Travel Horror Story: British Airways and Delta

Yesterday my wife was supposed to be travelling back to England. She had been planning the trip for over half a year and was looking forward to attending her friend’s wedding as well as catching up with friends and family for a couple of weeks. The day started off early as her flight with Delta from Pittsburgh, PA to JFK, New York, NY left at 10:00am.

About an hour after she had left I got an automated call from Delta saying that her flight had been cancelled and they had booked her onto a flight at 6pm that evening! I knew that her British Airways from JFK to Manchester, UK was due to leave at 6:05pm. This was obviously a problem and so we started looking for alternatives to get her there on time.

I called a friend who offered to drive me to the airport to meet her and try to get this sorted out. Delta were less than helpful and claimed weather which apparently means they are not obligated to help. Checking the weather reports confirmed that storms were predicted that afternoon but offered no explanation why they were grounding flights that morning. After talking to them it seemed clear they were not going to get her there in time.

So we called British Airways. We have been loyal customers for years, taken more flights with them than I remember and had always been very happy with the service. We had never had cause to use their customer service but assumed it would be good as every other dealing we had with them was always positive.

After speaking with a customer service agent she assured us that there was nothing to worry about. She advised us to try and get to JFK today, but if we couldn't make it they could put Louise on the flight tomorrow for a fee of approximately $120. This made us feel much better and we thought worst case the journey was just going to be delayed by a day. We abandoned the plan of attempting to hire a car and drive to JFK which according to Google and MapQuest would have taken just shy of seven hours.

After confirming with Delta that there was little chance of them getting my wife to JFK in time for her flight we accepted the flight the next day on the proviso that Louise could get a refund if she found an earlier flight with a competitor. So we headed back home, scoured the travel sites and Louise called British Airways back to see about getting her flight switched to one tomorrow.

To her horror the second representative told her that this was not possible and no changes could be made to her ticket on the day of travel. She then proceeded to very unhelpfully quote that it was in the terms and conditions and that the previous agent was incorrect. We talked with the first person at about 8:20am when we might have had a shot at making it to JFK by car but being at home at around 10:30am we knew that we have no chance of making it.

I made the point that it was their previous agent that had given us incorrect information and that they should take some responsibility and work with us. My wife was obviously really upset by this and so I tried to talk with the woman who just kept repeating that it was in the terms and conditions and that if my wife didn't make it to JFK that day then her ticket would be forfeit and she would need to buy a new ticket.

I quite honestly couldn’t believe it and after speaking with this woman it became clear that she thought she was in the right, I couldn’t speak to anyone else about the matter and the previous agent was wrong. I was apparently free to make a complaint about this but beyond that she simply didn’t care. When I asked her whether she thought it was fair that we pay for the poor training of the previous agent she went on to repeat that it was clear in the terms and conditions. I made the point that the previous agent didn’t seem to know it but apparently I should know it myself.

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