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British Airways LHR Disaster

Discussion in 'Airlines' started by Jo V., Jan 8, 2018.

  1. Jo V.

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    The letter below was sent to both Alex Cruz who never acknowledged my letter, and BA Customer Relations with whom I filed a claim for reimbursement of my expenses. While Customer Relations acknowledged my claim, no reimbursement has been received.

    On Sunday, December 10, 2017, I boarded flight 631 from Athens to London with a final destination of Philadelphia. We encountered several headwinds resulting in an approximately half hour delay. As we approached Heathrow, we were in a half-hour holding pattern due to congestion. Finally, upon landing we were informed that we were 1 of twenty aircraft without an assigned gate, and would have to wait until a gate became available. After approximately half an hour, the captain announced that, while a gate had been assigned, there was no one to man the gate and we would have to wait until staff could be allocated. When we finally disembarked the aircraft after an hour delay, I realized that my connecting flight had also been delayed to 1:30pm, and a gate would be posted by 12:45pm.

    I was relieved that I wouldn’t be missing my connection and assumed a seat in one of the central seating areas offering outlets for charging mobile and other devices not too far from the Pret a Manger (shop 218). The 12:45pm timeline came and went, and at approximately 1:15pm, the departures board posted another hour-long delay.

    This pattern repeated itself 4 more times with the final delayed departure being posted for 4:00pm. At approximately 3:30pm, the departures board updated my flight’s status to “canceled” advising customers to contact the airline. I then joined the nearby enormous line of people waiting to be rebooked at the customer service center near Starbucks (T5 A). Upon approaching the front of the line where passengers were disbursed into subsequent lines at the service center, a BA agent holding a tablet rudely informed me that this was not the rebooking line, and I should read her tablet indicating that rebookings were taking place at gates 19 and 20. At approximately the same time an announcement was made over the PA that as of then, the earliest available flight would be on 12/12. I tried navigating through a sea of people heading in the same direction as myself, and those coming from the opposite direction, to make my way to gate 20. There, after also waiting in line, I was informed that the gate 20 agents were only letting people out of the airport, and I needed to proceed to gate 19. Further chaos reigned at gate 19 where, after approximately 20 minutes, I was able to get closer to the gate agent, who informed me that no rebookings were taking place at this gate, and he was also simply answering questions and letting people exit the airport. I insisted that I be helped and asked for his manager, whom he was unable to reach. He suggested that I either call BA reservations or go online. As I didn’t want to incur international charges on my mobile, I asked that he call reservations on my behalf. After 4 attempts each of which upon multiple rings resulted in a busy signal, I resigned myself to contacting the customer service center in the transfer area where the glass gates with boarding pass readers are located. The customer service center was mobbed with people where I joined yet another long line moving at a snail’s pace. While standing in line and fearful of reaching the front of the line and determining that all flights were full and, since I was unable to rebook my flight on the BA app being redirected to multiple erroneous pages, I decided to book a one-way ticket to Philadelphia on BA the following day which I charged to my credit card (this flight/reservation was subsequently cancelled by BA). Equally fearful of not finding a hotel by the time I had reached the front of the hotel booking line, I also booked/paid for a hotel at the Holiday Inn Windsor Slough. After 1.5 hours upon reaching what I thought was the front of the line for the 2 right-most counters, I realized that the remaining line was at least one hundred people deep who were converging into this main line from multiple directions. At that time I overheard from an older gentleman in a purple jacket who was one of several volunteers, that, since as a US passport holder I had no visa restrictions, I would be better off clearing customs and proceeding to the departures level to have my flight rebooked. Little did I know of what awaited me in the customs area. The entire space was packed with people and one young lady directing passengers to lines conflicting with signage as to EU, UK and non-EU passport holders resulting in utter chaos, much pushing and shoving and one step short of a stampede. After close to 2 hours, I finally made my way out of customs through baggage claim where, due to yet another state of chaos and confusion with endless bags from all flights on conveyor belts and numerous others on the floor, I decided to deal with my luggage later in the interest of having my flight rebooked. Upon reaching the departure level shortly before 10:00pm, agents were making announcements that they could no longer help passengers, and asked that passengers either try rebooking their flights online or via telephone – both options of which yielded no results - or return to the airport at 5:00am the following day. I asked one of the agents to have me speak to his supervisor when he informed me that he was the supervisor, and would do nothing for me.

