Frequent traveller: When less is moreBack to Forum
Anonymous27 Feb 2011
In which our correspondent finds you can have too much of a good thing when upgraded to first class.
It is a steep and slippery slope to climb to British Airways gold card status – after you have made base camp (silver, by acquiring 600 tier points in one year) and the airline has cunningly reset your earned “silver points” back to zero, you then have to earn another 1,500 points to finally reach the golden plateau.
But once you are there, it is far easier to maintain. (For those who aren’t members, this is because the following year you “just” need to earn 1,500 points, not go through the whole 600-plus-1,500 thing. And while we’re at it, yes, I’m aware that if you live outside the UK the tier levels are lower, but I live in the UK.)
Is it worth it? Well, yes. Gold status isn’t a vanity thing, or not wholly. As a business traveller it has real benefits – you get lounge access even when you’re not travelling with BA, you rack up miles more quickly, and you apparently get priority on wait-lists (I have my doubts about that, as I couldn’t get on to a Middle East flight despite requesting it two weeks in advance).
Most important, you are one of the people they bump up a class on long-haul flights. I am being very specific about long-haul because in 20-plus years of travel I have yet to experience the ecstasy and instant warm bliss of an upgrade from economy to business on a European flight. I have, however, got a mountain of BA pyjamas and toiletries (ideal Christmas gifts for distant relations) from years of being bumped up from long-haul Club World to First, and I am sincerely happier than a pig in mud every time it happens.
More often than not, I find out at the gate when they scan the ticket and it makes this lovely “bing” noise. It did it again the other week and I was halfway through thanking the attendant when she told me I’d been chosen for an extra security check. The travel gods toy with you sometimes.
Upgrades are great, but allow me to let you into something of a secret. Right now, I don’t want to be upgraded from business to First. Have I gone mad? No, not at all. Take last week, when once again I was upgraded from Club World to First and felt mild disappointment. For one thing, I’d managed to secure my favourite Club World seat – 14B – which is the best for ease of exit at the other end. If you think this is a small point, you haven’t spent half your life queuing at US immigration. Seat 14B is the closest to the door they always use to disembark at JFK and, whenever I get the chance, it’s my seat of choice.
But surely First would rank ahead of even this, I hear you ask? Surely the point of the top class must be to have priority when disembarking? You’d think so, but no – not since some genius thought to sandwich 30-odd World Traveller Plus seats between First and Business on the B747. It’s this gang that gets off before First, and since they are very slow about it (affluent holidaymakers in no hurry and typically of an age), you then have to try to overtake them before you get to immigration. Never, ever, queue behind them because they will have filled in the form incorrectly and will then have a chat with the immigration officer.
There’s another reason why I didn’t want to sit in First. Yes, the seat is a throne-cum-four-drawer divan bed lined with snow leopard belly fur where you relax back, being gently wafted with bird of paradise feathers. Yes, the food, service and wine are far superior. But there’s the thing. I don’t drink anything on board but water anymore, I tend not to eat (I’ve even started taking sushi with me from the T5 shop) and I am usually happy not to speak for the duration of the flight other than to say please and thank you. Take those things away, and the truth is that the old BA First isn’t as good as the new BA Club World.
As a business person in old First, I can’t plug my UK three-prong plug into the seat power without some Heath Robinson adaptor contraption (not a problem in Club World), and when I do use the entertainment system, the screen is several times smaller than in business. I have seen a demo in BA’s lounge of the new First set-up, which looks good, but I have yet to strike it lucky with an upgrade to the new cabin.
In case I seem to be running down First, I should say that, in general, the service is outstanding – Goldilocks good (not too much, not too little, just right). Once, having gone to the toilet for the tenth time after drinking several gallons of water to avoid deep vein thrombosis, I came back to find my bed made up complete with underlayer and pillow. I snuggled down and woke up a couple of hours later to find I miraculously had a duvet tucked in all around me. For some reason, the cabin crew – great looking, it must be said – winked and giggled at me when I got off. Not sure what’s so amusing about being an ungrateful narcoleptic with prostate problems, but I smiled back all the same.27 Feb 2011
If Anonymous had used 60J instead of 14B, I could claim to be the author of the 11 paragraphs. As I have stated in previous posts, I have declined the upgrade on several occasions for very similiar reasons.
