Flying With British Airways – Why I Will Never Trust Them Again

If you talked to me in the month or so before I caught my flight over to Denmark to begin my two year study abroad session I was probably very complimentary of British Airways.  I’d recently signed up for a British Airways associated Credit Card, received 100,000 miles as the signing bonus and been able to book my international flight with the miles without significant lead time.  Further, I’d talked to the agent with whom I booked the ticket and he had made several suggestions which seemed like they solved the problems I was looking at in getting my luggage (including a desktop) over to Copenhagen for an affordable rate.

Unfortunately, British Airways managed to burn every ounce of that good will and then some in the 36 hours before my flight.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a good old fashioned bait and switch.  When you sell me on a product, sell me the product as delivered or straight to hell with you.

The Pitch: In talking with the agent and explaining what I was doing and inquiring what my options were for getting additional luggage to Denmark he suggested that I book the ticket (30,000+$239 in taxes/fees) and then upgrade for an additional 15,000 miles (a 50% increase in “cost”) to decrease the cost of additional bags.  The way it typically works is that a standard ticket with BA gets 1 free checked bag, 1 carry on, and 1 personal item.  From there the first additional bag would cost me $51 w/ a discounted price if I booked it ahead of time and online. The third bag would then cost $119 (online) or $140 (at the counter).  BUT, if I upgraded to World Traveller Plus for the additional 15,000 AirMiles I’d receive a second bag free and then be able to pay $51 for my third bag, and $119 for my fourth if I needed it.

With a weight limit of ~50 pounds and the need to transport two LCD monitors and a desktop I knew I’d need three bags, in addition to my carry on (backpack) and personal item (laptop). So, the 15,000 miles and additional ~$50 I’d end up paying for the 3rd bag seemed like a great option.  I did some research, thought it over, and then went to book online using their e-portal.  Only to have it error out every time I tried over a 6 hour period.  Frustrated and having been told there were only a few tickets left I called in and manually booked it over the phone repeating my previous conversation to the new agent.  I told him to book the ticket with the upgrade, and he reminded me that there was a baggage discount if paid online ahead of time/during online check-in.

Fast forward to a day or two before my departure.  I was about to enter the 24-hour window for check in. I logged in and went to pay for my additional luggage.  You can imagine my surprise when I added my third bag only to be notified it was going to cost $119. Assuming a mistake with the website I exchanged tweets with @BritishAirways and then began the process of trying to call the executive club member number on my card. I also had noticed that I was never prompted to purchase traveller’s insurance either on-line or in the follow up e-mail.  Wondering if it was included through the insurance on the Signature Credit Card or had been auto-included in fees I paid I was eager to speak to a rep and ask them about it.

After two calls at different points in time (both of which projected 13+ minute wait times) which is absurd for a “premium” member service I tried calling a third time only to learn that the executive office closes at 8PM EST (Good luck westcoasters!). With less than 24 hours left before my flight I called the standard booking number and spent more than 30 minutes on hold before finally giving up.  Keep in mind this is the phone number to BOOK with British Airways.

In doing  some online research I found an additional number for the 3rd party vendor they use and called their 24 hour number only to learn that not only was there not a policy # for my flight, but because I hadn’t purchased insurance from them within a 7 day window after purchasing my ticket from BA, I wasn’t going to be able to buy a policy.    Frustrated I went to bed and woke up early to try calling once again.

Finally after a few short hours of sleep I found myself awake, called and after a relatively short hold time I reached a BA sales agent who I told about the issues with web pricing.  With an incredibly rude tone, she directed me to the website and said that regardless of what I’d be told previously the $119 fee for the 3rd bag was correct.  Throughout the conversation she was rude, unfriendly, and combative.  This led me to escalate to a supervisor who while apologetic and far more friendly was unwilling/unable to do anything to fix the fee amount despite the source of the misinformation being one of their booking agents.

At this point I’d been forced to book by phone because their web portal wasn’t working, been sold an upgrade at 15,000 miles on the premise of discounted luggage fees which were non-existent, faced ridiculous  hold times and BA had no intention of doing a damn thing about it. Not to mention never having been offered the opportunity or informed of the need to purchase third party travel insurance (which only had a 7 day window to begin with).

Unwilling to make the situation right about the mileage upgrade and added fees for the luggage the supervisor did at least take the time to call the insurance provider and to line up a last minute insurance plan which I was able to purchase over the phone.

