Flying with family on BA- am I right to be annoyed?

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This topic contains 52 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by  MartynSinclair 13 Sep 2018
at 16:50
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Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 53 total)

  • Chris
    Participant

    Hi BT forum. Let me start by apologising as this is related to a leisure flight (but as BT routinely reports the latest BA routes to the Med I feel slightly vindicated!).

    I experienced what I consider as a major issue flying BA but before I unleash the full force of a mad Chris on them, would appreciate the wise and calm counsel of a highly experienced BT forum!

    Background
    ——————

    Booked 9 months ago flights to the Balearics for first family holiday for 2 years (almost £1k for all of us) Mrs Chris, daughter 7, daughter 5 and breastfed son (relevance later) without seat 18 months old. Booked on Iberia and fare allowed (after some confusion) pre seating and baggage on what were ba operated flights). I went into manage by booking and Pre seated 4 seats together at time of booking for all flights.

    Interestingly all the manage my booking stuff was on ba.com and my BA app rather than Iberia so was surprised when I got an email from Iberia two weeks out saying “about your flight to Madrid on the 26th May” when I was flying direct Heathrow to Menorca. Iberia assured me everything was fine. Further concern when self-service check-in opened 24 hours out, wife and daughters checked in fine, me and my son were referred to airport check-in ( despite all being on the same booking). An urgent call to ba I was told 1) I was probably being moved to a bassinet position. When I pointed out this was utter nonsense she reneged and said 2) infants can’t check in online which I also now understand is also hogwash. I was concerned and decided to add an extra 30 mins to my planned check-in time.

    My concern was well placed. At BA T5 bag drop, check in agent looked flustered, a note in the booking prompted her to call various people and after about ten minutes she handed me a bunch of boarding passes. Only after I checked them she sheepishly admitted that my son and I had no seats at all and were standby, and my wife and daughters were dotted all around the cabin (16 rows apart). ‘Prebooked seating is not guaranteed you know!’

    After kicking up the mother of all fusses (I believe they can’t legally sit children below a certain age away from parents?) the check-in manager offered me no explanation other than full flights, promised me it would be sorted once they got round to closing my flight. To compensate me for the 40 minute experience at check-in (we had missed our lunch reservation at Ramsey) was issued with 5 x £5 refreshment vouchers which at the time I was impressed with.

    Fast forward to the gate – utter carnage including the check-in supervisor (who cant have been more than 22) in tears. When I eventually got seen I was finally given a seat number for me and my son, again many rows apart from the rest of my family. As this was my sons first ever flight, I was absolutely livid that we couldn’t sit anywhere near each other. Added to that, my son is breastfed so how we are going to manage feeding, kids needing toilet etc. I put my foot down and was eventually given a single middle seat two rows again from my daughters who were by now sat together thank goodness.

    We boarded the flight pretty much last after all the furore and I’m sure the highly experienced forum can guess what came next. Holding my son I get to my assigned seat and you guessed it, someone is in it. Asking to see his boarding pass surprise surprise he is in the correct seat. Cue BA staff running around and frantically checking boarding passes. Such is the confidence that the cabin crew have in their own ground staff, I even heard one of them mutter ‘check boarding cards and flight numbers as someone around here is on the wrong flight’!

    Fast forward another 5 mins and the plane is now pushing back with me standing in an aisle holding my son with not an empty seat on the plane with me saying to my wife that we’re going to have to get off here and my children in tears. Much checking of iPads and a BA staff member is then found (there were quite a few on the flight apparently) and hurriedly moved to the jumpseat whilst an announcement from the flight deck is booming out for everyone to take their seats or delay the flight (what seat??!!).

    My kids in tears we were finally on holiday and my son introduced to flying on the World’s Favourite Airline 🙂

    Utterly bizarrely, when on board I noticed that the business class seat layout (table in middle seat) extended to about row 16 ( we were originally pre-reserved in 13) so had they upgraded literally dozens of people or perhaps the lure of business class revenue proved much greater than honouring the tickets of a young family booked 9 months before?

