I really dislike flying with British Airways. If I have the choice, I generally take an alternative airline. But silly me, I booked them for my current trip to Munich, and now I’m enjoying a few hours at the Munich Airport because of BA’s great customer relations.
I have a late flight out tonight, since I originally thought I might need to stay late in Munich. As it turned out, I didn’t. So I headed to the airport early, knowing there were a couple of flights before mine.
At the ticket desk when checking in, I asked politely if there was a chance on getting on an earlier flight. A little typing, then a stern response. Computer Says No. No you cannot. You have a non-refundable, non-changeable ticket. I got a look like I was somehow asking for the impossible, being unreasonable for even raising the question.
Yes, I replied. I know my ticket is non-changeable. But if you have a space free on an earlier flight, couldn’t I stand by and take that if absolutely no one else was going to buy or use the seat?
I was amazed. I’ve done this plenty of times with other airlines. You know the score. You have a flight between San Francisco and LA, and if you’re there early, you can usually get on an earlier flight. Why not? It helps the airline to ensure that they might have room on a later flight, especially if there’s some unexpected delay.
I asked if there was anyone else I could check with, figuring I’d give it one last shot to get home a bit earlier. I was sent over to the duty officer at the ticket desk.
That was a fun experience. He explained to me, like I was some type of idiot, that I’d booked a non-changeable ticket. If I wanted to change it, I should have bought a different type.
Yes, I explained I was aware of this. I didn’t intend on changing my ticket, nor did I need to. But if there was a seat open, does BA really not allow stand-by passengers?
No. Even if I were a gold card member with BA, they wouldn’t do that for me. You have a choice, and you made your choice when you bought your ticket to go at that time.
Wow. Damn right I have a choice. As a matter of fact, I was debating this week a flight from London to San Francisco on Virgin versus BA. I was debating it only because the Virgin price was higher. I still went for the ticket with Virgin, simply because of my general hatred of BA. It was worth the extra money not to be spending 11 hours each way with an airline I despise. Now I feel even better about the choice.
Fortunately, I’d flown business class with BA this time. So if I had to wait, at least I could wait in the BA lounge at Munich. Ooops. They ain’t got one. Instead, they gave me a piece of paper worth 8 euros to enjoy a fine meal anywhere in the place.
I shouldn’t complain. I’d already enjoyed using the laptop power on the flight across from London on BA. Oops — turns out they didn’t have that, either.
I will hand it to BA in one regard. The lounge at Heathrow has improved a bit, with a better selection of food. But it pales compared to the Virgin lounge. I have a gold card with Virgin, and going there is heaven. Showers, great menu, plenty of places to sit.
Virgin also makes me happy since they seem honestly happy to see me, and this is even in the days when I was flying economy as a regular non-gold passenger. BA’s staff feels like they hate working there, and that attitude shows.
Postscript: And so the story got better. Well, worse. The flight got delayed by a half-hour, with the blame put upon striking French traffic controllers. Then we orbited Heathrow for about an hour, with the blame again going on the traffic controller dispute producing a backlog. When we landed, there was no BA luggage to be had for anyone, from any flight. Seems that since the flights were delayed, the luggage crews had gone home.
Along with hundreds of other people, I filled out a form to have BA deliver my luggage. I love this end result. Rather than let me fly in a vacant seat on an earlier flight (which they had), BA instead decides it’s better for me to wait to take the flight I originally booked. That means they have one more customer upset over the flight delay and missing luggage. Plus, they have the cost of driving my suitcase out to me 90 miles from Heathrow.