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Your views: British Airways’ response to its IT failure

British Airways

Thousands of BA passengers were grounded following a computer system failure in May. In the aftermath, we asked you ‘should BA offer its passengers automatic compensation?’ Here’s what you said.

In just three days we received over 100 comments on our convo and nearly 5,000 people voted in our poll. A huge 97% said they think BA should offer automatic compensation for delayed and cancelled flights.

More striking than these statistics however were the numerous accounts of poor customer service customers have experienced with BA and the differing views on automatic compensation.

Communication breakdown

Alison, a former BA employee, touched on the one immediate frustration many caught at Heathrow and Gatwick suffered; a lack of updates from BA as the situation unfolded:

‘I know from personal experience that one of the worst things you can do to passengers is not tell them what is happening. Being kept informed and up-to-date is so very important, particularly if you are meeting other people at the end of your journey, who may be greatly inconvenienced by any delay in your travel arrangements.’

Other travellers have reportedly complained of waiting more than an hour after the story broke in the press being being informed their flights had been cancelled.

Reputational turbulence

Another supporter, Charlie, wasn’t directly affected but feels the whole debacle may affect who they fly with in the future:

‘I have a trip abroad planned soon and was planning to book flights with BA. One reason I had chosen BA (rather than one of the budget airlines) is because I thought I’d receive good customer service and support in the event of anything going wrong. I’m not sure now it is worth the extra cost of BA after reading about how badly passengers have been treated following this fiasco.’

Unsurprisingly perhaps, this sentiment was echoed a number of times on Conversation with another supporter making the point to BA that it is difficult to be everything to everyone and imparting advice to ‘be quality, charge a premium’.

Automatic compensation

Touching on compensation Jill believes being fully compensated won’t be enough for BA to make good with some of their customers

‘British Airways got it very wrong and now they are adding insult to injury by making it difficult for their customers to claim what is rightfully theirs in the way of compensation. Even if their customers break even, money wise, it does nothing to erase the terrible disappointment of families being robbed of their holiday. Come on BA do the right thing and go some way to earning back the good will and respect of your customers.’

Iain echoed that line of thought adding that ministers should make automatic compensation a primary focus of the next Parliament:

‘After the fiasco (which ruined the holidays of many families) the very least BA should be doing is to issue full refunds and supplement that by giving free tickets for a future flight. Of course it should be automatic. And if legislation is needed to force them to do that, then it should be made a priority in the new Parliament.’

Over the weekend we published an open letter to BA calling on them to auto-compensate the passengers who fell victim to the airline’s IT error. Is there anything else you think British Airways should be doing to help their customers in this situation?

Luke McCann says:
22 June 2017

I was flying from Dublin – Johannesburg via Heathrow on Sunday 29th May, and got caught up in the chaos. While the lack of communication and general mismanagement was disappointing, I eventually received free accommodation and food vouchers, and have just received a cheque for the GBP equivalent of 600euros (and it happened less than a month ago). Granted I was on the ball and immediately used the Which tool to create a letter to send to BA Customer Support requesting the mandatory compensation, but the turnaround time has generally been very good here. I think the current laws regarding flight delays depending on how long you’ve been delayed for, in addition to the distance of your destination is far. BA, I imagine, are set to shelve out close to 100,000,000GBP in the wake of this IT failure. To demand anything more would be too much in my opinion, and would needlessly force many airlines into bankruptcy. Personally, I lost more in missing a day’s work than I received in compensation, but when these things are relatively rare, to a certain extent I think people have to take these things somewhat on the chin. I think the relevant regulators need to clamp down on ridiculous levels of capacity. I overheard something like BA operate at 95% capacity at all times. Now that is ludicrous. There needs to be more buffer room in order for airlines to be able to respond to system faults and the likes.