    Raised via twitter and apparently, customer service can “understand my frustration” which is nice of them. I have demanded a phone call for them to explain themselves but frankly I fear I might as well be asking for next weeks lottery numbers. Am utterly dreading the flight home.

    Questions for the forum
    _______________________

    1) Any idea how I could have avoided it? (Bronze card / full fare ticket/ paid for pre-seating / called ba when I smelt a rat / checked in online exactly 24 hrs prior /. Arrived at airport 2.5 hours before the flight

    2) Do BA honestly give priority to staff over parents and infants, especially when that would mean separating a breastfed child from his mother??

    3) Has anyone ever heard of a party being split/offloaded in this way when members of the same family and young kids are involved?

    4) Aircraft pushing back when I’m standing in the aisle holding my son with no seat? – is this normal? I recall something similar on Royal Air Maroc leaving Angola many years ago but thankfully it wasnt me and it certainly didnt involve an infant.

    5) Am I right to be livid and what should I do now if anything in terms of escalation? (If I was brave enough I would be booking an easyJet flight home and sending BA the bill!).

    Any input appreciated as I prepare my next move.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    What a horrible sequence of events – I do hope your flight home is better…

    Q2) – Whilst I am sure BA will deny giving any priority to staff, I was moved from my booked window seat on a 787 to KL to an aisle seat a few rows back, to accommodate two BA staff travelling together.

    Q4) – Iberia flight in 2015 MAD to LHR was the only time I have ever experienced a flight pushing back with passengers (mostly students) standing up. Pilot explained he was rushing to keep a slot….


    CathayLoyalist2
    Participant

    As the time honoured phrase goes “you couldn´t make it up”. Sadly whilst reading this I was not surprised. Any BA senior manager,assuming there are still the odd few still employed, with half a brain would never split up a family. I suspect, and happy to be proved wrong, your revenue value was not as high as other travellers. Other than your having paid a higher class fare i.e business, I cannot see how you could have done much more. If as your post points out the business class curtain was back at row 16 suggests a surge in business class bookings and the revenue management software positively salivated!!. On the day no one seemed capable of resolving the problem so I would give BA both barrels and keep firing. Did the staff appear that they cared or did you get a simple shrug of the shoulders and a look that said “You are lucky you are on the flight”?


    capetonianm
    Participant

    The tragedy of this type of thing is that the staff who face customers invariably do care and would like to put things right, but they are handicapped by not being empowered to make decisions and they are victims of ‘computer says no’ as somewhere in the depths of BA’s dreadful IT system, a parameter set up by someone who has probably never seen the inside of an aeroplane has made a decision which cannot be overridden. It’s all part of the process used by (all) airlines to dehumanise the experience of travelling.

    None of what you have related surprises me at all, except that the aircraft started to push back with people standing. That is a huge ‘no no’, and I have only ever experienced it in Zambia and in Argentina.

    I believe it happens in Israel too, which reminds me of the joke about the aircraft landing in TLV. As they touch down and are taxiing to the gate, the cabin manager says :
    “Ladies and Gentlemen, to those of you who are seated with your seats belts fastened as requested, thank you for flying with us and welcome to Israel. To those of you who are shoving each other out of the way in the aisles, grabbing your bags from the overhead lockers, and shouting into your mobile ‘phones, welcome home.”


    FDOS_UK
    Participant

    Terrible experience.

    Next time, I’d recommend easyJet.

    By the way, you should report the pushback with you standing with your son in your arms to:

    https://www.caa.co.uk/Our-work/Make-a-report-or-complaint/Report-a-safety-concern/


    Edski777
    Participant

    1) Any idea how I could have avoided it? (Bronze card / full fare ticket/ paid for pre-seating / called ba when I smelt a rat / checked in online exactly 24 hrs prior /. Arrived at airport 2.5 hours before the flight

    You can’t. The only solution: get a job with BA (in this case). Taking precautions like checking in at the first possibility helps. Keep in mind: frequent flyers have extra privileges such as the possibility to reserve a seat. In such case a frequent flyer will have first choice. The algorithm in most booking systems will in this case not vector in the age of people in a group. So you and your children could end up being separated. Calling an airline in such cases rarely helps. Most call center personnel doesn’t have the authorization to change things according to your wishes. Your best bet would be to handle this with the on board staff.

