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.