    As I was walking away from this agent contemplating what to do next, I spotted an agent rushing towards a check-in counter, whom I asked for assistance with rebooking my flight. He reluctantly agreed if I cared to join his long line of passengers awaiting similar outcomes. While in line moving at a snail’s pace, I was approached by two gentlemen in navy blue polo shirts with the BA logo and a catchy phrase (which escapes me) who were trying to offer general assistance. I started talking to one of the two men, Chris Adams, imploring him to assist me. He said he would see what he could do and took off towards the area behind the customer service area. He re-emerged after approximately a ½ hour and mentioned that he was able to secure a seat on AA737 the following day, and had added that reservation to the PNR containing the cancelled BA flight. I then asked that this reservation be transferred to my original PNR for fear that I would still be assessed a full one-way ticket. In the interim, the gentleman in whose line I stood decided he was going home, so the remaining passengers were left stranded to fend for themselves. Chris once again took off and returned after 45 minutes and was successful in transferring the AA reservation to my original PNR. He advised me to be at the airport 3 hours prior to departure on the following morning. Chris was extremely courteous and empathetic and I am grateful for his assistance.

    At that point, I headed downstairs to try to retrieve my suitcase, but was unable to enter the customs area and was assured by an agent that my suitcase would automatically be transferred unto my rebooked flight. It was now 11:00pm and I contemplated getting in a (as I later found out) 1.5 hour-long taxi line. In subzero temps and with only a leather jacket (heavier clothing was in my suitcase), I was reluctant, too cold and too tired to get into another line and started asking public transportation drivers if any of them drove towards the Holiday Inn Windsor Slough vicinity. One driver mentioned that a certain bus stopped by that location, and I proceeded to an ATM (since the currency exchange centers were now closed) to withdraw some British currency. The lines to several snack eateries were also prohibitively long, so I decided to forfeit purchasing any food in hope that I would be able to eat at my hotel.

    After a few minutes, I found a bus whose driver confirmed that he stopped near the Holiday Inn Windsor Slough and I proceeded to board the bus. He subsequently dropped me off at what turned out being the wrong Holiday Inn. There I ordered a taxi and had to wait another 30 minutes before finally finding my way to the hotel. At this point, it was after midnight and no food or drink was available for purchase. So, after a twelve-hour ordeal, I made my way to my room hungry, thirsty and exhausted.

    After a 4-hour rest, I tried checking in online and getting a seat assignment the latter of which I was unable to do. I then made my way to Heathrow where, upon arrival, I found myself in another line waiting to be directed to a subsequent line. After 20 minutes, upon getting to the front of that line and explaining my situation, the agent disappeared, never to be seen again. I approached another agent who advised me to check in at the kiosk. Upon doing so and after going through security, I proceeded to an AA counter to ensure that my luggage got transferred to AA737. Needless to say, upon arrival in Philadelphia, my luggage did not accompany me. After waiting for all luggage to be offloaded, I proceeded to the lost baggage office where, with some fifty passengers, stood in another line to file a claim. After checking with AA baggage service several times the following day, my suitcase miraculously appeared at my doorstep on Wednesday morning without prior notification. What’s more, on 12/15, I received a telephone call from AA who apparently had no record of my having received my suitcase. The delivery party/arrangements still remain unknown.

    I realize that this is a lengthy account of the extreme inconvenience which I experienced: the lack of information, organization, leadership, the lack of any contingency planning and customer focus demonstrated at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 primarily by BA employees most of whom were indifferent to the plight of thousands of stranded passengers. However, subjecting you to my lengthy account is by no means comparable to my experience nor its aftermath comprising my losing a day of work and forfeiting a day of vacation, little of which I have to begin with as a new hire at my company. I have flown extensively both domestically and internationally during a previous career, but currently travel less frequently. Despite my previous positive experience on BA, I will not choose BA for my future travels. I was disappointed in the transatlantic meal service after comparing it to AA, particularly the meager offering of a breakfast bar on the eastbound flight. In addition, the lack of any meal, snack or beverage on a 4-hour flight between London and Athens and vv. is appalling, comparable to low cost carriers but at a premium price. I hope my letter gives you pause to consider what you can do - as a leader of an airline once at the forefront of quality and excellence – to restore your image and reclaim your passengers.

    Best regards,

    Jo V.
     
    #1
  2. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    What would you like from us?
     
    #2
  3. Jo V.

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    I would like to have my claim processed and my expenses reimbursed. I would also like to be compensated for the vacation day I was forced to take which amounts to $800.
     
    #3
  4. VoR61

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    I suspect the length of your letter is one of the main reasons if not the reason you have yet to receive a response. Airline employees, executives included, are very busy and your letter is very long and difficult to process in it's entirety.

    I suggest you reduce it to bulleted items stating just the relevant facts. That way it's more likely to be read and to receive a positive response. I also suggest you not ask for compensation for the time off. That request is highly unlikely to be granted and may actually hurt your cause.
     
    #4
  5. ADM

    ADM

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    I'm sorry you had such a bad travel experience. In this case it looks to be a legitimate case of "extraordinary circumstances" as it was certainly weather-related. Others more knowledgeable than myself may have differing insight but it seems as if EU 261 compensation wouldn't apply here. Even if it did you will not get anything for the missed vacation day.