    2) Do BA honestly give priority to staff over parents and infants, especially when that would mean separating a breastfed child from his mother??

    BA will simply state that this is “absolutely not the case”. Revenue generating passengers (meaning: paying customers, not those on freebees) take precedence over any staff with the exception of emergencies.
    In practice: it helps to be a staff member. Despite claims by management staff, even off duty staff, typically has privileges. In short: it’s good to be staff! (I have been on both sides in the past).

    3) Has anyone ever heard of a party being split/offloaded in this way when members of the same family and young kids are involved?

    How many examples do you want? It happens on a daily basis. It seems to occur even more frequently now you have to pay for pre-selecting seats. Sometimes it seems that airlines have a policy to spread families or groups in general all over the plane in order to enhance their revenue through paying for seat selection.

    4) Aircraft pushing back when I’m standing in the aisle holding my son with no seat? – is this normal? I recall something similar on Royal Air Maroc leaving Angola many years ago but thankfully it wasn’t me and it certainly didn’t involve an infant.

    No, it is not. They were clearly breaking the rules, but was this due to an ongoing discussion and you unwilling/unable to accept another seat?

    5) Am I right to be livid and what should I do now if anything in terms of escalation? (If I was brave enough I would be booking an easyJet flight home and sending BA the bill!).

    Welcome to the wonderful world of air travel 2018. You pay very little, you get very little, you have to expect even less. They, in this case BA, have gotten you and your children, at least in their view, from A to B in relative safety and comfort. All the rest is in my view and experience part of the ever continuing race to the bottom.
    As Martyn and CathayLoyalist already pointed out: you are by no means unique.

    The best thing to do: send them a short formal note on what yo experienced and see how they react. Don’t expect much of an apology rather then a standard reply on how sorry they are you are not fully satisfied. But best of all: consider it an experience.


    FDOS_UK
    Participant

    Edski777

    Sometimes it seems that airlines have a policy to spread families or groups in general all over the plane in order to enhance their revenue through paying for seat selection.

    The OP paid for pre-allocated seating


    Edski777
    Participant

    FDOS, unfortunately that is not a guarantee your pre=selected seats will be allocated at boarding. According to the terms and conditions airlines have the right to change your allocated seats as circumstances dictate. The best you can hope for is that they will reimburse you for the cost of the pre-selected seats. And as I wrote: airlines have plenty of options to deny you your pre-selected seat.

    I recently had it with a Scandinavian airline where I was assigned a seat in the middle despite having selected an aisle seat at 24 hours before departure online check in. Answer: tough luck. I hate it, but can’t change the current practices.


    Flightlevel
    Participant

    CAA looking into this now I understand and about time they decide families with children must always be in the same row or two rows adjacent.
    Captain taxiing before all pax seated is illegal and unbelievable since time pressures are irrelevant once the doors are closed, there’s always another take-off slot


    FDOS_UK
    Participant

    FDOS, unfortunately that is not a guarantee your pre=selected seats will be allocated at boarding. According to the terms and conditions airlines have the right to change your allocated seats as circumstances dictate. The best you can hope for is that they will reimburse you for the cost of the pre-selected seats. And as I wrote: airlines have plenty of options to deny you your pre-selected seat.

    I recently had it with a Scandinavian airline where I was assigned a seat in the middle despite having selected an aisle seat at 24 hours before departure online check in. Answer: tough luck. I hate it, but can’t change the current practices.

    You’re right, but that is a different point to the one you made, that I quoted.


    Chris
    Participant

    FDOS – easyJet, yes I regret this too, it shant happen again.

    The problem is that is not an experience that me, or anyone should expect, least of all families with young children who have pre-booked seats, checked in on time etc.

    For clarity, when I referred to ‘separating a family’, I meant offloading father and infant rather than seat separation as make no bones about it, we were off. It was only my refusal to accept it, incessant negotiation, and at times pleading for over 90 minutes got us on and even then all they actually did was issue me a boarding pass to an already occupied seat, thus giving the issue to the cabin crew to sort out.

