20/06/2020 – Update From Home In The UK
Whoohoo, we are home. Have been for 19 days. I thought I would fill you in on how we got here and why I am still feeling the frustration.
So BA eventually cancelled the KL/London flight. Basically leaving us stranded. They left us with the options of accepting a voucher, aka an IOU, or taking a refund. I obviously wasn’t going to accept the voucher. Who knows when air travel will get back to normal or even if my wife and I will be prepared to travel during the period of validity for the voucher.
All BAs communications regarding the flight cancellation refer you to their app and website. There you can complete a form to accept a voucher/IOU. What they don’t tell you is that if you want a refund, you have to phone them.
So I rang the Australian contact number, assuming that they would be based over east. I spent two days trying to get through to BA, listening to that awful tune and the repeated message that they are operating on reduced staff, and eventually managed to get through. I spoke to a rep called CiCi. Turns out she wasn’t in Oz, but was actually in Hong Kong. Informing her that I wanted a refund, she proceeded to seemingly put up obstacles. But I persisted and she finally accepted my request, informing me that I would have to wait up to eight weeks for the refund. Apparently, refunds are processed by their office in India and of course they were in total lockdown. I said that I understood, that I was prepared to wait and requested that she send me an email confirming our conversation and that I had requested the refund. She informed me that she was not able to send out emails. I, in turn, explained that I was concerned that there would be no formal acknowledgement of our conversation, that if I waited eight weeks and then contacted BA to ask where my refund was, they could deny having received my request. At this point I started to lose my cool.
Eventually, I cooled down a little, and accepted that she was doing all she could. I really didn’t have much choice. So, there I was, stuck in Oz and a couple of thousand pounds out of pocket.
In the meantime I had been trawling the airlines to see who could possibly get me home. It appeared that Qantas were still scheduling flights to the UK. I managed to get seats booked on the direct flight, Perth to London, for mid June.
Big smiles all round, things were looking up. We were going home, albeit a couple of weeks later than planned.
Then Qantas cancelled our flight and almost instantly issued us with an voucher. Small print on the voucher is that it can only be used for flights originating in Oz and has to be used for flights costing the same or more. That last bit is important.
Earlier in the year I had registered with the UK High Commision. I had a communication from them indicating that Qantas was operating two flights a week, from Perth to London. I immediately attempted to book tickets using my newly received voucher.
I fell at the first hurdle. Apparently this flight was economy only. Our original booking was for premium economy. Therefore, our voucher was of a higher value than the seats I wanted to book, the system would not allow me to proceed with the booking.
After I picked my chin up off the floor, I resigned myself to having to spend ore time waiting on the phone to speak to a real person. Thankfully, I didn’t have to spend too long and after explaining my dilemma to a delightful young lady she told me this was not a problem.
After spending thirty minutes on the phone to her, I not only had seats booked and tickets issued via email, but also had confirmation of a refund of the difference.
So, there we were again, big smiles and fingers crossed, we were on our way home.
And sure enough, we left Perth on 31st May and touched down at Heathrow 1st June.
Why am I still frustrated ?
Well I am still waiting on BA to refund me the full value of my return flight tickets and associated charges and taxes.
I have tried to contact them by phone several time using different numbers. There phone system leads you through several number selections. Informs you that they are very busy, operating on reduced staffing levels, thanks you for your patience ……. then hangs up !!!
No queue ….. nothing.
While going through this I discovered that I had received two payments into my bank account which I have determined are the seat booking fees I paid last October. This was a start and I thought the remaining monies would follow fairly shortly.
I got tired of holding my breath and having been thwarted by the phone system I thought I would utilise their email contact form on their website. The day after I submitted the email I discovered that I had received two further payments into my account. Initially I was quite excited and pleased by this. That is until I realised that the total sum credited to my account falls rather short of my expectations. Around £500 short to be precise.
I have since gone back, through the email system, to BA asking for an explaination of where the remaining monies are and for a breakdown of what they believe they have paid me so far.
I do not believe that BA are operating in a professional manner. Since the flight cancellation they have not been proactive to resolve either my flights or refunds. In fact it feels like they have taken a step back and wiped their hands of me. Their web site, Phone App and telephone system seems deliberately set up to frustrate and thwart those trying to obtain a refund.
