The impending British Airways pilot strike due to happen on 9, 10 and 27 September was always going to cause holiday misery, but this was compounded today (Sunday 25th August) when the airline sent out an email to customers with tickets booked on other days saying their flights were cancelled.
Thousands of British Airways passengers spent hours on the phone this bank holiday weekend trying to rebook cancelled flights to salvage their holiday plans.
Some rebooked with other airlines only to be told later by British Airways that the emails were sent out in error and in actual fact their flight was not cancelled.
In a nightmare scenario, some holidaymakers now find themselves in a situation where they are now booked on two separate flights to the same destination.
A spokesman for the airline said:
We are sorry that some customers received an email in error to say that their flight had been cancelled on non-strike days. We are getting in touch with all those customers this afternoon to clarify that their flight will go ahead as planned. We are sorry for any confusion and inconvenience this has caused.
It’s no surprise that the airline’s phone lines were jammed all day. Some customers spent hours on the phone when they should have been out enjoying the bank holiday sunshine. Many couldn’t get through. Many turned to social media to express themselves.
One such person was the BBC’s North America editor, Jon Sopel. He tweeted:
Dear British Airways. This morning you wrote saying our flight was cancelled from Washington, and that we needed to rebook. We rebooked. Now you’ve written to say our flight is not cancelled after all. So what the ….. are we meant to do now? Thanks.
BA (British Airways) are struggling to cope with the 40,000 calls they received in the first 24 hours. They have put on an extra 70 members of staff, yet the chaos reigns on.
The irony of this event is that it happened on their airline’s centenary.
Sharron Livingston, editor of The Travel Magazine said: “It’s the airline’s 100th birthday yet instead of celebration, passengers are stressed out, many are worried about being out-of-pocket and understandably upset about the mess-up in communications relating to the already stressful pilots’ strike.
“The issue has caused confusion and anxiety and the least customers should expect is clear communication about their flight status and if the flight is indeed cancelled that a replacement flight has been booked either with themselves or another company.”
A British Airways spokesperson has given an assurance that all those who had rebooked flights after the email error are eligible for a refund.
She added “customers should keep all records and receipts handy for the refund process.”
In the meantime, Virgin Atlantic seizing on the opportunity created by the chaos said on social media “Has British Airways cancelled your flight on the 9, 10 or 27th September due to their pilot strike? We’d love to help keep your travel plans on track.”
Passengers can expect a full refund on request, rebook the flight for another time in the next 355 days, or use the value of the fare to fly to a different destination.
BA say on their website BA.com:
We will be offering all affected customers full refunds or the option to re-book to another date. We’re very sorry about the impact BALPA’s action will have, and we’ll do everything we can to get as many people as possible away on their journeys. Flights on BA CityFlyer, SUN-AIR and Comair are not affected. We’re exploring options to supplement our fleet by using aircraft and crew from other airlines (wet leasing) We’re working with our partner airlines to schedule larger aircraft to take the maximum number of customers.
Why are BA Pilots striking?
BALPA (British Airline Pilots Association) say the strikes are a “last resort” and that they are experiencing “enormous frustration” with airline management and how the business is being run. Pilots were offered a pay increase of 11.5 per cent over three years, but this pay increase has been rejected.