I've not looked, but I'm sure there will be thousands of posts about the utter debacle that British Airways engineered over the Christmas break. I did write about the ridiculous situation I had with British Airways prior to this second ridiculous situation...
The facts are: British Airways cabin crew staff voted to strike. British Airways generated a lot of PR saying the cabin crew and Unite Union were wrong, and that all British Airways wanted to do was make sure their passengers got to their Christmas destinations. British Airways challenged that strike and won. Cabin Crew worked, and the flights went ahead as scheduled.
At this point, British Airways wanted to treat customers like people, and the cabin crew and Unite wanted to treat customers like emotionless booking references.
I like many others no doubt, felt a certain kinship with British Airways, and disgust with the cabin crew and Unite.
So there I am a few days away from (hopefully) flying out to Seattle, and I'm told my flight may not go ahead. Keen to get away, I rang up British Airways to find out the situation. I was told in no uncertain terms that I could re-arrange my flights to another destination within the 12 months as long as I do it before my Seattle flights take off.
In essence I understood that I had a credit note. British Airways were making lots of noises in the press about treating their customers like people, so this felt like the right thing.
Understanding that, I booked flights to Seattle with different airlines, and decided to use my British Airways flights for my summer trip. In essence, I was simply paying for my summer trip 4 or 5 months early.
This is where the British Airways PR strategy ended and their procedures became more important than their customers.
I rang British Airways back, and below is a paraphrased conversation:
"Hello, I rang earlier. I'm looking to change my flights please. I was told I can transfer them without problem."
"OK. When would you like to travel Sir?"
"Well I'd like to travel in April now please, to Mumbai - not Seattle."
"Oh. I'm not sure you can do that."
"Really? I was told I could when I rang up earlier."
"It depends on your ticket conditions Sir."
"Ticket conditions? What about treating me as a person? I invested over £700 into your business months ago, and you've not delivered your service to me. I'd simply like to transfer that money to another service."
"We can do that Sir, but you'll have to pay an administration charge."
"An administration charge? After all the hassle and stress you've put me under?"
"Sir, it was the cabin crew that put you under that stress. We are not the cabin crew."
"Yes I know you've been saying in the press that you want to treat us like people, but you now seem to be treating me no better than the cabin crew. I thought because of the exceptional circumstances, some of the smallprint on tickets would have been overlooked. Surely as a business you're more interested in keeping my loyalty to your brand than you are about following smallprint to the letter?"
"Booking conditions are booking conditions Sir."
"OK. My flight to Seattle was about £700, but the flight to Mumbai is coming up on the website as about £450. I was expecting to get £250 back - how much will I get back minus the admin charge?"
"Well Sir... we can't give any refunds on the ticket you've booked..."
"No refund Sir. And we can't take the admin cost from the difference."
"Wait a minute. You're telling me that a £450 flight is going to cost me over £700?"
"The admin charge is £90 Sir."
"A £450 flight is going to cost me £790?"
"In order to amend the details of the type of ticket you ha..."
"Do I need to pay you £90?"
"Do I get any money returned?"
"Well there you go. Simple arithmetic. A £450 flight is costing me £790."
"I can see you've already made your mind up Sir."
"Sorry? Made my mind up about what? You've been all over the press blaming Unite for the situation I'm in, so I ring up fully prepared to give British Airways my support only to find you're treating me no better than the union. You're treating me as a booking reference, not a human being. You're as bad as them."
"Would you like to book the flight Sir?"
"Would I LIKE to book the flight? No. To be honest I'd like to turn back time so I could book with another airline. Any airline. I mean, I'm scared of flying, but give me the propeller airplane in Raiders of the Lost Ark..."
"Sir, would you like to change your flight?"
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do. Take a breath. I'm going to give you my card details so you can take £90 off there. When you've done that I'd like you to take a look at your screen because that is the last penny you're ever getting off me."
Of course other airlines will have similar procedures and booking conditions. The difference is that British Airways are always very keen to let people know they think they treat customers better than anyone else. Do I agree? Not on your fucking nellie.
If you're looking to increase brand loyalty you need to provide excellent service. If that excellent service is sometimes compromised, you need to turn any negative into a positive. In order to do that, sometimes you need to put your procedures second and the customer first.
If procedures outweigh customer care you're in trouble. British Airways - change or die.