I am both incredibly annoyed and disgusted by the way British Airways handled the entire thing.  Their lack of interest in making the situation right was only compounded by the terrible performance of their phone and web services. For a major airline and allegedly one of the more reputable ones, their level of professionalism was absolutely lacking.

It’s a pretty sad statement when a customer has to not only work to spend money on an airline, but also has to work with that airline on a buyer-be-ware basis. If this is the type of service and treatment I can expect from them, I’ll be looking forward to the moment when I can dump my miles and cancel my card. It is also worth noting that in sharing this story with friends and fellow travelers, I’ve heard similar story after story that indicates BA has systematic customer service and quality issues.

Delta Airlines Pre-flight Turbulence

Call me old fashioned if you want, but when I enter into an agreement and make a commitment I take that commitment seriously.  Once you’ve placed your trust in me and I’ve committed to something, you know I’ll get it done. I guess it’s too much to ask, but that’s the level of commitment I’ve always expected from companies I’ve paid for a service. When you sell me a product or service, and I pay good money – i expect that service to be delivered as agreed upon. Want to go above and beyond? By all means feel free, but you do not – I repeat – do not deliver something inferior to what you contracted with me for.

If I go to buy a Silver Cadillac XLR with 500 miles on it and you’ve agreed to sell me a Silver Cadillac XLR with 500 miles on it, you don’t try and swap it out for a Pink Cadillac XLR with 15,000 miles on it and several scratches when I show up at the dealership.  Especially if I’ve already paid you for the vehicle.

Unless of course, you’re Delta Airlines and it’s an international ticket paid for months in advance.  I booked Saturday’s airfare between Phoenix and Dublin through Delta on March 19th.  At $623 I got a decent deal, but could have waited and purchased a ticket on special through another airline/vendor for $200 less. In fact, I booked with Delta – and paid extra – in part because I thought they’d be better than US Airways. I paid more and booked directly through

Months later, on July 11th at 6:00AM I was scheduled to be at the Phoenix Airport for a flight from Phoenix -> JFK -> Dublin.  I live 45 minutes away from Phoenix Sky Harbor, which meant I had to recruit someone to drive me to the airport at 3:30AM Saturday morning – that’s a pretty big favor to ask.

I’m not a small guy, at 6’4″ and 200 pounds I’m thin but tall.  Airplanes aren’t made for people my size. Leg and knee space is an issue and I’m too tall for the molded and shaped seat backs on most aircraft. So, it’s worth added energy, time and in some cases money to get an early reservation and to secure an emergency row seat.  Especially on long duration flights. So, shortly after placing my reservation in March I called in to reserve seating.  I secured isle rows for several of the legs of my trip and assumed everything was taken care of.  As far as I knew I had adequate seating, one layover in JFK and everything was squared away.

In late May I called in once again to confirm that nothing had changed with my seating. The agent seamed helpful enough, went through the seating assignments for Phoenix -> JFK, JFK -> Dublin and the return legs. Then mentioned something quickly about a stop in Salt Lake City. At the time, I thought it strange but when I asked about it, he said everything was in order on the ticket and made no mention of the changes that had been made to my booking. It threw me off slightly, but without a visual itinerary in front of me, and since I had not received any type of notification that my reservation had been changed it sounded like a quick stop and go included in the original ticket.

July 8th

Fast forward to July 8th, just days before I’m scheduled to leave I receive Delta’s automatic confirmation message, ” We’re Reconfirming – So You Don’t Have To!” – great! I glance at it, see I’m leaving at Phoenix at 6:05AM (5 minutes later than my original booking) and arriving in Dublin at 7:50 AM and assume everything in the middle is as booked. I’ve already re-confirmed the info several times so think nothing more of it.

July 9th

Fatefully, I read a Phoenix Business Journal article about Delta Airlines and United Airlines getting fined for more than $375,000 (Delta) and $80,000 (United) for shady flight cancellations and wrongfully bumping passengers on oversold flights.  Less than an hour later I set to the task of photo copying my passport and credit cards while printing out copies of my flight itinerary and the confirmation which arrived on the 8th.  As I’m doing so, I notice that I’m no longer scheduled on the flight from Phoenix -> JFK -> Dublin.  I’ve been switched to a Phoenix -> Salt Lake City -> JFK -> Dublin route.  Surprised and wondering how I accidentally booked a flight with 2 layovers, I pulled up my original confirmation (now made months previous) and confirm that I’d been switched to a completely different flight without ever receiving any form of notification.

