Thank you British Airways – Thank you Heathrow airport (T5)

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  • MartynSinclair
    Participant

    Yes the thread title is correct.

    My first business trip using Heathrow Airport for over 5 months & for the first time in 35 years of business travel, I was clueless as what to expect. A day trip to Largs (via Glasgow on BA).

    Left home in north London and reached T5 short term car park (booked in advance £55 – somethings don’t change) in around 30 minutes. M25 during morning rush hour remains very light in terms of traffic.

    Easy to park, an open choice to position the car at favoured car parking level and location.

    Walking into the terminal, it was busier than expected, with automatic hand dispenser machines along the entire entrance corridor. Masks and gloves available to those that needed. The airport looked shiny clean, plenty of BA staff available and most were very reactive and approaching passengers to see if they needed help. A very nice touch, the ‘welcome back’ and ‘nice to see you again’ greeting and it was not mechanical. I went to the First Wing, where I planned to hand a letter in regarding a refund request for my son’s cancelled flight to TLV. I was told no ticket desk was open and the staff member I asked, didn’t know how to handle a refund request by letter. As it happened “Sally” overheard, immediately accepted the letter, and explained she was heading down to refunds and would sort it.

    Through security, a not unpleasant experience with the usual speed and efficiency of the First Wing. Noticed the additional screens, but shoes off, laptops out, etc etc – all familiar, I was home!!

    Again, auto sanitisers all over the place, area looked clean and staff were all friendly. Into the lounge. Clearly there were differences. For one, plenty of space, two, again, it looked clean, three, the staff were all helpful and eager to show how the service differed, now table service controlled through and app (scan your table number) – all very simple and easy. The self service drinks bars were all empty, replaced by a full bar service where the champagne bar used to be. Food orders were being prepped behind a screened off area where the buffets used to be. I didn’t eat, but had some water and it was served very quickly by the same waiting staff as previous who had ALL been injected with a new customer focus of speaking to their customers in a friendly and helpful manner, all very positive.

    Admittedly, the lounge was not full and as our esteemed editor wrote a few days ago, sadly, you are made aware of one set of customers who simply can’t keep their mouths shut, barking out orders to their families and into their cell phones. What a shame AA have moved to T5.

    I had colleagues who told me they were in the silver lounge so I went up to find them. The lounge had a one way system, but I have to say, it was heaving, like the F lounge used to be. Hard to find a suitable seat, but again as soon as we did, staff came over to offer service.

    On to the boarding gate, noticed all the shops were now open, but unlike the West End shops (Oxford Street etc) none had any sales on, all standard pricing and most very empty. I can’t see these top end shops staying open, unless being incentivised on rents. Moving through to the boarding gate, the airport didn’t seem empty, but there was sufficient space for passengers to board without being squeezed together. When more gates are being used this may become challenging.

    Once on board, the cabin crew were excellent a revitalised customer offering, very friendly, a superb service, albeit the food and drink service were limited. I didn’t notice one passenger around me complaining.

    One landing, BA have organised something I have never ever seen in ALL my years of travelling.

    “Ladies and gentleman, on arrival at the gate, we ask that you all stay seated as we will be deplaning you by row number”.

    Not a chance I thought – but blow me down (English expression) – every single person, including those on an AA codeshare…. (still very excitable passengers) remained seated and waited for their row number to be called. No pushing, no shoving, all very civilised – just as deplaning ought to be. On the return flight, I did ask whether this was the same protocol on longhaul flights – but the crew member didn’t know.

    MASKS – thought I would leave this to the end. 95% of passengers wore masks/face coverings through the airport and on the aircraft. 2 passengers 1 row behind me (same row as my colleagues) decided to leave them off for the entire flight whilst drinking and talking and there were 1 or 2 passengers wearing “mask exemption” stickers. I still noticed some staff (through the airport), using the mask as a chin warmer, some staff not wearing any mask and some passengers walking through the terminal without mask. What I didn’t see was anyone approaching passengers to explain the mask rule.

    Summary – all in all I was pleasantly surprised at the efficiencies and protocols implemented by British Airways and Heathrow airport. It certainly restored my confidence for future travel, although the airport was only working at reduced capacity. Perhaps, just perhaps a vaccine will be created which will alleviate the need of some of the new protocols as passengers’ numbers increase. I also recognise this was a short haul flight. Long haul flights (when we are allowed to travel) may provide additional challenges. As passenger numbers increase I will be interested to see how successful BA’s deplaning protocols will be and also the first incident of a DYKWIA passenger running to the front to say they need to be the first off the aircraft. As the former speaker used to say “the children were very well behaved”.

    One final point. With in 15 minutes of landing in Glasgow “Sally” called me to confirm the refund was being made and a credit will appear on my Amex within 10 days – it’s the small gestures that count – BA Golden ticket used!


    ASK1945
    Participant

    Thanks Martyn.

    One question: was the plane full?


    SimonS1
    Participant

    Good to hear. All part of getting things moving again.

    Interesting to learn about the staff. I suppose now airlines are downsizing there really is an incentive to deliver good service than the pre-covid standards.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    SimonS1
    Participant

    By the way….sounds like today wasn’t so impressive.

    https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/2021806-t5-queues-morning-18th-july-2020-a.html

    “Lots of people running round on walkie talkies panicking”….sounds more normal for BA to be doing the headless chicken routine.

    The one advantage of running an airline is you know in advance how many customers you will have on the day, but then I suppose if you recall staff from furlough the airline as opposed to taxpayer picks up the tab….


