictures on their mobile phones which seems endlessly more fascinating than helping someone locate their bags or giving me any indication about where I?ll be staying. After 20 minutes of them horsing around, I repeatedly asked them where the woman with the voucher was only to get blank stares in return. IAnother 10 minutes rolls by, when I asked her to pick up the phone and find out she did after 5 minutes, giving the answer to my question as ?now-now?, as extremely irritating, unprofessional response which is a South African expression which has no particular reference to any timescale, it?s neither here nor there.


I was told that my baggage might be in the domestic arrivals hall (a good 15 minute walk for a pregnant woman like myself) and I should go there, although there was no confirmation as to whether the bag was actually there or not. When I replied that I, as a pregnant woman, it was not good for me to keep walking this distance (I had already been to various parts of the airport when trying to catch my connecting flight) I was told by her in a condescending manner that I shouldn?t be flying then. Now, can you imagine how infuriating it is to be stuck in this situation with this remark from a person who can?t be bothered to do her job or let alone answer any questions about where my bag is, or even be bothered to pick up a phone and call someone who might be able to do something about it. Might I mention at this point that I have been cleared for flying by my doctor, who has specified in the Virgin form that there is no complications with my pregnancy and there is no reason I can?t fly. (I was 30 weeks pregnant at the time). I was also told by her that a connection of less than 2 hours is illegal. (Weird then that this exact route came up under Virgin?s name on lastminute.com, one of the biggest travel booking agents in the UK)


After a long wait, here comes lady with the voucher, at last. In between that here comes over someone from Virgin to say to me in a condescending manner (as if talking to a child): ?oh, you didn?t tell me you checked in at Cape Town did you?? (this was a blatant lie on her part) The BA staff member tells me that BA is not covering toiletries as there are ?toiletries in the hotel?, not that I had asked - Where she thought I would be able to buy toiletries at that time of night I have no idea. She then hands me a voucher with NO DRINKS written across it in caps like I am some child trying to run up a bar bill.

The BA staff member then told me that I was to go and get my luggage although there was some debate amongst staff as to where it was. It was first decided that it was in a luggage hold in domestic arrivals, the story was changed to it was in a hold below somewhere and the person going to get it would need clearance which meant that someone has to go with me. I then has to wait while 2 BA staff members debated as to whether the one staff member has ever had to go through luggage clearance with a pass (?yes you have?, ?no I haven?t?, ?yes, you have? etc) I have still not been told where the shuttle to the hotel is, no-one seems to really know. I am told to wait and off she goes to get a pass for clearance, promising to come back, I am told I musn?t move.

I am now sitting behind the closed BA check-in desk with no-one around (all the desks are closed) bar a few security guards, few lone workers. Another half an hour goes by, by which time I am now so tired I approach what I can only assume is a BA staff office as it appears to be the only place where I see staff now that everything is closed. I enter the office and ask for the lady who disappeared a half hour ago. No, she is gone, there is now someone else to take over who then informs me that the luggage place is closed (apparently since 9.30pm) and I must come back in the morning and try to locate my bag.

I now just want the shuttle, no-one seems to be sure where it goes from. BA staff man has told us that he knows and would escort me but is going to some meeting. I am then told by the other BA staff woman that she does not know really and would come with me but she needs to clock off her shift in 10 minutes and if she does not wait around she will not get paid.
As I grew up in South Africa, I am fully aware that you do not go ambling around in the dark to try to get to somewhere you don?t know. I tell her I will wait the last 10 minutes for her at the office. This turns into about a half hour ? me waiting outside the office, while BA staff sit around reading the newspaper and laughing and joking ? this supposedly is the wrap up meeting, although it looks to me like it?s just a tea break. Finally she emerges and off we go to find the shuttle bus (incidentally you have to walk through a dark passage off to the side of the Intercontinental ? hardly anyone around given the time and would have been a scary experience for someone who was alone dragging her carryon, without any potential to run). We get to the shuttle point (again no-one around except a few drivers), BA Staff member takes my number and tells me she will call me the next day at a specified time. She also gives me the number of the luggage department. She mentions that ?if she forgets? can I phone the luggage department (don?t really believe at this point that she will phone which was the correct assumption because she didn?t). So I am now the lone passenger that boards the completely dark shuttle. With my mobile dying I feel very vulnerable, having no indication where I?m going. Driver eventually deposits me at the hotel, during which I have a conversation with him which reveals that I was lied to about the time the shuttle ran to (I was told it was 12, but the driver informs me this is not the case and I am on one of the last, if not the last one.)

At last at the hotel with no clothing to change into, the following day after no call from BA I call the luggage office who day they?ll phone me back. Eventually I phone back again after no call back, they tell me they have located my bag and it is in domestic departures. I must come to the airport very early and get it and then go to international departures to get a Virgin flight that I have been booked on for that evening. The only indication of this booking that I have been given is a printout of flight times which someone at BA has circled.

