British Airways ruined my Christmas

To be clear I don’t blame BA for having to cancel flights into Heathrow when the airport cannot run at full capacity. That is certainly not their fault, you can’t change the weather (though you could buy more snowploughs!). What annoys me is their incompetent response to the situation and then their attempts at being nice with fakey emails from the CEO.

I wanted to go and see my family for Christmas this year. We were booked on a direct flight from San Francisco to Heathrow that was due to leave about 4 hours from now but due to the snowstorms in the UK it has been cancelled. The first we heard about it was an email from my dad at 9:30am yesterday morning, he had been keeping track of the flight status better than us. I don’t understand this. They have my contact details so why wasn’t I the first to hear about the cancellation the moment it went up onto the website. In fact I finally got an email from BA about it at 3pm, at least five and a half hours after it went onto the website. The email contained this boldfaced lie:

We have sent you this information as quickly as possible by automated email and hope it reaches you in time to allow alternative arrangements to be made.

Who knows what our chances were of re-booking onto something sensible had we waited for that to arrive. Thankfully we had been working hard, talking to Egencia who we had booked through and looking up what options were open to us. The good news was that Heathrow wasn’t totally closed, just running slow so only a few flights were actually getting cancelled so there was still the possibility of getting home in time. Egencia were saying they couldn’t see any economy seats to book us onto before Christmas but there were some business class seats and maybe if we spoke to BA directly and made use of some of our miles for an upgrade we could get those. The problem is that we couldn’t get through to BA by phone. This afternoon I received a laughable email supposedly from BA’s CEO which had this to say:

Throughout this period of disruption we have extended our call centre opening times and added extra phone lines to deal with the 150,000 calls we’ve received

There is even a nice video of him saying how they have kept their call centres open 24 hours a day. That would be nice if true except every time we rang them yesterday we received a recorded message saying they were too busy and to try again later and then hanging up on us. Yes, they cancelled a bunch of people’s flights, told them they’d need to rebook, then shut down their phone lines and then released statements proudly announcing how they’d managed to keep their call centres open.

So we were running out of options but then we spotted that BA’s main site was still showing availability on a number of alternate flights albeit indirect ones. In particular a flight via LA was available and didn’t make much change to our flight times. We spoke to Egencia and they said they would try to get us on it (why they hadn’t seen it before I don’t know) but because it included one leg that wasn’t BA (SFO to LAX was run by one of their partners, American Airlines) they had to speak to BA to get approval to change our booking. BA being the kind-hearted souls eager to embody the true meaning of Christmas and help out their disrupted passengers denied the request. We couldn’t even just swap the SFO-LHR flight to the LAX-LHR flight. Apparently when Willie Walsh says “we have not been able to help all of our customers in the way that they, or we, would have liked” he means “we couldn’t be bothered to help customers take alternate routes home for Christmas because we were all outside having snowball fights”.

Eventually we got a new flight booked. We get to spend our Christmas evening in the air. We’ll finally get to my family on Boxing day evening, jetlagged and probably not feeling fantastically Christmassy. I guess it’s an exaggeration that Christmas is ruined, but this will be the first year that I haven’t been with my family on Christmas day, if it was just because of the snow then that’d be ok but BA had the opportunity to get us there with minimal disruption and they chose to refuse us that option.

Travel stats

I thought it would be amusing to look at some of the numbers associated with my travel home from San Francisco. This is taking into account the time between leaving the place I was staying in America to getting back to my house:

  • 63 hours total travel time
  • 29 hours in hotel rooms
  • 16 hours sleeping
  • 15 hours in the air
  • 4 plane flights (on 3 different planes)
  • 8 hours sat in planes that weren’t flying
  • 3 hours in a car

Happy to be home?

I’m normally pretty happy to be getting home after a trip to the States. Not because I don’t enjoy being out there of course, but you know home is where you’re most comfortable and living out of a bag in a hotel gets tiring after a time. Today is the first time that that has really changed.

