British Airways – BA – has completely unreasonable and unfair policies for changing a booking

We have recently had a bad experience with British Airways and want to warn everyone about BA policies and how they don’t want to assist a customer even when it would cost them nothing.

We booked a return flight for 2 people from Sydney to London return with a “free” side trip to Venice return from London. The free side trip was offered as a bonus / enticement when we booked our primary trip.

Now I must admit that we didn’t fully read the booking, no-show and alteration policies of British Airways when we made the booking. This was our fault, but even in hindsight the policies are badly worded and confusing so I don’t think it would have made much difference.

The price for the tickets was exceptionally good – we got premium economy on the long haul trip for the price of standard economy.

A few weeks later we decided that we would really like to end our trip in Spain rather than returning to Venice where we will be starting our trip so I contacted BA on the telephone. We wanted to either cancel the return leg of the Venice to London trip or change the departure point to Spain. The customer service agent checked and told us that such a change (either change) would cost us approximately $4700 each!! This was more than twice the cost of the original tickets! I checked to see if this was the case if we merely cancelling one leg and indeed it was. I left our flights as they were and said I would put my complaint in writing.

I then checked BA’s no-show policy to find out what would happen if we simply didn’t use our Venice to London ticket. It turned out that in the past BA didn’t cancel your next flight for 24 hours but within the last 6 to 12 months they had changed their policy and they now cancel your onward flights within an hour. This meant a no-show was not going to work as we didn’t want to lose the London to Sydney leg of our flight.

So my final request to BA was going to be to just cancel the return leg of our “free” side trip – surely there should be no charge for doing that? After all that would mean BA could resell the seats and end up making more profit! But again contacting British Airways lead to answer that even just to cancel the return leg would cost thousands of dollars.

BA it seems is not focused on the customer – they are unwilling to be flexible and have extremely harsh policies that they are not willing to alter even slightly.

I have put below the online discussions with BA so you can see their answer for yourself. Be warned – BA is very harsh and there is no common sense to their rules.

Also their time for replying is completely unacceptable. They took a very long time to reply and it seems they hope the problem or your will to do something about it will just go away.

We are obviously sticking with our original booking even though it is crazy of BA. We obviously can’t afford to pay their crazy high fee just to cancel a side trip so must use it or lose our whole return trip which is not an option.

On 14 November 2012 I lodged a complaint and got following response:

Thank you for contacting British Airways.
Our Customer Relations team have received your correspondence and have created a case for you. Your case ID is 10472885. This is personal information and only you will be able to discuss the details of your case with our Customer Relations Executives. If you wish, you can of course authorise someone to contact us on your behalf.
Please be assured, we will be in touch with you again in the very near future. Thank you for your patience while we look into the issues you have brought to our attention.
Regards
British Airways Customer Relations

On 25 November 2012 I received a reply as follows. I hasten to add that this reply only came after I tweeted BA on Twitter and chased them up:

Dear Mr Reardon
Thank you for your email dated 14 November 2012 about the fee charge on making amendments in your booking.
It became increasingly difficult for us to absorb the extra administration costs and other overheads when people book and then change, and we now have no choice but to pass some of this on. We regret that we have had to introduce this charge.
I would like to inform you that when you book your ticket we work out the fare that applies under our tariff on the date you pay for it. The fare will be for travel on the specific dates and itinerary shown on your ticket. If you make any changes either to your itinerary or your dates of travel, this may increase the fare, and you will be asked to pay the difference in fare, along with the applicable change fee and service fee.
For specific concern you have raised, I would be grateful if you could again contact our local Reservations centre as they deal with all pre-travel enquiries and they will be able to give you individual assistance. Please contact them on 1300 767 177 and give your booking reference number when you call. This will ensure you will be given a speedy response to your issue.
I see you have already spoken to one of my colleagues in local Reservations team and remain disappointed about the situation. As my colleague has already explained, regretfully we cannot help further on this occasion. However, I will log your comments and the next time this policy is reviewed we will take your feedback into account.
Once again, thank you for contacting us and giving me an opportunity to respond to your concerns. I hope this will not deter you from flying with us in the future.
Best regards
Afreen Chougule
British Airways Customer Relations

I completely understand that there has to be a charge for the ability to make a change – however the computer system could do it for us surely and a fee of $30 to $50 would be reasonable. NOT the thousands of dollars that BA is asking for. Cancelling one small leg of the larger journey does not cost them anything and in fact lets them make even more money by reselling the seats.

I entered further comments to BA on 14 December 2012 as follows. I will update this post with BA’s further reply if I receive one:

Hi,

Thankyou for your reply but it is very unsatisfactory.

Your online computer system could handle all alterations for you and hence not incur additional admin costs.

In any event I am just asking to cancel one leg of a journey – I am not asking for a refund at all. It would seem that this would be to BA’s advantage as you can then resell those seats which I cancel and earn extra income. There is simply no need to re-ticket the whole journey.

Your terms and conditions for cancelling part of a journey are very difficult to understand and we did not realise you were so strict on a partial cancellation.

In any event thanks for your response and I shall publish details of our incident on my blog so others can learn of your harsh policy.

Dale.

So be warned! British Airways is completely unreasonable with their policies and does not understand customer service. We have no choice but to fly back to Venice at the end of the holiday so we can then fly back to London and not lose our London Sydney flight. A completely absurd outcome.

BA, if you are reading this, then please contact me to resolve this in a more sensible and common sense fashion.

* – I have now received a further reply from BA on 17 December 2012 but it does absolutely nothing to resolve the problem. It seems to be a stock standard reply trying to pacify the customer. I really wish they would explain their crazy policy:

Dear Mr Reardon
Thank you for writing back to us. I am sorry to learn that you are unhappy with the fees that you are charged on making amendments to your booking. Please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused.
When our customers tell us we have not met their expectations, we first apologise and then use the feedback provided to help us improve the service we offer in the future. Your comments about the fees charged for making amendments in your booking are particularly relevant and I know that our concerned team will value your insight.
I would like to reassure you that we do listen and take account of what our customers tell us. I have now recorded the details of your complaint. A group of Senior Managers from across the business look at the problems our customers face, and how we can improve. Some issues are easy to fix quickly, and some may take a little more time to put right. We want to iron out the difficulties, and our Chief Executive expects us to make continuous improvements across all areas of our business for our customers.

I would like to inform you that many of our policies are based on comments we have previously received from our customers. We know expectations continuously change though, and this is why your feedback is so important to us. We have a manager responsible for our booking policy. I have passed your comments to them. They will look at all the feedback we have received about your booking and use it to help them improve the policy in future.
Thank you for contacting us and for giving me an opportunity to look at your case again. I hope our decision will not deter you from flying with us in the future.
Best regards
Afreen Chougule
British Airways Customer Relations

Dale.

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About Dale Reardon

Dale Reardon is a blind PhD student living in Hobart Tasmania, Australia. He is undertaking his PhD in discrimination law focusing on enforcement of discrimination laws and the adequacy of remedies provided.
Apart from studying for his PhD in discrimination law he helps people moving to Tasmania. If you have queries regarding relocating to Tasmania then please get in touch.

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