9 hours before departure I go to the airport, to the office and get my bag, no apology as to what happened the night before, being told that they had tried to get my bag to me but I had already left (a blatant lie again as I had been there until way after the office was closed, and I was told it was closed).

I then had the luggage for the remaining hours until check-in opened. I went to the BA desk in international departures to check that I was definitely on the flight. I was told all BA flight are full so that wasn?t an option, although she did not seem to check. However was then told to go to the Virgin office which I was told would be opening at 4.30pm. I waited till the appropriate time and then asked the Virgin staff about the flight. It was then informed that I would have to pay £120 as a rebooking fee for flying that evening and because I missed my flight the previous evening. As you can imagine, I was gob smacked. When telling them it was not my fault that I had missed the flight, they looked at me in disbelief and asked indignantly: ?whose fault do you think it is?? (high-pitched voice) Response from me: ?Yours?. I then explained to them the situation and that possibly they could see why I am now feeling the way I am. I was then given the veiled threat: ?If you want to fly tonight, you?ll pay?.

At my request, a supervisor was then called who decided, like she was doing me a huge favour, still no apology, waived the fee. By this stage another woman in the queue, equally gob smacked by their rude behaviour was also making comments.

To add insult to injury, after eventually getting on the plane I was stuck in a seat that didn?t recline. I had now missed a day?s work, my wedding anniversary, was too tired to work on the day of my return and run up an extortionate bill on my mobile phone phoning family and work long distance to rearrange my schedule.

SenoritaViva Fri 19-Aug-11 16:48:49

I am sorry I simply gave up reading this, think you should have summarised a little better!

SleepyFergus Fri 19-Aug-11 17:07:24

Well I didn't give up reading! (how rude to bother leaving a comment saying so!)

Anyway, the 'service' you have experienced is simply shocking, regardless of your pregnancy which must have made you feel more vulnerable and exhausted. You need to write to both Virgin and BA customer service, and also to the chairman/ head honcho of each. Send by recorded delivery and on tbe copy to cust service, say a copy has gone to the top bosses.

Keep on at them, you deserve some compensation from them. Good luck!

SenoritaViva Fri 19-Aug-11 17:17:28

I don't think it was rude, I was giving her some advice on future posts.

Tomorrowslookingfine Fri 19-Aug-11 17:18:37

YANBU their service sounds shocking! If I were you I would follow the advice SleepyFergus gave you and write a letter of complaint.

DorisIsAPinkDragon Fri 19-Aug-11 17:24:49

Agree with sleepyFergus It is shocking service (although it shouldn't really be called that!). As at every turn dis- service was what you received. I would agree to a very stongly worded letter to any and all the head honcho's and persistance for an appropriate response.

cornflowers Fri 19-Aug-11 17:25:31

Agree, sounds like a catalogue of incompetence from the ground staff. I know what it's like to miss a connecting flight, but this is clearly something else. Definitely write a complaint letter, but use bullet points & be a succinct as possible. I experienced appalling customer service on a BA flight to Sydney a couple of years ago, and was happy to fill in the customer satisfaction survey they emailed to me a couple of weeks later. Sadly, my list of grievances was so long it exceeded the alotted word count & had to be abbreviated before I could submit it. I never got around to writing an actual letter, and regret it.

amicissima Fri 19-Aug-11 17:30:56

Apologies if I have misunderstood anything, but it's a very long post!

I'm surprised you didn't book a direct flight London/Cape Town (or vv, I can't work out which direction you were travelling in).

AFAIK when you book two flights, unless they are with the same airline they are considered to be two separate journeys. Ie you are expected to get yourself to the second flight on time just as you would if you had been arriving by car or train. Were you not aware of this? I don't know the rules but I think you were lucky to get a hotel room as it wasn't a through booking with one airline.

I'm not sure about the pregnancy thing, either. Obviously it's nice if people help you out when you are pregnant, but either you are fit enough to fly, with all the slogging around airports involved, or you are not, or you need assistance, which needs to be booked in advance.

I'm no apologist for BA, who seem to have been very sloppy with you, specially as I had a poor experience when they downgraded and split up my family in a very off-hand manner in the US. I find their staff better in the UK in general. All the same, in the end you got where you were going and a hotel, and your bags.

MadamDeathstare Fri 19-Aug-11 17:38:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BootyMum Fri 19-Aug-11 17:45:10

Sorry, agree with SenoritaViva...

I got through approximately half the post and then gave up.

You might get more responses if you edit a bit [for future reference]
Well, it is Friday evening and relax/glass of wine time..!

