British Airways Shows How Airlines Can Be So Exasperating

Last year, I was to travel from San Francisco to India for a conference. While 2 of us from California allowed ample time to get our visas from the Indian Consulate in San Francisco, in the end we did not have our visas issued in time:

  • After dilly-dallying for a couple of weeks, the requirement that we needed “conference” visas was changed within 2 days of our flight time to needing “business visas.”  I didn’t care that it cost a bit more money–I needed the visa so I could fly to New Dehli.
  • With no time to spare, it turned out the printer that prints the visas in a passport was broken and therefore no visa could be issued. Hard to believe that there’s no alternate printer or work-around for this.

Two of us missed getting to the conference due to Travisa and the San Francisco Indian Consulate’s inefficiencies and having a single-point-of-failure in a critical process: printing the visa in my passport.

My air travel was on British Airways. I paid additional money out of my pocket to ensure I wasn’t stuck in a middle seat of a 747 for two flight segments of about 11 hours each.

I missed my outbound flight–I alerted the travel agent and airline well in advance of the scheduled departure. The travel agent notified BA that I was awaiting my visa and might be able to leave a day late and get to the conference. I was told “you have 52 weeks to use this ticket.” I thought that was great.

Today, I called BA to see about using that ticket to attend this year’s conference in Istanbul, Turkey. It’s about 2 weeks earlier this year so it should have been easy to leverage the ticket with BA.  Wrong!

BA tells me that the ticket needed to be re-booked at the same time I missed my outbound flight or the entire ticket value would be lost.

How on God’s green earth can I be told 2 entirely different rules about the same ticket?  Does anybody see the conflict?

And, what does BA say, “We’re sorry. There’s nothing we can do. You need to call your travel agent.” [Read my Fast Company blog post “I’m Sorry Doesn’t Cut It Anymore.”

So, Dell (who is paying my travel to these 2 conferences) is out the money. This makes me as angry as if was my own money.  And, as for reclaiming the $170 I paid out of my pocket to not sit in middle seats, that reimbursement claim was rejected by BA as well last year shortly after I was unable to travel.  I seem to recall BA was “sorry” about that as well.

Airline passengers are sick and tired of being gamed by the airlines, their silly rules, and their complete lack of accountability. It’s just disgusting.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting, http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

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