Tag Archives: ba

Did British Airways pay off Kim Kardashian for her stolen luggage?

I promised this blog that I would update on my customer experience with British Airways and I’ve been hassled by a few people for taking my sweet time. Apologies – rightly, or wrongly, I decided to give them a while longer to respond. And in the meantime I have reflected on the experiences I have seen in the media. I hope you enjoy.

Corporate blogs with poor experiences

It’s not just me that had problems. Friend and blogger Dennis Howlett has suffered at the hands of BA too, and wrote it up in a sequence of 3 blogs on ZDNet entitled “British Airways Customer Failures“.

Is it not time for a fundamental rethink about what these systems deliver? Is it not time for some of the mega brands to recognise that what served them well in the past will no longer cut it?

Friend and colleague – and manager of a very large business unit – Anthony Leaper, SVP and General Manager of LoB Customer Solutions at SAP, wrote a Forbes article entitled “You can’t keep saying “It’s not our fault” forever.“. Anthony is an expert on customer loyalty management and he nails some points home:

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matterwhose fault it is. Every company owns the responsibility for its customers’ experience, whether it likes it or not.

Then you can just take the hilarious “BA is Shite” blog which acts as a content aggregator for this stuff.

But there is a serious point here – Howlett, Leaper, and others – have serious influence. Leaper has influence over the travel decisions of a $18bn business, and perhaps wider. And yet, BA does not take them seriously. Why is this?

Lack of understanding of modern media

After I wrote my last blog “How British Airways Broke This Camel’s Back“, I was contacted by a media employee of BA called Michael Johnson. After a few exchanges, he very interestingly responded:

As much as I would like to keep chatting with you, I’m afraid I need to restrict my contacts to the media and that’s my job…

I had a similar experience with BA’s Twitter handles. They either ignore, or let you know that customer relations will be in touch. But customer relations are never in touch – and even if they are, they say things like:

Checked-in luggage has to pass through various hands on its way to and from the aircraft.  So on the rare occasions when belongings go missing, it is virtually impossible to pinpoint what happened.

And this to me shows a complete lack of understanding of modern media. Most organisations do not now differentiate between different types of influence – be it corporate bloggers, media types or influential social media people. If you influence, you are worth engaging with. But not to BA. Unless of course your name is…

Kim Kardashian

Now she does have 14m Twitter followers to my 2.5k and Howlett’s 9k and Leaper’s 34. But when she lost her luggage and Tweeted:

“Very disappointed in British Airways for opening my luggage & taking some special items of mine! Some things are sentimental – irreplaceable”

Then BA managed to respond:

A British Airways spokesperson said they were looking into the claims.

I tweeted Kim to ask her if she got any response but I’m guessing she did, and they offered her a pay off in return for her silence, because the media went strangely quiet. Let me know if you know anything more on this. It reminds me of when they lost Victoria Beckham’s Louis Vuitton luggage in 1998. Stories suggest that BA paid her £100k in damages.
So what’s the outcome?
Well our frustration is reflected in the stock price – parent company IAG’s stock value is down 50% in the last year from a high of 23.25 to 12.53 today. I have no idea what it will take for them to listen but I, for one, am shopping elsewhere.

How British Airways broke this camel’s back

I’m not sure why but the straw has broken the camel’s back. I am currently crammed into a centre economy seat. To the left is a passenger with no concept of personal space and a serious case of halitosis. To my right is another passenger who has ordered the fish menu and has opened it up for me to enjoy the smell.

In front is someone I know that works for BA, who has been given an upgrade to business class. The plane is packed and somehow I feel jilted that BA look after their own employees rather than rewarding their frequent flyers.

I fly a lot with British Airways. Somewhere in the region of 250k miles a year. Mostly economy with a mix of premium economy, business and the occasional first class ticket, depending on who is paying.

By contrast I fly much less with US Airways, though enough to be a frequent flyer. And they treat me curiously well. For instance on a trip to Costa Rica some months back, both myself and my partner got complimentary first class tickets both ways – including a 6’6″ flat bed. In fact I’ve had some sort of upgrade on over half of the US Airways flights i have flown this year.

Because I fly a lot, I get some problems. This is more or less expected and these problems in the last year have included:

  • Destroyed luggage
  • Theft from my luggage
  • Items left in planes never returned to me
  • Crashed planes causing serious delays
  • Being downgraded
  • Flights booked on the wrong dates by agents who refused to change them

What shocks me, and continues to shock me is threefold:

First, I know that BA have a policy of trying to retain their top customers. I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I am such a customer. However the behaviour that they display is in complete conflict with this.

Second, much of the time there are spare seats in a cabin ahead. What is the opportunity risk of upgrading your loyal customers to reward them for their loyalty? I buy the best cabin I can afford and by not upgrading me, BA will not make me contemplate paying more.

Lastly, when there is a problem, there is no worse resolver group than BA Customer Relations. I have contacted them multiple times, filled in surveys and complaints. And never, have they ever offered me compensation, good will, or anything else. They just ignore it.

By contrast I have had equivalent problems with US Airways and Qantas, and both airlines have been helpful and offered me something for my inconvenience.

So I have resolved to do something today. I am going to post this blog and then fill out one last customer survey. BA, you have one last opportunity to do something about it and I am expecting a big gesture. Otherwise, you have lost me, and everyone I have influence over, as a customer for life.

There it is, I have thrown down the gauntlet. On the 1st June, I will post an update, either way. We shall see if BA is capable of engaging its customers.