B.A. Bungles

August 16, 2015

in Odds & Ends Stories

BA Flight 217 Heathrow – DC August 4, 2015.

I travel quite a bit both within Europe and transatlantic. The nightmare of an experience that I had on August 4th on British Airways (BA) is one that I will never forget!

So I arrive at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 at around 9 am to catch my 10:45 flight to Washington DC. I enter the terminal and spot a BA rep and ask him where the business class check-in is. He tells me to go to Zone H. However, due to power failure, the baggage system has been impacted causing delays.  And so began my saga.

Zone H was a total nightmare! Queues from every direction leading nowhere. I stood in a so-called queue which had no start or end point. There is not a single BA rep in sight or on site to assist and organize this mess. I didn’t know where to check in and had to ask fellow passengers what to do. Each gave me a different option: “Check your flight and find your zone,” or “Not sure, just wait here,” or “Try to find a BA rep to help you.”

I spotted a BA rep, a lady (I wish I had taken her name) who was so unhelpful and apathetic to my simple question: Where do I check in!!??? She said to stay in this queue, pointing to a crowd of people who had amassed in an area and were more lost than I was. Literally for about 30 minutes I was given the runaround! And now it’s about 9:30ish.

We can hear the PA system every minute saying something to the effect of, “Due to power failure, the baggage system has been impacted. We apologize for this inconvenience.” Really! Instead of repeating the same message every minute, tell passengers what to do and where to go!

Finally a fellow passenger told me to check in at the kiosk to obtain my boarding pass which I did. Then from afar I heard some BA official yell, “Flights leaving on or before 10:45, this way!” So I proceeded to the counter for a manual check in by the same unhelpful female BA rep. I ask her if Row 57E is biz class? To which she responded that it was, and it was a middle seat!!!! I ask her if she can change it, and she just said very harshly with no care that it was a full flight.

So I take my bags to an area where I just leave them hoping they will get on the flight. At this point it’s around 10:29 and I rush to Gate C55 and board. Now mind you, BA is the only airline that I have travelled on where in biz class one seat in each row is in the opposite direction! Really! BA, if this is such a brilliant and genius seating configuration, why haven’t other airlines followed suit?!!!!

I board the plane and proceed to my middle seat facing the opposite direction and I just broke down! The cabin attendant was nice enough to find a passenger who was willing to swap seats with me – the only help and care I received from BA!

Six hours later we arrive at Washington DC’s Dulles Airport with no bags. To fill the claim was another ordeal with the BA rep talking her head off, not allowing passengers to ask questions. One lady was in the US for about 5 days between different cities and kept asking how and when her bags would be delivered given her situation; rightfully so she was getting very upset.

So I go home and the next day I call BA’s delayed baggage toll free number twice to find out about the status of my bags. Seems their call center is somewhere in India, and each time I was given a wrong response. The first person told me that my bags would be there by 10 am, and as 10 am came and went I had to call them again. The second person told me she had no info and that I should call the local courier service to follow-up on my bags!!!!!! Really! I have to follow-up on my bags due to BA’s shortcomings!!!!!!

This whole ordeal with BA has been nothing short of a nightmare! I travel frequently at least 3-4 times a year and have never encountered such poor service with other airlines. Now I realize why I have not used BA in the past 15 years, and I don’t plan on using them in the future!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Biggie August 17, 2015 at 3:17 am

So, as a frequent traveller, you don't know:
1) how to read one of the many screens in T5 that will tell you where to check in
2) how to check in online or via the BA smartphone app
3) how to choose your seat beforehand, or at least look at a seatmap

I think you're are not nearly the seasoned traveller you purport to be.


Beth August 17, 2015 at 8:20 am

4) Other airlines have the backwards-facing seats. For example, I've seen them recently on United and Lufthansa. Technically, it's safer to be backwards-facing on an airplane (I read a story once that in the early days of commercial aviation, BA was going to be forced to make all their seats rear-facing, but when they pointed out no other airline had that restriction, it was lifted…)

5) You arrived late for the flight. Especially at Heathrow, where it takes forever to get to gates, Heathrow's website itself says to arrive 3 hours before your scheduled departure (http://www.heathrow.com/departures/checking-in).

6) When a catastrophic computer event like the baggage systems go down, expect not to receive your bags on time (especially since you arrived late to the airport) and your calls not to be answers/responded to in a timely manner.


Ding September 7, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Wouldn't this be the first thing to do? "Finally a fellow passenger told me to check in at the kiosk to obtain my boarding pass which I did."


Jodi August 17, 2015 at 4:27 pm

I can't believe that you had the nerve to ask for a seat change during all of this. Really!


Lucy September 30, 2015 at 6:32 pm

Frequent traveler =/= 3-4 trips a year, not knowing to check in at a kiosk? Arriving 1:45 before an international take off??


Sheard October 3, 2015 at 5:09 pm

You sound like a self entitled brat who holds themselves to a higher regard than everyone else. Bet you're a pain in the ass employee and crappy partner to have too. Moron.


Richie October 15, 2015 at 10:39 am

There is nothing worse than the experience of checking in for a flight at a large airport. I think the whole thing is worse now it is automated and there is never anyone there to help you. I know at the United or Delta check-in desks at LAX there is like one person to assist a whole line of check-in machines. http://www.rwhobbies.com


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