BA Exec Club Uses Online Message Board to Update its LHR Upgrade PolicyBack to Forum
AnonymousGuest22 Mar 2008
In an extraordinary move, the British Airways Executive Club has set out a new policy for awarding upgrades to passengers departing from London’s Heathrow airport.
With significantly reduced numbers of check-in desks, and no priority lines for Club World passengers, the airline is relying on a significantly higher proportion of check-in to be made on-line, then proceeding to the bag drop without interacting with a BA staff member until that final stage.
At http://www.ba.com/terminal5 which opens on Thursday March 27, only FIRST and Gold card holders will have the option of a personalised check-in experience in the dedicated FIRST Check-In area.
Obviously the airline needs to create incentives to ensure the required numbers do check in online to avoid chaos. But rather than bunging everyone 500 BA miles, as many US carriers have been doing for years, BA has chosen a rather bizarre and IMHO counterproductive approach to this issue.
It seems BA has taken to posting policy changes in online bulletin boards. The recently joined official BA Executive Club representative has posted the following advice to travellers:
“As our move into Terminal 5 draws closer, we wanted to let you know about a change we will be making which will provide additional benefits to you when using online check-in for flights departing from Heathrow.
On busy flights, ‘on the day’ upgrades will now be issued by selecting from Gold and Silver Executive Club members who have used ba.com to check-in online and print their own boarding pass before those Gold and Silver members who have checked-in at the airport.
Once our Gold and Silver members have been upgraded, we will apply this same approach to select from our Blue members, and then other customers.
Our customer service agents at the airport will communicate any upgrades to you before you board the aircraft.
We are implementing this change to encourage as many customers as possible to use online check-in before we move into Terminal 5.
In the new terminal, customers who have used ba.com to check-in and print their own boarding pass can expect to drop any baggage at a Fast Bag drop desk, complete any required passport or visa checks and pass through security within approximately 10 minutes of arriving at the terminal (subject to a normal operation on the day).
As always, we are interested in your opinions on our service and we will continue to monitor this thread for any feedback you have.
British Airways Executive Club”
Whilst it would not seem unreasonable for this priority to have been applied in the past, the advice given is worrying on three counts.
First, it directly contradicts BA’s stated upgrade policy, reply 448 at askba on ba.com:
“Upgrades on British Airways flights
Can I get upgraded for free on a British Airways flight ?
Although passengers often ask for complimentary upgrades, we must decline even if seats in forward cabins are available. Not only would we be unable to accommodate everyone who makes such a request, but also, any selection process would inevitably lead to disappointment for others.
Some further points on this popular topic:
Occasionally circumstances dictate that we upgrade some passengers, usually because of cabin overbooking or aircraft substitution, to avoid leaving customers stranded.
Should upgrades be required, preference is given in the first instance to our Gold Executive Club members, followed then by any members of the Silver tier. However, there may be instances when airport staff must make such upgrading decisions quickly and at random in order to avoid last minute confusion or a delayed aircraft departure.”
Second, it has been issued to a closed user group http://www.flyertalk.com of frequent flyers by a quasi-official BA employee, which just doesn’t seem the right way for a major organisation such as BA to promulgate this information.
Most of us are only too happy to check in online, where you really need to incentivise and get the word out is for the infrequent traveller who will clog up the check in hall struggling to use the automated check in kiosks.
Third, the very mention of the word upgrade can set hares running, and the responses to that thread do bring this out, making the very valid point that this creates an expectation among premium travellers that they are likely to get an upgrade, whereas in fact BA still has a very restrictive policy in this area, only releasing seats for upgrades due operational reasons (eg overbooking).
Using the phrase “once our Gold and Silver Tier members are upgraded” is poor use of language, and sets an unrealisable expectation.
There is very real concern this will lead to an entitlement culture, and if indeed this is the polciy it would devalue the premium cabins, as has happened on many US based carriers.
I don’t think this approach has been properly thought through; it is not targetted correctly, unprofessional, somewhat misleading and likely to create more dissatisfaction than harmony, while failing to achieve the objective of encouraging those who may not have previously checked in online to do so.
Would have been much better to give an incentive for infrequent travellers to join BAEC, with a 5,000 BA miles joining bonus for non members flying from T5 if they check in from home, PYOBP and populate their passport and other required information in advance before taking their first flight from T5 in the next three months.
Give the rest of us 500 miles per online check at T5 in up to a stated maximum.
This use of official airline representatives on blogging/online forum sites would be an interesting article for BT to cover in the coming months; such representation is on the whole positive, but needs to be handled very carefully to ensure the brand is not damaged by miscommunication.
Starwood has a strong online monitoring team, and OpenSkies is one of the first airlines to have its own blog.
And never forget that BA and other airlines formally monitor sites like this – so if you find a great bargain or loophole do think twice about posting it publicly.22 Mar 2008
As a BA Gold member and very regular traveler, this new policy is irritating. Given that I reguarly travel on tickets with multiple sectors (not standard one-way or round trip), I am commonly NOT able to check in online. I see no reason why travellers like myself should be put at an upgrade disadvantage (for the very few upgrades BA does) just because we are not able to check in online for some reason.22 Mar 2008
I was unaware of this change in policy..
I always try to check in online where possible, but as the post above states, this is not always feasible if you are crossing multiple sectors.24 Mar 2008
IMHO operational upgrades are, in reality, far and few between. I have been flying BA for more years than I care to remember and have been a Gold member for almost as long. In those many many years I have only had an OPUP once on a flight from AMS to LHR!2 May 2008