The Deal Mommy

My complaint letter to @BritishAirways. Enjoy!

The “blizzard” that stranded me in London, 1/18/2013

As I mentioned earlier, British Airways gave me the worst travel experience of my life.

I’m posting excerpts of my actual complaint letter to British Airways to give you some tips on crafting an effective complaint letter. Truth be told, I’m also posting it in the hopes it will get read as I still have not reached an actual human being from BA’s customer service department. Enjoy!

To: British Airways Customer Service via email and fax (and now blog post)

Per the instructions of the call center, I am documenting in detail the events in reference to my booking.

Before I do so, let me summarize: what should have been my one getaway a year without my husband and children to Paris turned instead into Dante’s 8th circle of Hell in Heathrow where British Airways confiscated my properly sized carry-on bag before boarding, lost it, cancelled numerous of my flights, then dumped me into a riot-sized malay in a country I never intended to visit with no baggage, support, compensation, or means of receiving any information whatsoever. Only upon my return to the United States, after purchasing new clothing and luggage, finding a place to stay with no notice, and fending 100 percent for myself in a country I have never visited and did not intend to visit (and a 3 hour delay, 2 of those in my seat at the gate) did I learn that my bag did indeed enjoy the weekend in Paris and actually is still there.

Step by step, here we go:
1. On 17 Jan, my departure date, @BritishAirways sent the following message on Twitter “winter weather is forecast for the UK this w/end. As such we’d like to offer those travelling the flexibility to change”. I called BA in the USA and was told “There isn’t a waiver; I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
2. Upon check-in at Dulles on 17 Jan, I asked again about the waiver and was told again that there was no such waiver, even though I had seen it online. The check-in agent viewed my carry-on and approved it for carry-on, as did the flight attendant at Dulles.
3. I flew to LHR without incident and arrived at 9AM. Upon arrival in London I was “greeted” by BA reps who told me my flight at 1120 was operational, but every other flight to Paris was cancelled. By 11AM my flight was showing delay status and I was becoming so concerned that I looked into getting bumped from the flight, however was assured it would depart for Paris.
4. We boarded around 12:30, me into seat 9E (having been involuntarily re-booked from a window into a middle seat).
5. Upon boarding, my bag was confiscated against my firm protest to be checked, although it had flown from IAD to LHR as a carry-on.
6. We then sat at the gate until 3:00 in our seats until the pilots (THIS IS AN IMPORTANT DETAIL) no longer had scheduled time to fly because they had been working since 5AM. IF THIS FLIGHT SHOWS CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER, IT IS UNTRUE. The pilot told us this himself.
7. At 3PM we were ejected from our seats with no instructions except “go get your luggage”.
8. It was not explained to us that our luggage was ON THE OTHER SIDE OF IMMIGRATION, therefore making us enter Great Britain!
9. We were then dumped into an immigration line at least 1000 people deep, with no BA reps in sight.
10. While in this line, I realized I wasn’t getting to Paris as it was already 4PM. My only line of communication with ANYONE was a limited internet connection. I had a reservation at the Hyatt Vendome in Paris that was PAST CANCELLATION, causing me to lose the entire value of the reservation if I didn’t come up with a solution. I contacted Hyatt via twitter and they (amazingly) agreed via twitter to re-book me to the Hyatt Churchill London and not charge me for the cancellation in Paris. That is what good customer service looks like.
11. I exited Passport control at 5PM and entered the most chaotic scene I have ever encountered in my life: and I am a Foreign Service brat who has lived in many 3rd world countries and flown over 1 million miles in my lifetime. BA in its wisdom saw fit to empty the entire contents of all flights in Terminal 5 in baggage claim IN NO ORDER WHATSOEVER and instruct thousands of tired, confused, and many, many people who spoke no English to “find their luggage”.
12. After a fruitless hour, and no success finding any BA rep anywhere, I left the airport at 6PM and went to my hotel. At this point there were large signs in the terminal instructing people to do so and to file claims by phone, which I intended to do.
13. I spent Friday night and most of Saturday attempting to contact BA and was met with the following: “British Airways has an exceptionally high volume of calls. Good-by. “CLICK! The phone would not even allow me to go on hold.
14. Saturday evening I got an email from BA telling me my flight from Paris to London had been cancelled. This information was not relevant to me as I WAS IN LONDON.
15. On Saturday night I went to to check in for my flight from London to DC but was unable to do so because my flight from Paris to London had been cancelled!
16. I got the idea of calling BA in the USA and got to a human being. The customer “service” rep, after hearing my story, told me to “calm down” and that he “didn’t like my tone”.
17. I transferred to the web support department, then to a web support supervisor and was on the phone for a total of 100 minutes, in which time they were unable to make it possible for me to check in electronically.
18. Sunday I checked in at Heathrow at 1PM for my 2:30 flight.
19. At boarding (3PM) I was told my original bag was on board this flight and would meet me in Washington.
20. We sat at the gate until 5PM, arriving 3 hours late to Dulles.
21. At Dulles I did not retrieve my bag, which I have now learned is in Paris.