But from what I read it sounds like terrible service and I would also be infuriated.

izzywhizzyletsgetbusy Fri 19-Aug-11 17:56:41

I wasn't aware that you are based in mumsnet towers Viva or that it is your particular duty to advise on length or brevity of posts. Of course, had you wanted to be helpful, you could have written a brief summary of her post for the OP but perhaps you're about to clock off after an arduous day of monitoring and moderating?

Your account of your trials and tribulations with BA and Virgin is why I avoid using their services, OP, unless I intend to travel business/first or 'upper class' - in which case I prefer to pay other airlines a premium for my seat.

However, I seem to recall reading that the topic of length of time allowed between interconnecting flights is currently under scrutiny because so many travellers have been disaffected by airlines failing to schedule sufficient time to effect transfer of baggage and passengers to their onward flights.

If you google this subject you may find an alternative body to address your valid complaint to. In the meantime, I suggest you write to Mr Pickle himself c/o Necker Island and also to the head honcho at BA who, I believe, may still be little Willie Walsh.

<<wonders why those who can't be arsed to read a long post can be arsed to leave a comment to that effect>>

Istillfeelseventeen Fri 19-Aug-11 18:01:19

OP you have my sympathy, really hope you get some kind of resolution.

Re BA Customer Service, I have to say I had a very good experience this week. having read in the paper recently that William and Kate received £200 compensation as the in-flight entertainment didn't work on a flight they had been on, I emailed BA to say that I had been on a flight to NY in May when the system had failed. I fully expected a reply to the effect "You paid for a seat lady, not a movie" but was amazed to get a reply the next day saying "here are 5000 airmiles and £100 worth of vouchers towards next flight".

Lonnie Fri 19-Aug-11 18:04:05

Agree with Sleepy official letter of complaint registered mail with CC to top bosses..

Also agree that it was a rude first post.. if you feel it was to long them dont bother reading and move on to a easier read thread

bibbitybobbityhat Fri 19-Aug-11 18:06:29

Too long for me too, sorry.

microserf Fri 19-Aug-11 19:03:48

it really is a very long post OP. however, since i have a passionate loathing of BA, I was motivated to read to the end. skimmed a bit in the middle, which you could summarise as: "every ba staff member arsed me around at every possible opportunity as if it was a new olympic sport and they were practising for the 2012 gold".

my suggestion is cut and paste the post into a letter and send it to BA. their ground staff are unbelievably SHIT at helping people. but their customer service team might be motivated to give you points if you're a member of their miles club. negotiate the miles, don't accept the first offer. "blah, that's outrageous, i was heavily pregnant and you treated me like crap, etc etc". otherwise it'll be some shit money off voucher if you're not a member i suspect, although i'd try for a refund. also consider formal complaint to their regulator in the UK - why not?

my own story can be summarised as: BA takes off without any bags without telling passengers. it is 2 days before xmas. makes announcement in air that ground staff will be available to help all affected passengers on landing. all ba ground staff fuck off home before plane lands and leave some poor woman employed by the airport (not BA) in front of a heaving queue of furious people. eventually, she gives up and just begins to cry. so do many passengers. took weeks of frustration to get the bag back.

i hate them, and i hated them even when i had a gold card with them! ah, those were the days before kids...

fifitrixibellesmith Fri 19-Aug-11 19:15:52

i gave up reading as well after the "i am pregnant so obviously more speshul than yewwwwwww"

Portofino Fri 19-Aug-11 19:23:52

According to previous posts you already had your baby, so why are you coming here to complain now, month's afterwards?

Portofino Fri 19-Aug-11 19:25:23

Ooh - errant apostrophe!

bruxeur Fri 19-Aug-11 19:27:57

tlatbdr

Catslikehats Fri 19-Aug-11 19:34:57

Agree your post is too long - if you're going to complain you need two paragraohs max.

Second for whatever reason you chose to split your travel between two airlines. Presumably it was cheaper to do so, you now have to pay the price. Swings and roundabouts with these things but if you don't want the risk, don't book seperate flights.

Thirdly the I'm too tired and pregnant excuse is a bit hmm

cjbartlett Fri 19-Aug-11 19:42:02

Why search her previous posts fgs

Portofino Fri 19-Aug-11 19:48:51

Because I never saw her before and it was a strange "nearly" first post.

Itsjustafleshwound Fri 19-Aug-11 19:55:41

Internal flights are notoriously bad in South Africa - if you can't fly to the town directly, then allow lots of time ....

When I fly to CT I make sure it is a one-way and I don't have to deal with the hell that is Jhb International ...

squeakytoy Fri 19-Aug-11 20:04:41

If it was only a half hour delay, that really is not too much. You must have booked your second flight with a very tight time margin, which is never a good idea.

ChumleeIsMyHomeboy Fri 19-Aug-11 20:09:46

Surely the question should be ' why NOT search her previous posts'??

What an extraordinarily complicated story, much of which sounds either embellished or borderline unhinged.

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