Here is most of the content of a letter that I have sent to British Airways this afternoon. They used to call themselves “The World’s Favourite Airline”
BA Flight BA2613 NAP to LGW – Thursday 6th March 2014
I am writing to complain about the service that my wife and I received on our recent flight from Naples to Gatwick. Two of my complaints are trivial, when compared to the third, and I wouldn’t normally have raised them with you, I would just put them down to the normal “BA Experience”. However, since I need to bring a serious safety issue to your attention, I will raise these other issues with you too.
I will start with the two trivial matters and then move on to the important one.
On arrival at Naples Airport, we had to check-in at the desk in the hall. Your staff member advised us that the flight was completely full and asked whether we would mind putting our carry-on luggage into the hold. My carry-on bag contained photographic film that would have been ruined if placed below, so my wife allowed her bag to be taken. In exchange, we were offered “Priority Boarding”.
We were allocated seats 19A and 19B by this same member of staff (more of this later).
Once we arrived at the departure gate, it was clear that boarding of the plane would necessitate a bus ride from the terminal, rendering “Priority Boarding” useless, as that just gains access to the bus earlier, not the plane.
We were therefore inconvenienced on our arrival at Gatwick, having to wait for the hand luggage to be delivered along with all the normal check baggage. When going away for just a few days, we deliberately only take hand luggage to avoid this issue – never again will I be tempted to assist BA by having a bag put into the hold un-necessarily.
If you have a problem with people bringing too many or too large bags on the plane, that is easily manageable by your ground staff or by changing your policies to allow only one piece of hand luggage onto the plane.
It is common knowledge that the food offer in economy on BA flights is poor. In the last couple of years we have flown with you twice to the US, and on the second flight, I didn’t eat any of the food offered, as it really was inedible. We also regularly fly with you for breaks in Europe and I am now beginning to question whether we should actually bring our own food onto the plane, if we are likely to need to eat.
On BA2613 last week, the “snack” offered was a bacon, tomato and spinach wrap, made on your behalf by Adelie Foods Group.
This small wrap contains approximately 40% of an adult’s daily intake of fat and salt and the packaging helpfully indicates the healthiness of the contents by highlighting the fat and salt content in red. I am sure it is not beyond your buying department’s skills to have healthy snacks served you your customers.
This was in addition to the cheese-filled croissant experience served on the breakfast time flight out to Naples from Gatwick the previous Sunday morning. Any baked food product that has a shelf life of something like 9 months really shouldn’t make it past your buyers.
I would rather pay a little more for my ticket to allow you to buy decent, edible food to serve to your economy passengers – or alternatively, pay a little less, so that you don’t have to bother offering food at all.
Do your Business Class passengers get served the same meals? Do they find the food acceptable?
(An interesting point to note is that when flying with Turkish Airlines, passengers are offered a choice of food when booking – even in Economy)
This is the real purpose of my letter and is a serious health and safety issue for which I would appreciate a response.
As I have said, my wife and I were allocated seats 19A and 19B, which as you know, are window and centre section seats on the 737 aeroplane used on this service. Once we had taken our seats, a severely disabled lady, whom we had seen earlier in her electric wheelchair at the departure gate, was brought in by your colleagues and required physical assistance from two staff to gain access into seat 19C, on the aisle. She did not have the capacity to transfer herself from the wheelchair you were then using, into the seat. She was a large lady, probably in her late 70s and required the use of the extension seat belt.
Her husband, also a wheelchair user, was sitting in seat 19D and her daughter and granddaughter were, not unreasonably, allocated 18C and 18D so that they could be available to assist their family members. Other, non-related passengers were in 19E and 19F.
It was immediately apparent that this lady would never have been able to get out of her seat in the event of an emergency and that my wife and I were effectively trapped in our seats. Despite what your check-in clerk had told us previously, there were spare seats available in the plane.
As you will also know, the flight from Naples to Gatwick is around 2 hours 15 minutes. It is therefore not unreasonable to expect passengers to need to use the bathrooms on the plane during the flight. Unfortunately for the lady in seat 19C, this is what my wife and I needed to do about an hour and three quarters into the flight. I had to ask the lady in 19C whether it would be possible for me to pass her to get access to the aisle. She was distressed about having to move, as she was too large to allow us to pass her without leaving the seat. Her daughter and another passenger had to assist her to stand and move just sufficiently into the aisle to allow us to pass – your on-board crew were nowhere to be seen at this time. She had great difficulty standing and it was most undignified for her to do so under those circumstances.
My wife and I both left our seats in row 19, taking our belongings with us and after using the bathrooms, sat in the rear row of seats for the rest of the flight.
The particular points raised by this incident are:-
- This lady should never have been allocated a seat in the middle of the plane. Her need for assisted embarkation and disembarkation were such that provision should have been made either at the very back of the plane or at the very front.
- She was put through a most undignified and distressing experience, just because two other passengers needed to use the toilet on the flight.
- By placing her in 19C, British Airways effectively put the safety of two other passengers at risk, because we would never have been able to leave the plane in the event of an emergency.
- On a similar note, had we remained in our seats, we would have had to wait for the whole plane to disembark before you would have been able to assist this lady leave the plane via a wheelchair. We would have been the last passengers to leave the plane.
- Your check-in staff member at Naples must have known that seat 19C was occupied by a severely disabled passenger who needed special assistance. She should never have allocated 19A and 19B to my wife and me in the first place. Indeed no-one should have been allocated those seats, not even the other members of the family.
- None of us should have been put into this situation by your staff.
British Airways’ complete lack of thought for the needs of all your passengers needlessly put this lady into a distressing situation and my wife and I at a hugely increased risk in the event of an emergency and I find it incredible that this can be deemed acceptable.
We have a flight booked with you to Bordeaux at the end of September and I am sincerely hoping that this kind of experience is not repeated. If I had not already booked and paid for the tickets, I would most certainly be considering alternative carriers, which is a shame, as I prefer to support British companies wherever possible.
I look forward to hearing from you with a suitable explanation of this completely unacceptable situation.