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 http://bit.ly/10BKn4Z”. 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 BA.com 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?
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!