    I certainly couldn’t argue with being split up seatwise (although their first attempt with my two children rows apart from each other and any parent illegal) – you are right I could just get the seating money back but given this was ‘blended’ with the luggage costs and paid to Iberia lord only knows how I go about this. Iberia’s response quite predictably is simply ‘its BA’s fault, take it up with them – this despite me paying Iberia!

    If we boil it down, they needed one seat extra, and decided to offload me and my son. All our problems stemmed from that point.

    My issue was 2 fold, 1) being targeted in the first place for offloading and 2) no-one from BA being able to own the issue and one can only assume as a roundabout way of getting round eu261, issuing me a boarding pass for a seat they knew was occupied in order for the cabin crew to try and sort it out.

    Cathay loyalist, thanks for your note. This wasn’t so much a look and a shrug of the shoulders that said ‘you are lucky you are on the flight’– I was actually told straight to my face ‘you should count yourself very lucky you are on the flight’ – the precise words from the gate supervisor.

    Edski777 – you pay little, you get little and expect even less. Quite right. The journey to the bottom is complete for me – it really doent get any lower than targeting young children on a family holiday over adults on freebies for their algorithmic games to squeeze a few extra pounds out of each seat. This is the work of a company with no morals, scruples standards or pride. The irony being that the low cost carriers, who arguably started the journey by cutting costs to the bone are going the other way service wise and doing a very good job of it.

    Im sure Im not alone here, I spend my money with brands I can trust and that I respect. Ive had a few scrapes with BA down the years but like an old married couple we have learnt to get by with each others foibles. Abuse my family and this is a step too far, The trust is broken.

    Where I go from here god only knows. Customer services may or not call me presumably to apologise that they didn’t meet my expectations (or something similar). I hadnt considered the CAA route and will lodge a complaint as soon as Im back. It wa probably only 20 seconds I couldnt believe it at first. Interestingly, since posting on social media Ive also been contacted by a couple of journalists for the story but this doesn’t sit too well with me to be honest but I will see what response if any I can extract from BA.


    FDOS_UK
    Participant

    It wa probably only 20 seconds I couldnt believe it at first.

    20 seconds is more than enough to result in serious injury – make sure that you express the feeling that you and your son were placed at risk (which you were).


    Chris
    Participant

    Edski777, to your point..4) Aircraft pushing back when I’m standing in the aisle holding my son with no seat? – is this normal? I recall something similar on Royal Air Maroc leaving Angola many years ago but thankfully it wasn’t me and it certainly didn’t involve an infant.

    No, it is not. They were clearly breaking the rules, but was this due to an ongoing discussion and you unwilling/unable to accept another seat?

    No there was no ongoing discussion, I had been issued the boarding pass of an occupied seat so I simply had no seat and was standing in the aisle of a completely full and now moving aircraft whilst the CSD negotiated with a BA staff member to take the jump seat so we could have his seat.


    Edski777
    Participant

    FDOS My apologies if I caused some confusion.


    openfly
    Participant

    An awful resolution, but very effective for the quick thinking….in hindsight….as the aircraft pushed back/taxied with you standing, and holding your child, demand to get off. Obviously the crew, flight and cabin crew were rushing to depart at all costs ignoring safety regulations. Would you really want to fly with this crew?
    Returning to stand would have caused BA big problems and a long delay, while you disembarked and loading crew were found to offload your bags from the hold. I assure you that you would certainly have got the full attention of a senior BA manager!
    FDOS is quite correct in suggesting that you file a report with the CAA regarding “taxiing with passengers standing”….plus I suggest that you enquire, in your report, if the Capt filed an ASR (air safety report) with BA/CAA with regard to the “failure to operate the aircraft safely”. This is where the poo and the fan will meet! This will help solve your understandable frustration.
    Send your story to bbc.co.uk/watchdog….copy it to Alex.cruz@ba.com. You might get a few Avios as a sorry.

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