The Longest Night

Recently, I switched from my 'cheap and cheerful-ish' commute via @Easyjet and @London_Gatwick airport. After 3+ years of constant misery, I thought, there has to be something better.

So this week I flew down on British Airways from @Aberdeen_Airport to @London_City. Despite the snowcopalypse, I got to ABZ in under an hour, got a good breakfast, on the plane and down to London vaguely on time. A total of four hours 'door to door' instead of six - bliss. 

So on Friday, I sat in the office - alone - all my colleagues had seen the forecast and decided to 'work from home'. I tried to get through to British Airways customer services by telephone in order to get into the earlier flight - but after 45 minutes on hold, was told 'tough'.

Okay. Flight still okay on the website, I headed to City. Got through security in 10 minutes, went and had a nice Pasta, and watched the snowploughs hit the runway. Our original departure time of 7:30 got pushed back to 8:00.

By 8pm, we were one of four remaining flights. By 8:30, our departure had been put back to 9:45, and we were the last flight. Most others had been cancelled. I tweeted

Joy - at 9:30, we got called to the gate, shuffled through and waited in a heated area watching the incoming passengers get off. By 9:40, we were onboard, and by 9:45, the doors were shut.

The de-icing machine was alongside the plane, waiting for the fuel tanker to finish brimming the tanks. All good. I even went to sleep.

At 10:15, the pilot came over the tannoy and although I cannot remember his exact words, basically said that the airport were now refusing to de-ice our plane, the flight was cancelled, and we should all get off now. I tweeted.

Um. Thanks.

So we all trooped inside, stood in a queue. Five or six 'security' folks stood around as we were clearly angry. One family stood at the customer services desk, and a wee slip of a lass stood at the front whispering stuff to the first 10 or 15 passengers, passing around a bit of paper.

After about 10 minutes, I finally got in front of her, and she explained that if we wanted, we could put our names down for flights from London Heathrow on Saturday morning at 8am. No, they could not arrange travel to Heathrow. No, they could not arrange hotels. And yes, they had cancelled five out of six Heathrow to Aberdeen flights on the Friday.

I asked her to confirm this and pointed out that I felt this was completely unreasonable. It was now 22:50, a snowstorm had hit london, six previous flights had been cancelled from City (so all local hotels were now full) and we were now expected to make our way completely across London to Heathrow, and somehow - ourselves - find accommodation nearby. Despite over 200 cancelled flights over there today, and every bed within 15 miles being occupied.

Basically yes. And Tough.

I stomped out, got on the DLR and tried to make it to Euston for the overnight sleeper. On the DLR I booked a ticket via the website, and had to get a taxi from Monument to Euston as the Northern Line had broken again.
I got to the train with about 30 seconds to spare.

And this is where the good news started happening. I had a first-class ticket (which I was repeatedly assured I had paid over the odds for), no bunk reservation and first-class was full. But they found me an empty second class bunk (the only difference between 1st and 2nd is that you might have to share in 2nd).

I then had a couple of beers and a sandwich in the first-class bar, watching a stag party manhandle their stag - dressed as Bungle from Rainbow. At one stage, 'Bungle' face-planted through the bar door, almost took out the barman. Hilarious.

I got off around 7:20 this morning, and got on the 7:30am train to Montrose, where I'm typing this. Using their free wifi, and waiting for the free coffee to appear.

Unlike the majority of my fellow passengers on the ABZ flight, I had some - not a lot - of sleep and I'm likely to be home by 10am.

British Airways? For a full-price flag carrier, your customer service stinks. You:

  • Failed miserably to answer your customer service line for 45 minutes. 
  • Your web site didnt allow me to change to an earlier flight, despite an earlier travel advisory that you were allowing all passengers to change flights for free. Your customer service line failed to honour this too
  • You did really well getting us onto that plane. But as soon as we got off that plane, you failed really badly.
  • At 11pm, in the middle of a snowstorm, you basically told an entire flight to get lost, figure out their own accommodation and travel to another flight blackspot.
  • You have a duty of care over your passengers, and you failed completely.
  • And those flights you'd promised us this morning? Yeah. They're probably stuffed too. Thanks. 

Despite paying 2-3 times more this week for travel, and despite the snow making an impact, I've had the same customer service resolution from you as I would have from the likes of Ryanair: Tough, Get Stuffed.