So there you have it. Now, what do you intend to do about it?
Dia Adams


1/21: 4 days after the events below, I heard from Heidi in Customer Service. I’ll keep you posted!

1/23: I received my bag today, 6 days after I left home. Unfortunately, all of the clothes reeked like they had been left out in damp for 6 days, which I guess they were! The main causality was the F&M biscuits I had picked up at duty-free. Another receipt to add to the pile!

26 thoughts on “My complaint letter to @BritishAirways. Enjoy!

  1. Pingback: Bits ‘n Pieces for January 23, 2013 - View from the Wing

  2. Robert P

    What was the size of your carry on? Height, width, length and weight? What reason did they give for making you check it? The european carry on sizes are odd

    1. The Deal Mommy

      Hi Robert,
      Well, I can’t tell you exactly since it’s still missing (6 days later!), but it definitely fit into the tester bin at Dulles. In London they took it from me because when I got re-seated into a middle seat (which happened overnight while I was in the air) it was in also an exit row, which meant I had no under-seat space (it would have fit under the seat…this was a 2 day trip!). I asked the FA to find it space in business since the econ bins were full, but she couldn’t be bothered. The plane was a 767, so it wasn’t like it was a regional jet, which I might have at least understood.

      1. Robert P

        Thanks for the response. My family and I are going to Europe this summer and I want to travel light; it is hard to find carry ons that fit both US and EU standards if they are strict. I am very sorry about the horrible sojourn that you just took.

        1. The Deal Mommy

          You know, if you learn one thing after so much travel, it’s that life is what you make of it. And as much as this did suck, it is a heck of a story! Now for your specific concern: keep an eye on my blog. I assure you it’s an issue I will continue to investigate! I did buy a bag in London (that BA eventually is going to pay for;) that has huge “CABIN sized” tags on it and promises to work with even Ryan-air type airlines. I’ll measure it for a future post. Also, I’ll be posting, but will tell you now: MAKE YOUR BAG STAND OUT! That was a HUGE rookie mistake I made, and I even have neon yellow ribbon straps with my name on them I couldn’t be bothered to drag out when I was packing. The bag I bought in London? It’s hot pink!

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  4. Nic75

    You may know how to work and play the US airline system; UK, EU, Asia etc. are different.
    – Don’t use BA, LHR and any other airport in the UK from November to April. Every year they’re surprised it snows in winter and the country collapses. So do you travel plans via UK.
    – The complaint letter, albeit entertaining, will probably get you a voucher for cheesy chips at LHR. Lawyer up.
    – UK and customer service are antonyms
    – I’m always amazed by the Americans’ obsession to travel with carry-on only. That 15 minutes are a welcome bathroom/email/phone break.
    – Except when going through LHR – don’t give any baggage to them.

    1. The Deal Mommy

      Hi Nic,
      This has been a learning experience to say the least!
      1. Lesson learned! Future blog post: Europe in winter? Only if it’s non-stop!
      2. Already working on it!
      3. Depends on the company. The staff at the Hyatt London Churchill were beyond amazing, although it was a 5 star hotel. Not sure I’d wanna test tourist class!
      4. I’m usually not that anal, but since this was 48 hours only I was being possessive about my bag…and yes, I can think of 20 Banana republic dirtholes I’d rather check bags into than Heathrow after this weekend!

  5. Ben Senise

    That sounds like a nightmare indeed! I seriously would have insisted on changing the flight before leaving home. Even if the agents were useless. I would personally NEVER fly anywhere, especially not Heathrow during the winter. To high a risk of disruption and exactly what happened to you.

    1. The Deal Mommy

      Hi Ben,
      Lesson learned! I did try before departing, and again at check-in, but the US reps seriously had no idea what I was talking about! I even showed the rep at check-in the twitter link on my smartphone and she said “I guess I should check that out!”. I took a look at the forecast and saw a dusting…and it seriously was a dusting, but I had NO IDEA what that meant in BA terms.

  6. rich


    Wow that sucks, especially the baggage thing. I always love it when FAs/GAs start telling people to check their bags even though there is room on the aircraft. Airline employees are inconsistent and often make up rules.

    I’ve flown to Europe for winter vacations several times (2008 FRA, 2010 FRA, 2012 CDG) and fortunately haven’t had any issues.

    What kind of ticket were you on? (paid, reward, economy, etc.)

    Sorry you missed out on the Hyatt in Paris. I’ve stayed at the Churchhill and while the hotel is nice I personally hated the location. I enjoyed staying at a quieter location like Earls Court in a Base2Stay hotel more enjoyable.

    The Park Hyatt was very nice. I had a 4 night stay on points. Glad to hear that Hyatt treated you well.

    I did lose my wallet somewhere in Paris/Brussels/Cologne but fortunately had most of my stuff in a money belt so the loss was minimal (always split up your valuables so no one loss is crippling).

    Let us know if anything gets resolved.

    1. The Deal Mommy

      Hi Rich,

      Yes, the luggage was the WORST! There was absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. Because it was my carry-on, I literally had not even a pair of underwear on me! I’ll be sharing a blog post soon about the coolest travel wallet EVER…you wear it on your wrist! I got one for Christmas and no one could even tell I was wearing it.

