/ Travel & Leisure

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?

Alexander Taylor says:
8 June 2017

This has been BA’s attitude to their customers for many years. In 2005 I was booked on a flight to Melbourne, but our flight from Aberdeen was delayed due to Heathrow problems. On arrival at Terminal 1 we were told to rush to T4 as the flight was being held back for us. On arrival at T4 we found the flight had left on time. T4 promptly closed down and we had to walk back to T1 though the tunnels – a distance of some miles. At T1 there were no BA staff on duty at all, only airport security people. Hundreds of passengers were stranded there all night. The same trick had been used on flights from all over the UK

I have never used either BA or Heathrow since. I would strongly advise everyone else to do likewise.

Another tragedy where the Call Centre had been left in charge directed on non discretionary remits . I noticed person in charge did not appear till too late to resolve .Where was he coming from? What is going on ? Maybe today we may have a step in a more ethical direction !?

B A should stop prevaricating & have an automatic payout, Ops. forgot, their IT system is non-existent.Their reputation is very poor, so pre-longing the time they are taking is just going to make it worser!

Richard says:
8 June 2017

I agree to a point. But your question is too sweeping. Yes of course airlines should compensate passengers (as in this case) when it is quite obviously the airline’s fault. But you need to make it clear that when it is not a failure of its own making (weather, ash clouds, air traffic control breakdowns, other organisations’ strikes) the the public cannot be expected to be compensated by the airlines!

I’ve stopped using BA because of their poor levels of service and unreliable timings I was fed up with flight delays and poor excuses I only used them 4 or five times a year 8 to 10 journeys but so did other members of my family Their loss Charging for food and drinks was the last straw I now have to decide what I do with my Avios points They simply dont care which was clearly evident from the attitude of some of their staff

Trevor Titterton says:
8 June 2017

There is another fault with airlines as I have found to my cost ,whenever there is a delay the airlines are found to be missing leaving the passengers wondering what is happening and when will they get airborne. I have had this happen several times and it is not very comforting to not know when you are likely to get home or on your way to the holiday you have waited for.

Nick Carter says:
8 June 2017

My wife and are planning to fly to San Francisco next spring to visit our eldest son and his wife, their advice was to fly BA, however, following this debacle we will go with Virgin.

Keith Martin says:
8 June 2017

It’s really not that difficult.
No 1 – Keep all passengers truthfully informed about any given situation in a timely manner.
No 2 – If staff have had a refreshment break, this should remind them that stranded passengers might benefit from the same. If disabled or very young or very old passengers are involved, earlier intervention/refreshment is called for.
No 3 – Automatic appropriate compensation for passengers who. through no fault of their own, have incurred a substantial loss of service.
A wise old manager once told me that it can take years to build a good reputation,
and just a few seconds to destroy it!

Madeleine Key says:
8 June 2017

Even if the airline has nothing to tell their passengers, TELL THEM THAT. It is not rocket science to keep updating passengers on ANYTHING and take care of them to avoid further anger and frustration.
I would say to the senior bosses of BA, `How would you feel in the same situation? What would you expect BA to be doing for you? They have taken your money and should treat you with more respect.

This is a very sad situation and does not go with the good name BA have built up over the years. As in all things it takes years to built up a reputation and minutes to destroy it.

Communication is the key when something goes wrong. It is also key within the company. The staff were on the front line, facing unhappy customers with no information to offer. The way the whole episode played out was appalling and heads should roll. The man at the top should resign but they never have the guts to say ‘I got it wrong’. Incidentally, my father was a pilot with BEA as it was then. As with all pilots, he was responsible for the plane from tyre pressures up and took it seriously. Pity those in charge of BA lack this.

Rod Hart says:
8 June 2017

Perhaps I am lucky, I never had a single problem with BA in the past 58 years of traveling/flying with them, however if BA took their computer systems abroad as suggested well they definitely shot themselves in the foot. India has a reputation for service of a poor nature to UK firms BT has now changed back to UK based centers, if your trying to save you got to provide a watertight service. No longer are firms big enough not to care and are duty bound to provide a fit for purpose service.

Keep your passengers updated of the situation not as happened last week where nobody knew what was happening.

Several years ago I held quite a lot of shares in BA but sold them all October 2012 because I did not like the way BA was heading with discontented staff, very poor customer service and as for the food supplied on board whether traveling short or long haul, economy or business class many times the food listed on the menu is not available.

Now the man in charge came from a low cost airline and is trying to turn BA into a low cost airline with premium fares.

In my opinion the board of BA should all be held accountable and charged with gross incompetence of duty. These board members are grossly overpaid and when anything goes wrong they don’t have the guts to face the media and look round to see what “sap” they can blame it on..

There must be a plan for the next time major delays occur. A commitment to keep passengers updated at least every five minutes plus hand out sheets to customers explaining exactly what their rights are and how to claim compensation.

Lizzie Dawson says:
8 June 2017

Although I accept that ‘problems’ can occur I feel that there should be more information given whilst in the airport lounge if there is a delay. It surely isn’t beyond the companies to simply announce that the flight(s) have delays/problems and at least give some indication of the length of time the customer may have to wait. I don’t expect them to give technical details- which to be honest would probably worry people more. Just a simple “we are sorry for the delays and we expect the length of delay to be xxmins”. I feel this would help immensely. Also there should be a system to enable passengers to get automatic free refreshment (a simple cup of tea or coffee and perhaps a biscuit) if the delay is more than about an hour. This should be industry standard -not just BA.

Passenger information, information, updates, & more updates, staff visibility.

It is not just BA who experienced a computer shut down in May, but also Paris CDG at border Control for all passengers to the UK. Queues were horrendous and it was evident there was no plan of action to keep passengers informed.

Primary duty is to keep their Customers informed as soon as is practical. They should then look after their Customer’s need – i.e.: drinks, meal, telephone calls, and if necessary, accommodation. Then they should pay out compensation promptly, if needs, be recovering expenses not exceeding the level of compensation – which should include any additional costs like connecting flights, hotel bookings – but not compensation for loss of business.

BA are a shambles, always have been and never really care about its passengers, we are just bums on seats. I stopped using them a few years ago when they messed me about on a flight which I was booked on and would not let me and my partner on as they had over booked it, I had booked it weeks earlier but they didn’t care. I would sooner walk then ever use them again.

Apparently Easijet is winning hands down over BA nowadays. Who’d have thought that?