    Did you have any type of travel insurance that includes trip interruption coverage? Check with the credit card used to pay for the plane ticket and you could possibly have coverage associated it. Good luck.
     
    #5
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  6. sas80

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    I didn't read your original post because it was too long but, in case you are mistakenly thinking, we don't process refunds here, we advise you if we think you are entitled to compensation and, if so, how to achieve that for yourself.
     
    #6
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  7. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    When a flight is canceled, the airline has to do one of two things-

    Rebook you on the next available flight

    Or

    Provide you with a refund of the unused portion of the ticket.

    That’s what they did. While their customer service stunk you aren’t owed a refund because they met their obligation- they got you home and delivered your luggage.

    You can write to ask for a future credit for the inconvenience and you should put a claim through your travel insurance for the hotel night. They don’t pay for the lost day at work. If you tell them you’ll never use them again you won’t get anything- they have no incentive to try and make it up.
     
    #7
  8. Just A Guy

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    BA was also obliged to pay for food and lodging during the delay, per EU 261 (not compensation, since it was a weather event). The OP booked his own hotel room, and BA will probably take the view that, by not giving them the chance to book him a room, he waived their obligation to provide him lodging, so they won't reimburse him, but it might be worth a shot.
     
    #8
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  9. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    Yes you are correct. I forgot about EU261. You should just file a claim for that because all the airlines will tell you it was extraordinary circumstances to try to make you go away.
     
    #9
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  10. Christina H

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    What a travel mess. Mass cancellations are a painful travel experience.

    Some issues -- the letter is too long and too much superfluous details like sitting next to charger. Complaining about immigration line does not help. The LHR lines are painfully slow for non EU passports even when no cancellations. I have waited over an hour and worse in summer.

    File for EU 261. The airline may claim extraordinary circumstances claiming weather and airport operations -- i.e. Out of their control but the OP has to try.

    Problem as mentioned by others is that BA was not given the option of providing hotel or meal vouchers. They have special rates with hotels.

    I am actually amazed that the luggage made it that quickly. It is not good to abandon luggage because of customs -- once one leaves it is nearly impossible to get back in. I have done it once but it took a special pass and being escorted by customs.

    Passengers are not compensated for missed vacation days -- I think one person managed to get it via a lawsuit but that takes time and money.

    BA has sadly done away with free food and beverages on inter European flights. It is just ridiculous but that is what they have decided. One has to buy it before or on the plane. BA is in the race to the bottom -- but I digress.

    I think the OP needs to first claim EU 261 -- customer service may not want to provide compensation waiting to see if the person applies for EU 261 and how that department rules.

    So -- EU 261 claim and see what happens.
     
    #10
  11. Jo V.

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    Thank you for the feedback. Actually they were handing out pamphlets mentioning that they would be reimbursing hotel/meal/transportation expenses not exceeding certain amounts. My expenses were below the maximum allowed amounts.
     
    #11
  12. johnbaker

    johnbaker Moderator
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  13. Christina H

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    Jo V apply for the Eu 261 compensation with all of your receipts; if you get nowhere with them you can ask the UK Aviation authority for help. I think that is a better way to go instead of US customer service. John Baker has provided the link. Let us know how it works out. Since your hotel sounds to be modest in cost, hopefully you will receive reimbursement, Good luck.
     
    #13
  14. jsn55

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    This is a key fact, Jo. Perhaps if you review your situation and create a list of the facts in chronological order, it may help us to give you the very best assistance. It must have been a horrendous experience, I can't quite imagine what you must have gone through.

    My husband and I were stuck at Heathrow over Christmas in the snow several years ago ... 50,000 people in Terminal 4 waiting, waiting. I had gotten some advance warning, so was able to book the LHR Hilton at $400+ a night, and we were very glad to have a clean, quiet place to try and figure out what to do next.
     
    #14
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  15. JVillegirl541

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    I sincerely hope you did NOT send that letter! Unfortunately it is so long, the poor clerk tasked with “fixing” issues will not read it due to the long long story.
    The kind of letter you need to send is brief (I mean short) and to the point. Listing the issues in bullet fashion and leaving out all emotions and unnecessary narrative.
    I’m sure your experience was miserable but you have not helped yourself with this long winded letter.

    Please start over using our contacts and begin with customer service. Don’t call, use email only and we would be very happy to review your next message.
     
    #15
  16. Jo V.

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    Many thanks to everyone for their feedback. I did hear back from Customer Relations today who apologized for my mishap. I mentioned to them that - although I filed a claim several weeks ago which was initially acknowledged - I have yet to receive compensation for my expenses.

    Below is their response:

    Dear Ms Vlastaris


    Thanks for contacting us. I apologise for the delay in my reply. I'm sorry your journey to London Heathrow on 10 December 2017 was disrupted by the severe weather conditions. I know how upsetting it must have been for you when your flight was delayed especially as you were travelling to connect with another flight which was then cancelled.