      This was a paid econ ticket. I’m hoping to make it to the Vendome eventually, but the Churchill was a nice consolation prize. I think the main thing about winter Europe is Non-stop. It was the connection that caused all of the problems.

      I’ll be updating in real time…should be fun!

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  10. soubriquet

    You have my sympathy, BA’s attitude stinks, as I’ve been finding out. Please don’t think BA represents the people of Britain. There’s good and bad everywhere, and I suppose it’s fair to say I’ve met some very good and helpful cabin-crew on BA flights, and the flights I’ve been on have been pretty much as you’d expect of a major-league airline.

    However, my experience with BA as an airline is not all good.

    I’m British, so I suppose I should have had more sense than to book flights with British Airways. For some reason, I seem to have been brainwashed by their propaganda. I thought that all those lovely people in the adverts were the reality, that an airline would be able to do the stuff you’d expect airlines to do, like flying scheduled flights from one airport to another, at approximately the times indicated on the bookings.

    So, I booked a return flight to Houston, Texas, from my hometown in northern england, via Terminal 5 at Heathrow.
    I’ve previously done the Houston trip a couple of times with KLM/Delta, flying in the wrong direction, eastwards to Amsterdam Schiphol, before leaping off westward over the atlantic.
    It seemed to make sense to try the BA London route.
    But, on the morning of my flight (check-in 7a.m.), BA sent me a brief email at 04:15, (I was asleep), saying the flight was cancelled. No explanation. “Call this number to rebook, or use our website” “This office is currently closed”, said the recorded voice. It’s just after six in the morning, my brother’s due at six-thirty to take me to the airport, and I’ve just found there’s no plane! And my fiancee is all excited about my visit, but hey, I might not get there….
    The website’s no help, nobody from BA is answering, but if we leave right now, there’s a train, if I can buy a ticket on the run…..
    So I manage it, just, coughing and spluttering….
    That was back in march.
    I’m trying to get them to refund the ticket for the flight that never happened.
    Here’s the latest response:
    “Thank you for coming back to us. I am sorry that you are unhappy about the fee we charge when you ask for a refund on your ticket.
    It became increasingly difficult for us to absorb the extra administration costs and other overheads when people book and then cancel, and we now have no choice but to pass some of this on.
    We regret that we have had to introduce this charge, and I hope you will continue to choose British Airways for all your air travel.
    Best regards
    Kevin Mehta
    British Airways Customer Relations”

    Clearly, Customer Relations fail to grasp that it wasn’t me who cancelled.
    That’s just the most recent in a series.

    So my advice.
    Avoid British Airways.

    I’ll be flying KLM next time around.

  11. Jamie

    Funny(?) how similar the luggage part of this is to a trip we have just completed. We flew ORD-LHR-MUC-(drive to Austria)-MUC-LHR (3 day stopover)-ORD. On the first connection our daughter was sick and we were unable to fly the connection on that day. We had three checked in bags. One of them has been missing ever since. The frustrating thing about it is that it keeps showing up just after we leave a place. We have now been home for 5 days and are still waiting for our bag. 🙁
    Another interesting thing about BA is this… we have now flown 3 times between chicago and london in BA business class with our two kids, over two trips separated by a year. (I know, this is about to be a very first world quibble, but still…) On the first flight we took they were very busy with every seat taken just before Christmas and quickly came through the cabin and gave only the adults amenity kids. We didn’t see them much after that as it was late and we all went to sleep (except my husband, apparently he had stuck up a nice connection with one of the male FAs who kept bringing him a new Fuller’s London Pride each time his glass was empty). The second time we took this flight, they came through with the amenity kits and I specifically asked if they had anything for the children, the FA said something like “I suppose I could give them activity bags… or they could have the adult amenity kits”. I said they’d like the amenity kits (kids need lip balm and toothbrushes just as much as adults, but maybe not the age defying face cream) since he seemed reluctant to give them activity bags so I assumed they maybe weren’t age appropriate for our kids . On the return leg, the cabin was not completely full, and the FA proactively came through and gave the kids activity packs (a cinch back pack with a big coloring/activity book and a multicolor click pen) and also adult amenity kits. They were SO nice the whole time with offering drinks and things, not that they were rude on any of the other flights, just never went above and beyond (except of course the guy who gave my husband a revenue ticket’s worth of beer 😉 )
    It’s amazing how customer service can vary so much. Why did no one on the first two flights bring a 6 and an 8 year old a bag with a coloring book and pen that seem so clearly designed for children exactly in that age range? Weird.
    Also, I too would like to read the article you link to at the top of this page, but the link is broken.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks for the heads-up. Now fixed.

      I LOVE the kid’s goody bags! Austrian air gives out actual games, even in short-haul economy. My kids got a memory type card game with aircraft (an AV geek’s dream!) and a mini-othello type game.

      1. Jamie

        We got some of those games from Austrian over thanksgiving! Typical example of how great even coach is on some non-US airlines. We had four legs with Austrian ORD-vie-cph-vie-ORD and got the av geek game, connect 4-type game and another card game, but not the othello one. And the flight attendants were so conscientious about bringing the games to the kids. Wonderful experience!

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