Olly Legg home

British Airways – mistreating their customers, at home and abroad

18th Mar 2014

TLDR; British Airways overbooked a flight, I arrived back a day later and they are now being obtuse when I try to claim the compensation I'm legally guaranteed.

I recently enjoyed a holiday in Cape Town, visiting friends, seeing the sights and soaking up the sun – a lovely holiday. You can imagine my frustration then, when arriving at British Airways check-in desk at the airport, I was told I wouldn't be flying that evening – on the flight I had booked and paid for – the flight was full.

Overbooking is quite a common practice. I knew it happened, I hadn't been caught out by it before though. I didn't get angry at the staff at the airport (I've worked in retail, I knew it wasn't their decision to overbook the flight), getting worked up would have just soured my holiday even more. I know there's some small print in my Terms & Conditions that allow them to do this.

However, I also know about EU, Regulation 261/2004, which guarantees compensation to passengers on affected flights. It quite clearly details compensation of €600 for denied boarding of this flight (a flight not within EU of greater than 3500 km in distance).

At the airport, British Airways staff tried to offer me £250, under the EU, Regulation 261 regulations. Nearly half of what the regulations guarantee. I questioned the staff and this was the maximum they were authorised to give out.

Firstly, if you're going to overbook your flights, at least authorise your staff to give out the full amount of compensation. Anything else just smacks of blackmailing desperate customers, who are going to be home 24 hours later than anticipated, to accept lower compensation.

After I got back, I contacted the British Airways Customer Relations team. It took them 7 days to respond, and then they completely ignored my request for compensation under the regulations, instead offering me a £400 eVoucher.

I replied asking again about the compensation. Luckily they “fully reviewed your circumstances again” and “can confirm that you have been given compensation according to Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004”. I have not received that compensation.

I replied once again, once again asking about the compensation. This time the response apologised saying “I am sorry that you have not received the compensation we have offered you”. Apart from at the airport compensation has never been offered, nor has it been indicated that it is forthcoming.

Secondly, if you're going to make your customers have to contact you to get their compensation, at least have your customer relations team be able to hold a coherent conversation over email. At this point it feels like I'm just being fobbed off until I forget about it.

After this last email, more than 2 weeks ago, I reached out on Twitter, they promised a response in 24 hours, and then again saying my case was re-opened. I haven't heard a single peep since.

Thirdly, it's not the overbooking I have a problem with (it's hard to find a airline that doesn't). But if you are going to do it, at least make sure you have the people in place to make this a smooth process. It's this feeling of being ignored or fobbed off more than anything that makes me never want to fly with you again.