BA inflexibilityBack to Forum
Anonymous30 Aug 2011
Firstly, I’d like to thank all the contributors to the many threads that I’ve read over the years, with great familiarity / sympathy / humour! I’ve been a gold EC member for 6 years, and like most readers here have experienced my range of highs and lows with BA. However, I’ve never been so frustrated as I was recently and so wanted to ask whether any of you have experienced anything similar?
I typically travel long haul every 2 to 3 weeks and a couple of short haul in between. In fact, the two exceptions in the last 5 years have been the arrival of my two sons, one as recently as this July. And indeed, this is the catalyst in this debacle. My last (long haul) trip before our predicted “due date” was to JNB, 7 weeks before our son was predicted to arrive. I did not consider this to be cavalier and so booked a non flexible First return. Having arrived in JNB on Sunday evening, I was terrified to receive a call from my wife on Monday afternoon telling me she thinks she was going into labour! Naturally I was concerned that the fastest I could get home would be 12 hours from the flight departing JNB in 3 hours, so I called Gold EC ticketing immediately to ask if there was anything they could do in the circumstances. After all, my flight was the next day anyway and I knew they had seats. However, whilst the guy I spoke to in EC was sympathetic, he was twice instructed to remind me that my ticket was inflexible and that I had to make other arrangements.
I appreciate BA have a flexible ticketing option for which they charge a premium, and having bought many flexible tickets in the past appreciate that there is value in this. However, as someone who qualifies for Gold status more that two times over every year for the last few years, I have to say I was gobsmacked to realise that they were going to be so impersonal, so unsympathetic given the circumstances. I gave up asking to get on earlier flights with inflexible tickets many years ago, but this experience clearly summed up how corporate BA are, and how they couldn’t care less for there top tier members.30 Aug 2011
I read your post with interest and sympathise with you greatly. Sadly I fear that inflexible means just that, inflexible and as you say, you have to pay a premium if you want flexibility. That said, I think it is a great pity the BA could not take a more pragmatic view of the situation and help you out given the circumstances.
I think that in days gone by they would have been more flexible but sadly not today. I stopped flying BA some years ago after having been a Gold EC member for many years because of their increasing unwillingness to take a commercial view for a top tier customer that needed help in exceptional circumstances.
Let me be very clear, before all the BA supporters jump on me, it is the right of the airline to refuse to offer any flexibility on an ‘inflexible ticket’ but it is also my right as a passenger to vote with my feet and choose carriers that are prepared to offer a degree of flexibility and take a more commercial view.
i am not talking about just deciding on a whim that you want to make a change, that I would not agree with!! I am talking about circumstances such as yours or other exceptional circumstances where some common sense should prevail.
I will be interested to read the views of others on what is quite an interesting topic. are other airlines as inflexible as BA? I guess some are and some are not.
All the best,
JC30 Aug 2011
Thanks JC. I agree it is about exceptional circumstances and being pragmatic. Frankly, the problem that I was presented with was trying to resolve getting a seat booked in the 20 minutes I had before the flight closed at which point I would be without options until the next day. I had my wife on the other line trying to arrange a lift in to hospital and honestly could have used the support, rather than the hinderance of the airline.30 Aug 2011
I have little direct experience of BA Customer service as I book through AA however I remember reading in prior forums that with BA as with AA it makes a difference where you call. With both airlines the flexibility and customer focus empowerment of US based customer support tends to be greater than on UK numbers.
Although not on point I have no issue with AA flexibility. My mother fell last year and was taken to hospital. I was on an A class ticket in Hawaii and on explaining the position I was changed onto the 7.00 am departure later that day (I called at 1.00 am HST) with connection on direct flight from LAX to LHR, my upgrades ere moved to the new flights and the changes fees were refunded in 14 days after I supplied the requested note from the Doctor. Does not help you but AA customer service for EXP’s in my experience is fabulous.30 Aug 2011
Just out of interest powder_flow did you try speaking to your insurance company. There may have been a clause in your travel policy that enabled change fees in such circumstances.
In these circumstances, its always worth contacting your travel insurers or better still, covering this prior to travel.30 Aug 2011
As has been discussed on this forum, front line staff are given little to no room to take personal initiave in such cases.
Could Waterside dwellers therefore take the initiative and establish a “Get out of Jail free” or “be flexible in an emergency” card, which can be used only once per annum and reserved solely for BAEC members who meet certain criteria? A marketing opportunity?
