Ordinarily I’d be excited about the ceremony of travelling to the airport and checking in for a flight. For me, Heathrow has and will always be, a magical place. It’s my first time travelling from Terminal 5 and despite all the bad press, the first time in 28 years I’ve elected to fly British Airways. It should be a momentous occasion but bad press exists for a reason and days before I get to the terminal I know I’ve made a massive mistake in choosing not to book the other carrier flying the route into Istanbul, Turkish Airlines.
What are my woes with BA? Well for starters, I have two bags that have a combined weight of around 25kg. For Turkish, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and it seems any other airline this presents no problem, yet (and I really should have known better) BA lack any form of connection with its customers and in their efforts to stay afloat are screwing us every way they can, to quote another business, ‘every little helps’ THEM but not us, the fare paying passenger.
For my past few trips abroad I’ve gotten wise to the fact that a low cost airline is anything but with an array of assorted fees from extra baggage to in-flight meals to travel insurance waiting to catch out the unwary during the booking process. Thus I pay extra to travel from Heathrow for no hidden extras and one would expect some semblance of service, which does exist on most other carriers. What I hadn’t bargained for is the increasing level of low cost service being adopted by scheduled airlines. Just last year I had an argument with Scandinavian Airline System (SAS) because they expected me to pay for food on a scheduled service from Heathrow to Stockholm. I wasn’t happy and they refunded me. In BA’s case, on top of my ticket cost I am being charged for no other reason than I have a second bag – even if it falls within the allowed 23kg on this particular flight, they would still charge me for the privilege, making BA a de-facto Ryan-air with an exclusive address.
I can see this on the ticket info I have purchased but assume that as with the aforementioned carriers, common sense will prevail at the terminal check-in. It doesn’t. The guy at the ‘bag drop’ looks as if he agrees but can do nothing about his employers idiotic and potentially suicidal policies. I already know of this having e-mailed and phoned the so called ‘customer help’ line. It’s a sobering experience. The first thing I notice after the ‘welcome to British Airways’ salutation is an ominous omission of the words ‘the world’s favourite airline’ and it’s pretty evident to see why.
To my surprise the call is answered fairly swiftly, the only positive I can glean from BA. When the rep I speak to confirms the worst I attempt to get a transfer to the Turkish Airlines flight that I’ve stupidly and regrettably not booked. But, guess what.. there’s no refund and it will cost me even more for a transfer to… another British Airways flight, so I’m stuck with a ticket and a bad taste in my mouth.
The flight is even worse. According to their website, British Airways are a ‘full service global airline,’ yet on this flight they operate a tatty A320 with a well worn copy of its magazine ‘High Life.’ The only entertainment system is a drop down screen showing the flights progress in a variety of angles. For an hour long hop to Amsterdam, Brussels or Paris this would be fine but not for a mid range jaunt to Istanbul at nearly £300. The food is reasonable but is (save the odd vegetarian on board) a one size fits all solution – Chicken Tikka with a roll and a Banoffee tart (just as well I was OK with that then). While Turkish by comparison flew a sparkling A330, had rear seat screen entertainment and a printed menu with a choice, BA cannot run to any of that.
BA’s biggest problem is its Britishness, a stiff upper lip attitude of ‘We are right, you are wrong.’ It seems they scoff in the face of their customers and revel in negative press like a naughty kid receives an ASBO as a badge of honour. At least with all of it floating about they don’t appear to want to do anything about it. All of this means I have paid extra needlessly for nowhere near the service that Turkish Airlines deliver with ease. Overall it’ll be a long time before I consider flying BA again, what with their reputation it’s amazing they have got this far – only a merger with Iberia has saved them, but for how long? Perhaps it is time to put this sick puppy to sleep and leave the countries national aviation services in the hands of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, whom I have never flown but I’ll bet are a great deal better at customer service than BA, evidently no longer the world’s favourite airline.