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British Airways / horrible customer service!

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I recently tried to book flights for my family from Cape Town to London return, I searched around and found BA flights where ideal timings and come out competitively priced.

I went through the website booking process happily enough, and was given a booking reference. The message was given that the booking was put on hold and must be confirmed using Pegasus within 96 hours and payment would be made offline - I was given a South African customer service number to call(though this wasn't mentioned anywhere!) in order to make payment.

I decided that I didn't really want to make an expensive foreign call, so called UK customer services to make payment. Having got through after a 25minute wait, I was then told that because this was a high risk fraud route that I couldn't make payment over the internet or phone but had to attend a BA sales desk at either Heathrow or Gatwick within the next 96 hours in order to confirm the booking and make payment. Alternatively I could try a travel agent.

I then made my way to a travel agent - who, not surprisingly couldn't use the booking reference that you'd given me. Instead they had to try and book me the tickets directly through their system - which came out considerably dearer (just under £300). At which point I called the BA customer services again, and explained the situation stating that I couldn't get to a uk airport in the next 96 hours but I want to book the tickets at the price indicated on the booking (~£2383). I was unhelpfully told that unless I went to the ticket sales desk I couldn't get that price.

I subsequently called Virgin Atlantic and South African Airlines to see if I'd have the same problem there. Both these organizations recognized that the route was a fraud risk route, and that as I wasn't one of the traveling party that additional checks would need to be undertaken. In neither case did these additional checks involve me having to go in person to an airport.

My complaints are as follows:

1. If it is understood that booking South Africa to London return is a high risk fraud route and therefore bookings cannot be made paid/confirmed unless done in person - why does BA allow potential customers to waste their time trying to book it online?

2. I sent a significant amount of time yesterday (totally up to over 1.30 hours) on hold trying to get through to someone in customer services.

3. One of my calls to BA customer service was to see what time the ticket sales desks were open in Heathrow, as that was where you'd advice me to go, there is no information on your website, and after waiting for over 30mins on their customer service line yesterday was helpfully told that who "don't give out your ticket sales desk number" - it didn't help an already frustrated potential customer.

4. As their competitors have found an acceptable method (for both parties) of verifying that I'm not a fraudsters - surely BA can work out a solution.

5. BA customer adviser appeared not to give a damn that I was wanting to spend a significant amount of money with BA, and was looking for some practical help to a genuine problem. I understand that there are business rules that they must adhere to, but as I work as a consultant to a national uk call center I am astonished at how poorly my call for help was handled - there was no empathy with my situation whatsoever.

As it stood - I was actually going to Heathrow to pick up my niece and nephews (from South Africa) this Sunday, and at a push, could have gone to the ticket sales desk (now that I know it would have been open at 5.30am, after waiting 30mins on the phone to find out). However, out of principal I have chosen to book with one of their competitors, the prices were very similar and were not the deciding factor. As BA appear not to care where I spend my money I decided I would prefer to spend it with a company that does. Both their competitors customer service was excellent - I got through to a call adviser, and they genuinely listened and understood my issues and concerns - perhaps BA should learn lessons from them.

My family make a significant number of trips between South Africa and London, and have previously been quite happy to fly with BA. However, after this incident was so frustrating we are unlikely to do so again. But as BA don't seem to worry about losing custom that shouldn't be a problem for them.


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N  4th of Sep, 2008 by 
Agree Disagree 0 Votes

British Airways - Terrible customer service
British Airways
Scotland, Grampian
United Kingdom

Did you know that BA can book you tickets on non-operated flights as per IATA policy? Bet you didn't know that they can also charge what they like for these flights and once the booking is made via them will blatantly do so? Well you do now.

In a moment of madness where I placed my trust in BA to provide fair and ethical treatment and permitted them to book some internal USA flights I appear to have given away any hope of receiving fair and equitable treatment. BA attempted to charge approximately twice the price of the carrier for an upgrade/route change to the ticket (JFK to Vegas). In fact it would have been cheaper to cancel the BA ticket and buy a completely new ticket than to agree to the BA quoted upgrade. Is this a ploy to persuade airline travelers not to use non-operated or non-partner flights? Is this ethical in what should be a fair and competitive market? I'll leave that to you to decide.

My decision is to avoid traveling with BA whenever possible and when/if I finally become CEO of my current company I'll take a leaf out of Chris Bell's book (Ladbrokes CEO) and really hit them where it hurts.
N  27th of Sep, 2008 by 
Agree Disagree 0 Votes
your air line s you cancel my conection flight and wont me to spent the night in london in my expence. dear british do u think is that fare and force me to change my returing date.
N  13th of Oct, 2008 by 
Agree Disagree 0 Votes
I am disgusted at the way a friend of mine as recently been treated by British Airways. A GROUP booking was made and paid for by my friend in January 2008 to go and celebrate her birthday in New York. Unfortunately, one member of the group has had to cancel due to unforseen cirumstances. The birthday girl telephoned firstly to ask for a name change in order that another friend could take the place but was told that it is British Airways policy that they do not do name changes. As a result of this a telephone call was made to cancel the place but the operator actually cancelled the birthday girls place by error and was unable to reinstate at that present time due to skelton staff working and was told that someone would get back to her. Needles to say no-one did so my friend contacted them and was told by a manager that it was in fact there mistake and assured her twice that this would be reinstated. After 2 weeks of my friend constantly contacting British Airways (as no-one had the curitisy to contact my friend to even just say that the matter was in hand) she has contacted them today and was told by an investigator that they are unable to reinstate and unable to reimburse the whole group. My friend as even enquired to see if she can buy another place (daft as there is still availability for the one that has not been cancelled ?) but was told it would be nearly an extra £700 and obviously she cant afford this. It seems quite straight forward to me, a booking was made for 6 people, 1 place cancelled in error, 5 people wanting to travel therefore it still leaves availability.

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British Airways Logo British Airways
Customer Service
Waterside, PO Box 365
United Kingdom - UB70GB
+44 344 493 0787
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