    Congy
    Participant

    Man that was a long read! Pictures would have made the post a better reading experience…

    I love it how you first said you were ‘clueless as what to expect’ and then 3 paragraphs later you say ‘Walking into the terminal, it was busier than expected’ hahaha


    PatJordan
    Participant

    Martyn,

    a very written and thoughtful review of your experience.

    It’s good to see reviews of flights beginning to appear again, it beings us a little closer to normality.

    Thanks for sharing and stay safe Martyn.

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    One question: was the plane full?

    Northbound the flight was 65 – 70% full, southbound, around 30% full

    I suppose now airlines are downsizing there really is an incentive to deliver good service than the pre-covid standards.

    I have absolutely no doubt, all staff had been re trained and incentivised in how to welcome passengers back. I hope these standards will remain

    “Lots of people running round on walkie talkies panicking”….sounds more normal for BA to be doing the headless chicken routine.

    Wow, what a difference one day makes. Absolutely chalk and cheese, 24 hours apart

    Pictures would have made the post a better reading experience…

    Sadly, this platform is not picture friendly. But to help create a visual of my experience, use today’s FT pictures and just imagine there were no q’s. I had hoped to increase the length of the report by reporting the visible health checks being implemented for passengers /people in T5, but there were no medical checks or even temperature checks, that were seen. Still the ‘just let ’em through unchecked’ protocol……


    Raffles99
    Participant

    I went through T5 this afternoon (arrived around 1.15pm for a 3pm flight) and the 1-3 hour queues to check-in had gone, luckily.

    Only snag was that the First Wing wasn’t taking luggage so had to go out to Zone H and then go back through First Wing for security. First Lounge was fairly empty and the new food set-up is genuinely as good as everyone says.

    Flight to Jersey was 90%+ full.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    Montysaurus
    Participant

    Martyn – did you get to Nardinis inLargs?

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    Montysaurus
    Participant

    Another thank you but not so much to BA as to the member of their staff who rebooked my 4 vouchers onto 4 entirely different flights. I phoned at 0900 yesterday (Saturday), got through immediately to an extremely helpful gentleman who got it sorted inside 30 minutes. I believe that it only took this length of time due to the apparently convoluted BA process. I have ranted along with many other BT posters about BA but in reality only about their management’s behaviour. I have never had any trouble with staff who, after all, have to follow the rules imposed by a management which neither seems to care much about their customers nor empower its staff. I feel for BA staff especially just now.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    did you get to Nardinis inLargs?

    I saw a Nardinis fish and chips on a corner but despite the weather, it was full. We were slightly stuck for time and walked a little further on and found a cafe called Green Shutters. We were first in line, waited 5 minutes and had a quick meal, overlooking the water… Just did not have sufficient time to explore fully and find the recommendations given by Canucklad and Capetoniamn.

    As an aside, I noticed when I got back to London I had been undercharged for the meal. My colleague who were spending a few days in Largs, went back yesterday and settled the difference. A lovely first time visit to Largs, hope to return soon.

    Back to Heathrow

    I have never had any trouble with staff who, after all, have to follow the rules imposed by a management which neither seems to care much about their customers nor empower its staff. I feel for BA staff especially just now.

    “Sally” sent me the following email, which I an happy to copy:

    Thank you very much for taking the time to email my managers and for sending me a Golden Ticket I am so grateful.

    It has come at a time when I face an uncertain future after 21 years at the airport but was just the boost I needed to realise how passionate I am about

    Customer Service and how much I enjoy my role.

    I look forward to seeing you again in Terminal 5.

    Kind regards

    I wish ‘Sally’ and her colleagues much good fortune in the weeks and months to come.


    SimonS1
    Participant

    Indeed Martin. Must be very frustrating and worrying times for employees that like all of us have families to support and bills to pay. It is easy to forget that in any business there are plenty of good, hard working staff – let’s hope they are the ones that get looked after.

    I don’t see any signs of Willie Walsh and Alejandro Cruz taking steps to re-hire themselves on lower pay.

    I sense these will be particularly challenging times for carriers like BA and their legacy models. Unfortunately they will likely reap the rewards of not investing in technology (or in very much at all) in the good years and on point to point traffic there are undoubtedly operators who are more efficient. It isn’t hard to see more penny pinching in the pipeline, perhaps a rationalisation of the BAEC model and a gradual end to things like lounge access at small European outstations.

    Also now any runway expansion is almost certainly dead I personally don’t think it will be long before the slot allocation model comes under critical review, particularly as BA’s reserve of goodwill with legislators seems to have emptied dramatically over the Covid period.


    nevereconomy
    Participant

    I too had a good experience with refunds – I had posted asking for it, but cannot remember where. I got the refund today – about 2-3 weeks so pretty impressed considering the volume they must be dealing with. (Nice to have nearly $3000 to use again instead of a voucher when I already have one..) I have always had confidence that BA CAN do it, based on some very good experiences over the years, but it does sometimes need more dogged determination than ought to be necessary.


    travelworld
    Participant

    Yes- I too had a good refund experience for both cash and Avios seats back in April, so at the peak. Got straight through to a very helpful call centre guy who told me, once he had processed the claim where I was in both the Avios refund and cash queue (14th in the former, 800th in the latter). I got the Avios back in 24 hours and the credit card refund in 72.


    SimonS1
    Participant

    More failings at Heathrow T5 this weekend. Huge queues and only 3 passport officers on duty.

    Sounds like normal service is returning…..inadequate staffing, long queues and ignorant comments from UK Border staff.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8583599/amp/Chaos-Heathrow-hundreds-travellers-forced-pack-huge-queues.html

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