There have been no communications from them to say they are paying me any money. If I hadn’t been viewing my account for another reason I would have been unaware of the transactions. The funds are just appearing in my account, like the animals on Noahs Ark, they come in two by two. I have gone back through the original invoices and cannot rationalise their refund credits against the amounts the charges.
So, that is why the frustration levels remain high.
07/04/2020 – Update
This morning I tried calling BA and, after 40 minutes of once again listening to “that tune”, I was eventually connected to one of BAs agents.
After explaining that the BA app would not help me sort out a booking for the Perth / KL leg of my journey, even though I had seen flights available on the Malaysia Airlines site, the agent put me on hold while she tried to sort out a flight.
When she came back, she informed me that the flight that I had seen, with availability yesterday, was fully booked in both Economy and Business classes.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. But I am still frustrated that there is no proactive help from BA.
After all, I booked tickets for all of my journey with BA. Their partner airline has cancelled the flight and my feeling is that BA, in sending the email notification have just washed their hands of the issue. If I don’t keep harrassing them then they will forget bout me and my wife.
So, the agents advice is that I should wait until next month to see how the worldwide airline network is looking. That, in May I should try booking flights via BA again and in the meantime, just sit tight.
Of course, that is all well and good. In May I can choose to either re-book, accept a voucher for future air travel or I can request a refund.
If I go down the refund path then I am fully responsible for my own travel. At the moment I have tickets, bought at October 2019 prices. Who knows what the prices will be for future flights.
Who knows how many of the major airlines will still be in existence since most are already requesting government handouts, are laying off thousands of staff and have grounded most if not all of their fleets.
This is a complex problem and I guess I will revisit it in May.
06/04/2020 – Initial Post
This is my first post with a Coronavirus link. Don’t panic, I’m not about to join the ranks of covidiots. What, I am about to share, is my frustration with the folks that I contracted to take me home.
Last October, my wife, Gerry, and I flew out to Perth WA. We booked return tickets with British Airways (BA), the flights being London to Perth via Kuala Lumpur (KL). BA serviced the London / Kuala Lumpur leg and partners Malaysia Airlines serviced the remaining Kuala Lumpur / Perth leg.
The outward journey was almost trouble free, apart from a little glitch over boarding cards for the KL / Perth leg. However, we duly arrived in Australia, met up with our family and here we have been ever since.
Little did we know, at that time, what the world had in store for us. In fact, little did anybody know.
So up pops Covid-19 or Coronavirus, throws the whole world into chaos. Not the least of which is the worlds airlines.
A short while ago I received an email from BA informing me that my flight from Perth to KL is cancelled. Of course behind this cancellation is the fact that Malaysia closed its borders to all foreigners. Amazingly, the KL / London leg is still scheduled.
Which is where my frustration comes in.
The BA email provided links to change my flights or accept a voucher … aka … IOU or grab a refund. Since I still need to get home I chose to explore the flight change option.
Of course things are changing so rapidly I didn’t really expect this to go smoothly. However, I was surprised that the BA supplied link came back with the following …
This was a surprise since I had already been on the Malaysia Airlines website and it was indicating flight availability.
It seems that the BA app can only see BA flights.
So, I thought I would try going direct to Malaysia Airlines. After a surprisingly short wait I was connected with a very pleasant lady. I explained my dilemma, she called up my details on her system. She then politely explained to me that she cannot transfer my booking to a new flight.
The reason for this, is that my tickets are not on Malaysia Airlines “ticket stock”.
This confirmed, apparently, by the ticket number commencing with “125”. Bottom line was that I had to go back to BA. Obviously I need to speak to a real person, not an app.
The BA Customer Service number is for an office over east. What that means is by the time you get up in Perth, they have all gone to lunch. It’s obviously not that bad but it might just as well be.
I listened to the “all our customer service reps are busy” message many, many times. In between messages, I listened to an ear bleedingly tinny recording of the BA theme, The Flower Duet from Léo Delibes Lakmé. Not the beautiful operatic version but one that sounds like it is being played on a National Steel Guitar recorded through a length of steel pipe. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the National Steel Guitar. Over and over I listen while waiting for a customer service rep. After an hour I have a headache and have lost the will to live. Eventually, I hang up. Resolved to call again tomorrow, earlier.
I used to like that tune.