I was hoping to be blogging from the terrace of The Rock Hotel, overlooking the Bay of Gibraltar. Instead I am writing from my mother-in-law's spare bedroom in Swindon. Having left home at 6am to make a 90 minute journey to Heathrow, we were still on the M25 four hours later. A combination of roadworks, a road traffic accident and floods closing the M40 resulted in standstill. At one point it actually took us an hour to travel two miles.
Realising we would miss the flight I checked BA's website and found there were still seats on tomorrow's flight and these were being advertised at £140 each one way. £280 was a bit of a hit, but given we had already paid for our hotel and were both desperate for a break, it was a price worth paying.
Before I start, I will put the following on the record.
1. It's not BA's fault that we missed our flight - I am not blaming them nor expecting favours - it was bad luck and no-one was really to blame.
2. Having booked the lowest cost seats we could I didn't expect BA to change them at no charge, they are a business and owe us no favours.
I called BA to inform them that we wouldn't be travelling today and to book (and pay for) two new one-way tickets for tomorrow. The booking agent confirmed availability, but then said, "if you book two one-way tickets how will you return?" I confirmed that we had already purchased two return tickets and that we were booked onto Monday's flight from Gibraltar to London and that we would return on the scheduled flight we had paid for.
"Sorry, if you are a no-show for the outbound flight you are removed from the return flight."
In other words, despite having paid for our ticket, the fact we missed the outbound flight we would not be able to use the (already paid-for) return flight, onto which we were already booked.
Just think about this for a moment. Our seats on the outbound flight this morning were paid for. Having informed them we would not be traveling, BA lost no revenue. In fact, we probably saved them money; they didn't have to handle our bags or pay for the fuel two additional passengers would have used. In fact considering BA overbook most flights, our no-show might have enabled them to offer our seats to someone who would have otherwise been bumped, thus saving them compensation. But there was no negotiating or reasoning with them.
The situation then got worse.
The only way we could use our return tickets was to "amend" our existing booking so we could fly tomorrow instead. Running out of options I had to agree. The cost? £580. That's right: £580 to change a booking (when we could have bought new tickets one-way for £280). In total, we have now paid BA over £800 for two economy tickets to Gibraltar.
But if this woeful tale isn't bad enough, it gets worse.
We decided to stay overnight at Steve's parents in Swindon. When we arrived I checked the email to print off our new departure details only to find we had been booked onto the wrong flight! You really couldn't make it up.
I called BA again - went through the whole situation, only to be told "if you want us to make changes there will be another charge." Fortunately, they backed down, although their booking agent told me it was a "special favour". I would be interested to hear from anyone at BA's Customer Service why not being penalised for their staff making an error should be regarded as a "special favour". What a bizarre way to treat your customers!
Steve and I are not frequent travelers, we fly perhaps two or three times a year. However we always fly BA on the basis that paying a premium compared with budget carriers we thought we would receive better customer service.
The service we have received from BA today is little better than I expect from Ryan Air or Easy Jet. I am a very dissatisfied customer.