    The heavy snowfall and low air temperatures meant many of our aircraft needed to be de-iced before being allowed to take off, causing delays to the departure time of many of our flights. In addition, due to the low visibility on the runway, Air Traffic Control reduced the number of aircraft allowed to take off and land, causing both cancellations and diversions to other airports. We don't underestimate the inconvenience this must have caused you and I'm so sorry we weren't able to get you to your destination as scheduled.

    When many of our flights are disrupted at the same time, we try to keep our customers up-to-date with information about the changing situation. We bring extra staff in to the airports to help our customers and we'll do all possible to share information as quickly as we can. I realise you weren't kept informed about your flight cancellation and I know this affected your plans.


    You mentioned you weren't able to get through and I completely understand how frustrating it must have been. We know it's really important to be there for you when you need it most, and I'm so sorry we didn't offer the service you expected. Although we extended the opening hours of our contact centre, the volume of calls coming through meant we weren't able to answer as quickly as we would've wanted.



    I realise your bag didn't arrive with you at Philadelphia. The weather conditions at London Heathrow prevented our Baggage team from being able to unload luggage as quickly as we'd like, which is what caused the delay to your bag. Our ground staff at the airport worked as quickly as possible to reunite our customers with their luggage, but I understand how inconvenient this was for you.



    Thanks again for taking the time to let us know about your experience. I hope we can welcome you on board again soon. Please feel free to contact me directly, using the blue link below, if I can help with anything else.



    Best regards



    Simone Dinnage
    British Airways Customer Relations
    Your case reference is:xxxxxxxx
     
    #16
  17. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    Escalate to the next executive. Tell them you are owed compensation under EU261 and and you want the compensation due or you will be filing a claim for it.
     
    #17
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  18. Jo V.

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    Neil,
    I don't have the next executive. If you have a list handy, I would appreciate it otherwise I can conduct a Google search.
    Thanks,
    Jo
     
    #18
  19. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    Go to the top of our page and click on company contacts. Go to the airlines and BAs is there.
     
    #19
  20. VoR61

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    If you do, in order to maximize your chances that they will read and respond positively you need to do a few things. First, do not say you are through with BA. You want them to compensate you for this experience and that may "sink your ship". Second, there is a great deal of emotion in your posts here, which is understandable but of little value when explaining the events over the 3 or so days in question. And finally, you should shorten your communication, preferably into bulleted items. To that end, I took a stab at that and here's what I have (relevant facts only - some of your detail is unnecessary IMO).

    "This is a timeline of my experience …

    December 10, 2017
    • At Heathrow for connecting flight to Philadelphia, which was delayed to 1:30pm
    • After 5 delays were posted on the departures board (1 hour each) my flight’s status was change to “canceled”
    • Stood in long line at the Customer Service Center - told to rebook at gates 19 and 20
    • At approximately the same time an announcement was made over the PA that as of then, the earliest available flight would be on December 12th
    • Another long line at Gate 20 - told the proceed to Gate 19
    • After 20 minutes at Gate 19 - told no rebookings and that I should call BA reservations or go online
    • While waiting at customer service center in the transfer area - unable to book using the BA app being redirected to multiple erroneous pages
    • I then booked a one-way ticket to Philadelphia on BA for the following day (charged to my credit card) - this flight was subsequently cancelled by BA. Also booked/paid for a hotel at the Holiday Inn Windsor Slough.
    • After 1.5 hours a BA volunteer said I would be better off clearing customs and proceeding to the departures level to have my flight rebooked.
    • After close to 2 hours in the Customs area - made my way out of customs through baggage claim. Chaotic so I made my way to the Departure level (now 10:00 PM)
    • Agents now making announcements that they could no longer help passengers and we should try rebooking online or via telephone – both options of which yielded no results - or return to the airport at 5:00 AM the following day
    • Spotted an agent rushing towards a check-in counter - again long line and eventually left stranded there without help
    • Approached by two men with BA shirt and one as able to secure a seat on AA737 the following day after approximately ½ hour
    • At that point headed downstairs to try to retrieve my suitcase but was unable to enter the customs area. I was assured by an agent that my suitcase would automatically be transferred unto my rebooked flight
    • Now 11:00 PM - after a bus ride to the wrong hotel and a cab ride to my hotel, it was midnight and no food was available. Went to bed hungry and exhausted.
    December 10, 2017
    • After a 4-hour rest, made my way to Heathrow where, after going through security, I proceeded to an AA counter to ensure that my luggage got transferred to AA737.
    • Upon arrival in Philadelphia, my luggage did not accompany me. Suitcase miraculously appeared at my doorstep on Wednesday morning without prior notification"
    And then briefly (and politely) explain what compensation you are requesting ...
     
    #20
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
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