Many congratulations Powder_Flow30 Aug 2011
Thanks both for the comments. RichHI1, agreed it’s often about individuals and I’ve had less important events whilst travelling where an individual at BA has gone beyond what policy dictates and helped me out. This is when you think, perhaps they do care! As far as insurance is concerned, thanks MartynSinclair for your suggestion. I do indeed have a broad and comprehensive policy that covers all my staff that travel, but you’ll appreciate you really don’t have time (or the interest) to get in to the detail of whether you’d be covered to buy an new F ticket In these circumstances. Whatever decision I made in the 20 minutes I had would be final and if you’re uncertain of whether you’re covered then that influences your decision. Bear in mind that I was doing this whilst driving around the M3 (Jo’burgs M25) in rush hour. I actually remember having my credit card on my knee whilst driving, reading the number out whilst changing across several lanes of traffic, just so I didn’t miss the opportunity before the flight closed. Nevertheless, I am now crystal clear on where I stand with BA and I’ve since ensured that the people I employ travel with other airlines where possible. I certain intend to do so every time I can.30 Aug 2011
Just on a technical point, I do not believe that any insurance terms cover to buy a “new ticket”, in any class. They will cover the costs of transfering to a new flight if certain conditions apply.
As a critique, I do find it amazing the number of people who gladly spend thousands of travel, but do not have the time to understand their travel insurance.
Travel insurance is so integral these days, especially as airlines are so inflexible. I wonder how many people could claim but dont, purely on the basis that policy terms have not been read or understood.
I do not wish to sound unsympathetic powder-flow but I have found on occasions (not always I hasten to add) that the claims department of a decent travel policy is a superb place to start in these circumstances, jus to give you direction on what to do next.
I hope mother and baby are doing well. Congratualtions.30 Aug 2011
To Martyn’s point, I was amazed the other day at the insurance that I get on my Am Ex card, I shall not worry so much about the airline baggage destruction or loss limits now…30 Aug 2011
Rich, if you read my past posts about the Amex insurance cover you will know how highly I regard it, especially now as they are one of the only comprehensive plans that provide a fully regulated and compliant product. I would be pleased to hear if there are any others.
I only hold an Amex card becasue of the Insurance policy, (which it now is, as it was once a mere benefit).30 Aug 2011
CallMeIshmael has hit the nail on the head. Frontline staff are no longer empowered to make decisions to resolve situations such as powder_flow’s.
Yes, one can opt out of flexible tickets and take a chance, but what when an unforseen emergency arises, surely the fact that somebody is a long standing (and high yield) customer should be taken into account. Does it not make commercial sense to keep this loyalty? How many have followed JonathanCohen09’s example and taken their business elsewhere?
A few years ago this would never have happened: most major airlines were happy to facilitate loyal customers in extenuating circumstances. I would have thought that in these times of recession that returning to this policy would generate goodwill and subsequent added business.
Also, as many HR practicioners woiuld agree, increasing staff empowerment leads to more productive and contented staff, and on a cost neutral basis.
Pat30 Aug 2011
I’d entirely disagree with this.
While exceptions can and are made, flexible tickets cost more for a reason; especially when longhaul is involved.
I have total sympathy with the OP’s position, but allowing inflexible tickets to become flexible rather defeats the object of charging more for flexibility.
This is exactly why we have travel insurance, and that is the best way to resolve the matter, hopefully satisfactorily (though not sure even travel insurance covers unexpected birth).
Many congratulations!30 Aug 2011
exceptions can “be” made… 😉
Looking at AA which I know better, these are not exceptions as they are specifically exempted in the fare terms and conditions “Death, serious illness or injury / hospitalization of the passenger or immediate relative or family member”.
If you buy a cheap fare you expect to lose flexibility. It is good practice though to read the terms and conditions of the fare and select the fare / carrier combination accordingly. All airlines publish these on their websites though you may need to click through some links.
Scanning BA quickly they specifically include family death on production of death certificate. There is also reference to events beyond your control which they will try to accomodate without extra payment. Whether pregnancy falls into the category of beyond your control I am not sure…
Congrats by the way… Willy or Wlihelmena as middle name? 😉30 Aug 2011
I think this is less about flexible vs inflexible tickets and more about good customer service, providing support in those few moments in life when its required and looking after your most loyal customers. As with everything in life, nothing is impossible and rules can be eased when circumstances dictate.
I have had this experience a number of times with BA and given up calling them. I now just turn up at the airport and in 9 out of 10 occasions, ground staff have been more than reasonable and willing to help where a genuine reason exists and the flights are not full – I’ve even turned days earlier when my plans have changed and in most cases, when asking politely, staff have done what they can to accommodate.
I am a fan of BA’s product, I’m becoming less of a fan of BA’s approach to customer service – especially today having had two computer generated emails from them which bore no relation to my original query!
As Pat has said, empowerment of staff (at the right level) is the way forward – they can protect both the business’ interest and ensure (in the majority of cases) you can retain loyal customers.30 Aug 2011