The one other point that Annnymous did not mention was the cost and yes I do realise that its all down to personal choice and people should be free to spend their money as they wish – but is the price differential between F and NCW really worth it (barring of course the free upgrade).27 Feb 2011
I have to say I do like the free upgrade to first and would not turn down if it was on a 777, though I tend to try and make sure I am on a jumbo. The upper deck (62J) cannot be beaten.27 Feb 2011
I would doubt that there are few turning down an upgrade, it is human nature to accept. I agree that the upper deck of a 747 can’t be beaten but for a free upgrade to First I could be persuaded once as I need a new pair of First py’s!!27 Feb 2011
Do downgrades happen on BA? I would not be happy if booked a long haul flight in Club and ended up in WTP (which is usually full anyway) – I think I would wait for the next flight.27 Feb 2011
They sure do and not just from Club. BA remain one a tiny few carriers who overbook First.
In the 90’s they had a policy of compensating the passenger with the full one way first class fare plus they travelled free in Club word same flight. Today it is a flat rate amount £750 if I recall plus fare difference plus carriage on same flight in Club.
That just about cuts it for me but you are quite right, the idea of being downgraded from club to WT+ is a very different proposition to a First to Club down grade. It should not happen to anyone with status in the executive club but I am not clear what your right would be if you refused travel and elected to wait until the next flight.
Perhaps others can elaborate27 Feb 2011
After week of travelling round Asia with a colleague we get to HK to have him triple downgraded not only from Club to Economy by-passing WTP but also onto the next flight.
He is BA gold and went bonkers but BA offered a weak apology no good reason and 15k miles. They blamed “the computer” for having selected him but he suspects the low Corp rate we get meant it was most economical to BA to bump him…..28 Feb 2011
I fully agree with you about the idea of being downgraded from club to WT+: a dreadful thought.
Not being a legal expert I may be wrong about this, but surely if one pays for a particular class of seat (with the service level attached to that seat class) there must be a legal entitlement to that for which one paid.
On another note, the revised compensation you mention seems meagre given the amount BA ask for premium cabins.
The regular premium pax are what keep BA (or any other busines in the service industry) in profit. A few quid saved in the short term won’t be any use if a competitor wins the business from even one such individual. Who was it used to preach about being penny wise and pound foolish??28 Feb 2011
Your stament is incorrect, there is a legal right, but there is one loophole that may apply in the case of Tumiactually’s colleague.
. The following extract is from EU261/04, which applies to
* passengers departing from an airport located in the territory of a
Member State to which the EC Treaty applies; and
* passengers departing from an airport located in a third country to an airport situated in the territory of a Member State to which the EC Treaty applies,
” Upgrading and downgrading
If an air carrier places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, the passenger must be reimbursed within seven days, as follows:
* 30% of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
* 50% of the price of the ticket for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, except flights between the Member States and the French overseas departments, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres;
* 75% of the price of the ticket for all other flights, including flights between the Member States and the French overseas departments.”
The sting in the tail is “This Regulation does not apply to passengers travelling free of charge or at a reduced fare not available directly or indirectly to the public.”
A corporate rate may well fall under this clause and if it is the case, it is interesting to hypothesise that an airline may downgrade such a pax, as they can get away without paying compo.
On the matter of declining an upgrade, I only once did it and it was from WTP to CW on a day flight, when I had to type a long document and prefered to have a ‘sit up and beg’ seat to do this.
The agent was flabbergasted and in the event I had to travel CW, as they had reallocated my seat to someone else!
If offered old BA first from Club, I would be delighted, as I pay for the seat and the first seat is very comfortable. I don’t often use IFE and the food is irrelevant.
But I would not pay a premium for first, it does not offer me enough added value.28 Feb 2011
Disgusted, my statement is correct as it is the terms and conditions of carriage, certainly for most airlines and indeed most forms of transport.
What you have quoted are EU laws, which of course muddy the waters. It would of course be a fool hardy airline that down grades a passenger and not give them anything back28 Feb 2011
With trains, all operating companies need to confirm to the National Rail Conditions of Carridge (which they have real problems in doing so). So do airlines have to confirm so a set conditions setout by any governing body or by the IATA?28 Feb 2011