Well hello again! It’s been a week (already!) that I’ve been home from the awesome orient now. But as I hinted at in my brief on-site post in Japan, it took an extra 24 hours to actually take off from Heathrow…
So why was this?
Well, if you saw my brief last post you might have seen me mention that British Airways didn’t make a particularly good first impression on me.
But let’s rewind.
I woke up on the Sunday morning that I was supposed to be jetting off with the usual travel butterflies. I was just a couple of hours away from getting in the sky and winging my way towards my dream destination – Japan! And after a few final checks I was off to Terminal 5 at Heathrow to get on board.
It wasn’t a promising start however, with BA’s “self check-in” machines failing miserably to do the job they claim to. A long queue was beginning to snake back from the bag drop areas due to these, and having only got a slip telling me my check-in couldn’t be completed I decided to take my details down to the assistance area.
It was here that the (admittedly very helpful) customer service lady told me some very surprising news:
“Okay I must inform you Sir that the flight is very overbooked…”
I’d heard of this before, but never expected to actually come across it. So what did this mean?
“…as such we’re looking for volunteers to take the same flight tomorrow morning.”
Volunteer?! What?! Well what’s in it for me…?
“We’re offering either €600 in cash, or an £825 travel voucher, plus your accommodation and food for the day.”
Actually not a bad deal at all! That was a pleasant surprise…
Despite this, my first response was that I had to be going that day. After all, I’d waited years to hit Japan, so I damn well wanted to get there! But it was becoming fairly clear that I wasn’t likely to get on the plane as they’d overbooked it by a massive 23(!) people. Not a particularly heartening thing to hear…
With the cherry on top coming in the form of a six hour delay – unbelievably, due to lack of cabin crew – the cash, food and accommodation wasn’t sounding too bad at all. So after clarifying the terms of the compensation deal a couple of times, I decided to bite the bullet:
“You know what, I’ll go for that deal.”
Well they sure seemed relieved! Just another 14 people to try and entice off I heard them say. I didn’t envy that job, dealing with what I imagine were some far less pleasant customers at 7am on a Sunday morning.
Anyhow I was handed a BA cash card loaded with my compensation, and informed that I had a room in the Sofitel waiting for me, along with a load of food vouchers. The BA customer liaison lady sure made the hotel sound good. Thankfully, she wasn’t exaggerating!
I remembered seeing the Sofitel as the bus pulled into T5, although I didn’t realise it was actually attached to the terminal. Once I’d realised all I had to do was take the lift down a floor or so, I got strolling through the airy and swanky tunnel connecting the hotel and the terminal. And when I stepped out from there into the hotel lobby, I realised that the BA woman was spot on – this place was very nice.
A swift check in – fair play, they were already expecting those of us that were delayed – meant that I was soon settled into my sweet Sofitel room. Not where I was expecting to be at 7.30 that Sunday morning. And there I sat for a while, again 24 hours away from departing for Japan.
So the rest of my day consisted of a massive free buffet breakfast (seriously, it was awesome!), a trip along the Piccadilly Line into Central London, wandering around Landaan Town for a few hours before I gave up due to the freezing temperatures, and chilling with a few drinks and a fat burger back in the lush hotel. You might then wander why, despite the very generous compensation deal, British Airways didn’t make a particularly great impression on me…
Well for a start, how does a flight get that overbooked? I know that overbooking is standard practice with practically all airlines of course, but 23 people over?! That seems ridiculous to me! I would have thought no more than 10/12 people would be a safe amount, but an aviation expert I am not.
The fact that my original flight was delayed anyways was also a disappointment. Whilst it didn’t end up affecting me – in fact it helped me decide to take the compensation – it just didn’t seem that surprising with the many previous negative stories about BA. Additionally the reason for it was just ridiculous! Not enough cabin staff?! Top planning…
And of course, let’s not forget the key point – I ended up giving up a day of my trip. My trip that I had looked forward to for so long. And my trip that was already going to be pretty damn packed anyways. Well it ended up getting even more condensed. Whilst I’ve no doubt that taking the compensation was the right choice, especially compared to hanging around an airport for 6 hours just hoping I got on to my delayed original flight, a freezing London that I’d seen several times before was no substitute for the country I’d always dreamed of heading to. Well, at least I got there eventually!
Oh I almost forgot, there was one final twist too! When I checked in the next morning I was pleasantly surprised to be told I’d been upgraded to “World Traveller Plus” – that’s economy with a bit more room – for free. Ideal I thought.
Until my AVOD screen had a massive case of the judders for my entire 11 and a half hour flight! GODDAMMIT…
Thanks for the cashback and comfy bed British Airways, but let’s not do this again soon!
Have you ever been bumped off of a flight? How were you compensated?