I really didn’t spend as much time in San Francisco as I would have liked. A mere 4 days meant I totally failed to hang out with some of the friends I wanted to and didn’t have enough time with even those that I did get to see. I’m really grateful to those that put me up and took special efforts to catch up with me.

My flights home have pretty much been my worst air travel experience ever. First Houston has some rain so my first flight gets diverted to Austin to refuel and then continue on to Houston (after 2 hours on the tarmac), landing well after my connection to the UK was long gone. Then the guy trying to get me onto a later direct flight walks off to help someone else and when he comes back decides it is then too late to make is. So I have to stay in a hotel and take a non-direct flight the next morning, the nice guys at Continental send me to one of the dingiest hotels I’ve ever stayed in, of course without my luggage so no clothes and no wash bag.

Needless to say my flight the next morning is delayed. Thankfully it still lands in time for me to make the connection. Just as things seem to be going well the cargo doors on the plane to the UK break and we have to sit on the tarmac for 3 hours waiting for maintenance to fix it. Then we start moving and just as things seem to be going well we stop. After a quarter of an hour we pull back up to the gate. Apparently we ran over something and two of the tyres got punctured and have to be replaced. 2 hours later (after the in-flight meal has been served) we finally take off. That’s a nice 5 hour delay on what was only a just under 6 hour flight. I was frankly amazed to find that we did finally land in London and my checked luggage was there too.

I’m sure others have worse tales to tell, but this is on top of me being disappointed at having to leave so soon. When someone had suggested that I could just rearrange my flights to stay longer I had decided it was too much hassle since I would have to rearrange my hotel and car parking in London too, which of course I ended up doing anyway.

Plus of course I want to move out there anyway. There are becoming less and less things to interest me here and it’s getting disconcerting to see all the cool stuff my friends out there are getting up to and I’m missing out on.

So now I’m sat in a hotel room in London, trying to force myself to stay awake a bit longer to ease myself back into UK time. Still a 3 hour drive to go when I wake up but at least that will be under my own steam and on quiet roads. Well assuming nothing happens to my car overnight that is…


For a while now I’ve been in a bit of a rut. I knew I was there I just hadn’t quite got the motivation to pull myself out of it. It wasn’t such a bad place to be, but the difference of being just ok with the way things are going and being exactly where you want to be and with the people you want to be with is a pretty large one. I’ve been exceptionally lucky that over the last few months a bunch of things have happened that will help take me to where I want to go and start some new and exciting changes in my life.

The problem is that almost none of them were instant changes, they are all gradual and still in the process of happening. Some of them may not even work out the way I’d like. It’s disconcerting to see where I want to be on the horizon yet now I don’t have control of getting myself there, I have to wait to for the cogs to turn. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that there are perfectly good reasons for having to wait, I don’t expect to be able to just move out to the States at a moments notice for example. But the wait and not knowing exactly what is going on is leaving me extremely frustrated. Do I assume everything is going to work out and look forward to my new life only to be disappointed later? Do I assume the worst and then not be prepared when it comes?

Frustration is something I’m normally fairly familiar with. It is after all pretty much the standard state of affairs for anyone working on Mozilla code, you have to wait for responses to design questions, you have to wait for patch reviews, you have to wait for the tree to be clear enough to land. All of this you slowly get used to, but it is still annoying. The problem is that now this is going on in pretty much all aspects of my life and is starting to drive me into the ground. I’ve been getting even less sleep than normal which is also leaving me kind of cranky.

Thankfully I have been able to arrange myself a temporary escape. Next month I’m going to go spend a week and a half with an friend in Austin, and while I’ll still be working for much of that time I can’t wait to hang out with him again. Also, just because it was fairly cheap, I’ll hop over to San Francisco for a long weekend with some other friends. Hopefully that will de-stress me enough to last the following months. And who knows some things may even have resolved themselves by then, or at least become a little clearer.