British Airways / horrible customer service!
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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