British Airways does it again

heathrowBritish Airways can’t seem to stay out of the news this week. First, there was its fat-finger fare fiasco — still unresolved, as many customers wait to hear how they’ll be compensated. And just yesterday, I received word about a resolution on another case involving the airline.

Reader Nancy Ostrofsky was stranded in Miami twice while she waited to fly to London to see her son’s college graduation this summer. The first time, BA covered some of her expenses. But the second time, it fell short and eventually made her miss her son’s big day.

Around 5 p.m., there was an announcement that the 5:50 p.m. flight would be delayed and we would take the 9 p.m flight. After waiting until 9 p.m., there was an announcement that the 9 p.m. flight had technical difficulties and was canceled. All passengers were advised to rebook for the next available flight, and that BA would take care of hotel and meals for them.

Since I was in a wheelchair, the BA duty manager asked me where I lived. When I told him Miami, he asked me if I wouldn’t be more comfortable in my own home and said BA would pay for my taxi to and from the airport for my next scheduled flight so long as I presented the taxi receipts. I went home.

True to its word, BA covered her taxi fare. But that was the least of her problems. Once Ostrofsky got home, BA told her it couldn’t get her on to a flight until after her son’s graduation. She asked if it had a reciprocal agreement with another airline that flew to London, and was told “no.” So she accepted a later flight.

Then I received a call from BA advising me my flight was canceled but they could get me on a flight with American Airlines at 5 p.m., if I could get there on time. I accepted it and called my taxi and got to the airport on time for that flight. I had already missed the graduation. l didn’t have time to present my taxi receipts totaling $100 so I held on to them.

How could BA one day say they have no agreement with American and the next time get a flight with American?

Good question. Actually, the airline’s general conditions of carriage are pretty clear about a situation like hers.

9b) Remedies for delays and cancellations

9b1) We will take all reasonable measures necessary to avoid delay in carrying you and your baggage.

9b2) These measures may, in exceptional circumstances and if necessary to prevent a flight being cancelled, include arranging for a flight to be operated:

* by another aircraft
* by another airline or
* by both.

In other words, a look at BA’s contract might have given Ostrofsky the ammo she needed to make a persuasive argument to put her on the next American Airlines flight after her first flight was canceled.

But what now?

Ostrofsky asked BA to compensate her for the taxi fare and complained about the long and unnecessary wait. To which BA didn’t respond.

I suggested she try a few higher-level contacts. She eventually wrote directly to BA’s chief executive and got an answer.

Well, guess what? Yesterday I emailed Willie Walsh and today I received a response. A Mr. Alan MacDonald from Mr Walsh staff called me. Very nice man, repeated my complaint almost to every word. He said Mr. Walsh was upset that no one had contacted me.

I will be receiving a credit of $250 for future flight on BA and they will repay my $100 for taxi fare.

Of course, the airline should have responded much sooner, but it finally came through with a refund and apology.

(Photo: Nataraj Metz/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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