BA’s Monopolistic Behaviour?Back to Forum
Anonymous20 Nov 2012
I booked a return trip on BA from LHR to EDI to fly last Thursday 15th November. The night before I was to fly I received an e-mail indicating that my 10:40 flight the next morning had been cancelled (no explanation as to why). I was instructed to call BA or go onto ba.com to rebook.
Well, easier said than done. It was not easy to access ba.com from where I was, so I tried to call BA. I am a Gold customer, so I tried the BA Gold Customer Services number. They shut the phone lines for Gold customers after 8 pm.
Okay, so I tried the number they sent in my e-mail. On the first three attempts, I received a ‘we are having exceedingly high call volumes messages’ and then was disconnected. On my fourth attempt, I did get through to the recorded message and waited for 30 minutes (still no response).
At this point I thought they really don’t want to speak to me at all, even though they cancelled the flight. I finally was able to get onto ba.com and could see that they had booked me on a later flight…from LGW!! (I did pay £350 return for this incredible experience). I couldn’t work my way onto any earlier flights. I tried calling again, but no luck. I could finally see on the website that I could get on a later flight, which I ended up booking (I was heading to EDI for a board meeting so I needed to be there).
This ‘experience’ took me over two hours to resolve. The next day I asked at the airport if there was any reason for the cancellation, and nobody seemed to know. I went to the BA First Lounge and spoke to an agent there; she was very nice, but didn’t know and suggested I go on ba.com to find out (!).
I eventually got to EDI for my meeting (I did notice a later EDI flight had also been cancelled).
Beyond the dreadfully poor customer experience, this raised a few questions for me. Now that BA is sole operator to destinations like EDI, Aberdeen, Glasgow, etc. with the demise of BMI (and Virgin not operating service until next year), are we seeing signs of monopolistic behaviour? Was this flight cancelled by the revenue management team who wanted to save money on flights that were not fully booked (there were loads of seats to choose from when I did online check-in the day before)? Does BA simply not want to speak to customers at all when these issues arise (to be honest, I rarely try to phone and when I do I seem to never get through)? Simply giving a message to customers and then disconnecting is signs of a Customer Services team that simply doesn’t care at all.
It feels like classic monopoly behaviour from a customer point of view. I’d welcome perspectives from other forum members, particularly on UK domestic routes, or old BMI routes where BA is the sole operator now.20 Nov 2012
RussShaw6 – writing this from sunny Florida I sympathsize with your situation. BA last week cancelled over 30 pairs of flights ex LHR due to Fog (source theBAsource.com) including a pair to Edinburgh. Any one who uses LHR in November knows this happens and I am sure your local weather forecasts included mention of this phenominon. BA routinely run a ‘fog service’ just like dear old British Rail did in the days of mechaniocal signalling that I grew up with. They simply cannot get the volume of flights through and proactively manage a proprtionate reduction of short haul, favouring long haul – where often the incoming plane is already in the air.
Here in FL we frequently face weather disruption – it is one of those things, you keep yourself informed and try hard to get around the disruption – sure they could man up their phones etc but life is like that at times, be thankful you were not in Baku waiting for your once a day flight that got the chop!20 Nov 2012
Thanks for this GKing92…useful perspective…I understand that flights can get cancelled…it’s the handling of how to get re-booked that I found so shocking…It they routinely run a ‘fog service’ as you say, they should be better equipped to handle.
Not sure I agree with the previous thread from Bucksnet…I don’t believe the market is LON to wherever…I am in the market for a full service airline which caters to business travellers. LHR does this…LGW and LTN really don’t…20 Nov 2012
It may not be technically monopolistic but it is shoddy customer service.
Your flight was cancelled the night before so very hard to see how this could be weather. More likely to be BA trying to building protection for the next days operation.
My view is that you should pursue a claim under EU compensation rules. It may come to nothing but they were put in place to stop this sort of shoddy customer service and as such we should use it as that is the only thing that will bring about change.
If you do not have time to claim hand it over to a claims management firm. They take a cut but saves you time. At the end of the day we need proper airport capacity and vastly improved customer experiences. BA are not interested in the former and so can and do get away with this as most people don’t challenge.
Good luck20 Nov 2012
indeed, just looked up EDI arrivals from London and there are multiple flights from dawn ’til dusk from LHR, LGW, LTN, STN, LCY involving BA, EJ and CityFlyer (AF) with about 36 EDI arrivals during the week and some 16 on Sundays.
Whilst BA is the only carrier between LHR-EDI, EJ enjoys the same position from STN and LTN and I don’t recall anyone lobbing “monopolist” accusations at EJ…
As has been noted, in the UK, we periodically experience fog, as indeed happens across the continent.
With LHR operating at almost 100% capacity, any adverse weather directly impacts on operations. Whereas normal arrivals/departures operate to c. 45-60 second intervals, Cat.3 arrivals or departures require extended intervals of up to 75 seconds. That translates to fair weather capacity between 60-80 dropping to 48/hour in fog. BA have invested in full Cat. 3 capability across their fleet so they have done what they can to provide all weather capability.
The sensible (and rhetorical) question, as it costs BA to cancel flights, reorganise itineraries and handle the flak from disgruntled travellers, is what do they gain from cancellations? The issue here is straightforwardly one of inadequate runway capacity that creates this problem. Is that BA’s fault or a problem of their making?20 Nov 2012
RussShaw, I think CityFlyer qualifies as a full service airline but I’ve never flown them.
The trains also compete with the planes, and are not so impeded by fog, but if you narrow down your requirements enough, airport and full service etc., almost every option is a monopoly. easyJet has a monopoly on LTN-EDI and STN-EDI, plus LGW-EDI for non-full service.
As Anthony correctly states, weather can slow down aircraft arrival time spacing. All the more reason to have more runway capacity than is required.
A decent mobile phone app should be able to handle cancelled flight rebookings, and this avoids not having normal internet access and jammed phone lines.20 Nov 2012
Good post Russ and a good angle.
I have always thought that any company that makes it difficult to contact them and SPEAK with them does not deserve my custom.
If they cannot give me time, why should I give them my time, and money.21 Nov 2012