Needless to say, I was livid.  The fact that they completely re-routed my flight without notifying me aside, I paid a premium for a ticket that had 1 layover. A layover isn’t a minor trivial detail.  It drastically increases the potential that baggage gets lost, that there are complications and flight delays and negates the whole point of reserving my ticket months in advance by scrapping my seating preferences. Not to mention it’s a complete pain in the ass.  It’s the worst type of bait and switch and in addition to being dishonest, is downright disrespectful.

Aggravated, I immediately called Delta to see just what the hell was going on.  After spending 5 minutes on hold and working my way through an obnoxious voice driven call interface I finally was put on with a Mrs. Huber.  In a frustrated but respectful fashion I asked what was going on and expressed my frustration with Delta over the change and my anger about not being notified.

The agent explained that Delta no longer flew into JFK but that she’d be happy to re-route my already re-routed flight through Atlanta Georgia instead of Salt Lake City.  No longer flew into JFK? I expressed my surprise and confusion as she quickly explained the Georgia re-route.

Something didn’t make sense.  How could 1) Delta “No longer fly into JFK” but 2) Still route both my return flight and the Salt Lake City->JFK->Dublin leg of my flight through JFK?  I inquired and was insistent. I wasn’t about to get stranded or have to try and fix my return flight details from Ireland. My confusion repeatedly earned more than one sarcastic, “What don’t you understand?”. What don’t I understand? Well, it turns out that Delta DOES still operate out of JFK and that by “We no longer fly into JFK” the agent meant – the Phoenix -> JFK leg had been canceled on July 11th. Never the less, apparently I’m the 24 year old Honors grad/idiot who didn’t get it.

Bitchy attitude, sarcasm and general rudeness aside – we move on. She checks the Phx -> ATL -> Dublin re-direct and with a terse “Do you want to go through Georgia or not?” gets my approval to update the booking.

Already severely annoyed with each other, Mrs. Huber and I press on as I try and identify how an Airline can change my booking completely without bothering to notify or clear it with me.  Turns out that according to Delta I was notified.  Confident that I didn’t miss a phone call and hadn’t missed any e-mails from Delta I was, as you might imagine, rather surprised.

Apparently that quick comment made as I re-confirmed my seating on May 20th over the phone?  The agent should have told me that my route had been hijacked and a extra layover added.  I remember the call clearly.  I was not notified beyond mention of the seat number that my reservation had essentially been thrown out the window and completely re-worked. Was it his fault or Delta’s?  I have no clue.  I can tell you it sure as hell wasn’t mine though. Was there ever an e-mail or phone call to confirm the change?  Nope. Any type of direct mention of the change? Nope.

Growing increasingly annoyed by Mrs. Huber’s tone I hung up and re-dialed. The 2nd agent I got was was pleasant, friendly and eager to help – to an extent. She confirmed my new (third) route through Atlanta, which now departs at 12:15PM and arrives at 10AM in Dublin.  Keep in mind my Dad is driving from Prescott and staying the night at my place to take me to the airport at 3:00AM and my brother who’s currently in Europe and difficult to contact is planning on meeting me at the Dublin Airport at 7:50AM. Both of which I need to now notify about the changes. The 2nd agent (who’s name I unfortunately didn’t write down) set to re-assigning my seats on the new flights and managed to secure 2 isle seats. The catch? I’m looking at 43G from Atlanta to Dublin. That’s not an isle seat and it’s anything but near the front of the Aircraft.

Delta’s response to the whole thing? An insincere apology and a shrug of the shoulders over not notifying me correctly. No effort to make things right until they got caught, completely unwilling to offer any sort of upgrade for the inconvenience and anything but apologetic about the whole affair.  Oh, did I mention that Mrs. Huber had the nerve to try and up sell me hotel and food add-ons at the end of the call? 180 degrees from what she should have been offering. Astounding.

Delta’s approach to customer service? Apparently it’s a – we’ll do whatever we want and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.  It looks like I just ended up with that Pink Cadillac XLR with 15,000 miles and a dent.

So, to my readers and the travel community – add Delta to your do not travel list.  They’re just another group of dishonest crooks.  If the economy takes them out, the only tears I’ll be shedding are tears of joy.

If, on the off chance someone at Delta is embarrassed by this whole thing and does want to make things right I invite them to e-mail me via alex[at] I’ll be waiting for a sincere apology.