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Old 7th October 2011, 02:00 AM
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Smile BBC Watchdog: British Airways: To Fly. To Serve?

British Airways' former slogan was 'The World's Favourite Airline', but you can't have missed their brand new motto, part of their biggest marketing blitz in a decade. They say it's stitched into every uniform of every captain who takes their command - 'To Fly. To Serve.'

Only four words? We've heard from Watchdog viewers who can think of a few more. Rebecca Wilcox reports.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Take Philip Matthews, who booked a flight from Heathrow to Korea this year through a travel service website. After booking his flight he received a confirmation email addressed to 'Mr Matthews'. Nothing unusual there. However, there was a problem.

Philip explained to Watchdog, 'I'd entered Mr Matthews on the web form rather than Mr Philip Matthews. They told me the ticket was invalid. They said that Mr could have been my first name.' Mr Mr Matthews? Clearly a simple mistake and one that's easy to fix. Or so you'd think....

Philip's ticket had two legs, the first with British Airways and the second with Cathay Pacific. Philip told us that Cathay Pacific agreed to change the name on the ticket, but British Airways refused.

"So just because of this tiny mistake on the ticket, tiny change that I was requesting I had to go out and spend 1000 on a completely different ticket. I find that absolutely incredible." Philip told us.

"The response was that because I hadn't booked direct with British Airways that they'd wash their hands of the whole thing."

So much for setting themselves apart from the opposition!

It seems the motto only applies to customers who book through the company direct, but at least if you do book through their website directly and then find the same flights cheaper elsewhere online, British Airways will refund the difference. That's their price match promise.

Unfortunately, they didn't quite live up to their promise for Ray Tregale, who was planning a holiday to America with his family. He found some flights online with British Airways, but then also found the exact same flights on another website for a cheaper price. Ray called BA, who told him all he needed to do was purchase their more expensive flights, take some screengrabs of the cheaper flights online and he would be refunded the difference.

Ray did as they asked, but explained, "I then received another email back two days later telling me that I needed some information on the fare rules.

I've struggled to find what the fare rules are. I think they're asking for information that's not available."

Ray then sent British Airways FOURTEEN separate emails to explain he couldn't find the fare rule information, before eventually giving up.

One member of British Airways' staff said that it gives them an incentive to deliver an outstanding level of world recognisable customer service. But Watchdog viewer Lynne Calcutt doesn't agree, after she and her husband suffered delays on their flight home from Antigua.

Lynne explained, "My husband is an insulin dependent diabetic, and if he doesn't have food available to him within a very short space of time of having his injection it can create a really serious problem."

There was food on board the aircraft, but it was only served to those sitting in Club Class. Lynne said when she spoke to cabin crew about the matter; they took no notice of her request: "I would certainly not ever have expected that from British Airways, I actually wouldn't expect it from any airline to be perfectly honest."

Then there's Kate Perrior. Kate always chooses to fly with British Airways, and decided to treat herself to an upgrade on a business trip to America. Her flight was delayed and when she boarded the plane she discovered her in-flight entertainment system was not working.

BA offered to try and upgrade Kate on her return flight free of charge. Kate explained, "That really raised my hopes that my complaint had been taken seriously by B A, but when I got back to the airport I was told the flight was full and there was no upgrade."

Kate was offered just 50 in flight vouchers as compensation. But the outcome was very different when the same problem happened again, on a different BA flight, to a different Kate. Kate Middleton.

When the in-flight entertainment broke down on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's flight, BA offered them a 200 voucher in compensation.

So, refusing to re-issue tickets, broken price match promises, and miserable offers of compensation - unless you're married to a prince.

What was that again BA - To Fly, To Serve?

British Airways Response:

British Airways' aim is to deliver the highest standards of customer service. We are proud to fly around 90,000 customers every day and we strive to ensure that every single customer has a positive experience.

Clearly, it is regrettable when individual lapses occur and we continually review our procedures to minimise the potential for such occurrences.

We are not just talking about improving our services. We have plans to invest more than 5 billion over the next five years on improvements to customers' experience.

These include new aircraft, smarter cabins and new technologies to make customers' lives more comfortable both in the air and on the ground.

Case One: Philip Matthews

We have apologised profusely to Mr Matthews and offered him a full refund plus a further gesture of goodwill in recognition of the frustration he endured.

He should have been offered a full refund and an opportunity to rebook as soon as he approached us about the name change.

We very much regret that this did not happen, and that this error was not rectified on the subsequent occasions he contacted us.

British Airways customers making direct or indirect third party bookings, can usually make minor corrections, such as simple spelling mistakes, to their booking for a service fee of 30.

We recommend that customers check confirmation details of their booking as soon as possible. If there are any mistakes customers should contact whoever made the booking.

Mr Matthews' booking involved connecting flights with other carriers. Many airlines' booking systems are not compatible with each other, so Mr Matthews should have been refunded for the original booking and invited to make a new booking with the correct name details.

Case Two: Ray Tregale

We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience that Mr Tregale has experienced.

We are refunding the difference between the fares, and have offered a gesture of goodwill.

While we do require proof that fares located on alternative UK public websites are based on the same fare conditions as the flight booked through, the emails sent to Mr Tregale from the airline asking for more information should have been clearer.

We have apologised to Mr Tregale and hope that this experience will not deter him from flying with British Airways in the future.

Case Three: Katie Perrior

We are sorry that Ms Perrior's experience was not up to the standard she would rightly expect from British Airways.

We understand customers' natural disappointment if their personal in-flight entertainment system does not work correctly.

Unfortunately there were no other seats available for Ms Perrior during the flight. In recognition of the in-flight entertainment issue, we offered Mrs Perrior 50 in British Airways vouchers, as she was in our World Traveller Plus cabin. The amount offered reflects the cabin booked, and therefore the price paid. For example, customers travelling in First class would be offered 100 worth of vouchers in similar circumstances.

Case Four: Linda Calcutt

We have apologised to Mr and Mrs Calcutt for the disruption they experienced, and appreciate the extra distress they suffered because of Mr Calcutt's medical condition.

The couple were offered, and have accepted 10,000 BA miles, in addition to 25 worth of British Airways highlife shopping vouchers, in recognition of the inconvenience caused.

The full meal service on the Calcutts' return flight was held back in the hope of not delaying the flight's departure any longer than necessary. However, we appreciate that the timing of the meal service was not early enough for the Calcutts and caused them distress.

British Airways: To Fly. To Serve?
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