Anyone who is old or disabled should get hotel accommodation instead of staying in the airport

In 2013, me, my wife & 7year old son had booked a holiday in Lido Bay Florida. We stayed the night before at the Premier Inn for an 8:00 am check in at LGW. Checked in and waited and waited and waited, I enquired re the delay and was told that our nominated aircraft had experienced turbulence on return to LGW and was being replaced for my Tampa flight. After more waiting, we were in the process of boarding @ around 4:15 [ Off. Dep. 11: 20am ] when the BA flight mngr. pulled me to one side & advised me that due to the fact that replacement aircraft was smaller I was unable to travel [no seat] but my wife & son were ok to load. We had a car booked in Tampa my wife , doesn’t drive , my son is now breaking his heart & I’m on a flight to Orlando the next day, I’d spent over £ 3000 to experience this . With the goodwill of the stewardesses I sat with them in there rest area for the whole flight with my wife &son half way up the aircraft. I have never ever been subjected too such disregard & total unprofessionalism in all my life as that God forsaken day at LGW.I did approach BA for compensation but was told I didn’t qualify. I will NEVER fly BA again in my life if its at all avoidable, the operation is a disgrace to carry our National flag.

This problem is far far wider & deeper than a bloody IT failure. The whole operation is in desperate need of firm leadership in order to recover its once held position of ‘ THE WORLD’S MOSTPOPULAR AIRLINE ‘

I worked for BA for 22 years and was sacked for reporting sexual harassment. You will get no compensation as the management simply do not care they are paralysed by the stronghold that the Union BASSA has over them and have sacked anyone of any experience or integrity. The Company’s assets have been stripped to the bare minimum and any unexpected undue pressure placed on its daily operation renders it incapable. Best thing you can do in future is to fly with another career that is not beleaguered by constant threat of cabin crew strikes, broken baggage carousels and global it outage. If in doubt historically search how BA have recurrently failed their customers since the opening of t5 !!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Andy says:
22 June 2017

First World problems!

All travel involves risk. You either accept that or pay someone else to shoulder the risk (insurance). Insisting on automatic compensation would require increased ticket prices because someone has to pay!

I was given as a surprise a special seat upgrade by my partner for my birthday, to my disappointment instead of a wondeful surprise it turned out to be dreadful. A meal was brought to me that contained tuna, I explained I was allergic to tuna, did they have anything else I could have, was told no just a plain bread bun! As I suffer with low blood sugar I had no choice than to eat the plain bread bun!!! I was and still am disgusted at the so called special upgrade with nothing to eat. It spoiled my birthday surprise, my partner was furious when I tild him. BA did nothing about the complaint. Dont fly BA if you want to be given fair compensation for bad treatment!!!!

I loathe and despise air travel . Airlines, generally, treat their passengers with utter contempt, whilst trying to keep up a pretence of being polite. I find that coaches, trains or even driving are preferable to air travel. It may well be (as claimed) the “safest” way to travel — except when there is a disaster — buit it is miserable and stressful. No thank you.

It is too easy to suggest that airlines should offer immediate compensation without a proper procedure to ensure that compensation is genuine. If the airline is culpable it should pay out but this culpability has to be established before thousands of pounds in compensation is released. The petition should concentrate on improving the procedure for claiming rather than pressing for a blanket package which is bound to be open to abuse.

Mrs Edna R E Craig MBE says:
2 July 2017

My 76 year old friend and I (I’m 75) where caught up in the BA chaos in Heathrow (flight arranged was to Belfast City Airport ) 28th May. BA staff where most unhelpful and the lack of communication was dreadful. It was obvious that they were dealing with a major problem and no ” BIG CHIEFS” WERE AVAILABLE. As two elderly ladies we found the experience extremely stressful. We considered the worst part of this encounter to be the attitude of the British Airways staff. On Sunday 28 we were informed by BA staff that we were now booked on Flight BA2131 departing 11 10 hours on Monday 29 from Terminal 2 with Air Lingus. When we arrived for this flight we were advised there were no seats for us although our names were on the list. We were sent from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 and then sent back to Terminal 2 it was dreadful.
We eventually travelled to Belfast City on Monday 29th at 19 20 hours thanks to an extremely courteous and efficient gentleman Melchor a manager with Menzies Avaition and helpful Aer Lingus staff.
So as you can imagine we will not be travelling with British Airways again. Edna Craig

razorback says:
19 July 2017

ABBA – fly Anyone But British Airways.

Airline should pay interest at 4 % on compensation after say 4 weeks delay in paying up. This will make them sit up and take notice to be more efficient. A canceled flight can cause havoc in hotel bookings and onwrd flight reservations. Durely they should have a duplicate IT system that cuts in autmatically, like a generator to cover an electricty fault or shutdown.