This is an extremely frustrating and costly situation we just experienced with British Airways. Not only did we not get to take the trip of our dreams but also we have had to pay unexpected expenses that were not in our budget. My husband and I had been saving and planning this trip to Italy for such a long time and to have those dreams smashed at the last second by British Airways was devastating. What follows is a chronological account of how we prepared for this trip while involving British Airways in every step of the way.
On April 8th, 2003 my son and I called the 800 number for booking and flight information. During this phone call, both of us were on the telephone at the same time with the sales woman. This was to make sure that I remembered to ask all the questions I needed to about our particular situation and understood all of the answers and instructions that she was giving me. We discussed the issue of my husband's need for oxygen thoroughly and supplied her with our Doctor's name and telephone number. The transfer between Heathrow and Gatwick airports was of special concern to the sales woman due to my husband being in a wheel chair and the assistance we would need to arrange for with our luggage. Her advice was to allow more time for the transfer and take a later flight out of Gatwick. We agreed.
Toward the end of that telephone conversation and after I had given her my credit card information she put us on hold. When she returned to the telephone, she explained that she had just double-checked with the medical department concerning the availability of the oxygen and the procedure needed to insure that the oxygen would be taken care of by British Airways for the entire round trip flight. She indicated that all had been taken care of. In addition, she told me that we could take a 22 lb. oxygen cylinder aboard the airplane. My son asked about getting it through security and she replied that British Airways would provide clearance documents to take care of the security issue. Lastly she asked us to call back in two or three days to confirm with the booking and medical departments that all arrangements had been confirmed.
I called back on April 14th and was told that everything had been confirmed for our flight to Naples, Italy. I asked again for this woman to double check with her medical department that the arrangements for the oxygen were confirmed. She did and told me that I need not worry because everything was taken care of. The tickets arrived in the mail on this day.
On the 15th, I called to ask about the flight insurance information that was supposed to come with the tickets (I had been told this when I purchased the insurance). This person told me that the insurance information came from another department, but should arrive at our address shortly. Again, I asked about the oxygen & personal help arrangements and again I was told, Not to worry that everything was taken care of.
When I called on the 16th, I asked about the small oxygen bottle that the first lady had told us we could carry aboard the airplane. Then I was informed that we could not possibly carry an oxygen bottle through security and onto the airplane. Beside, British Airways was all setup to take care of my husband's oxygen needs. And, again, Not to worry, we'll take good care of you.
Shortly after this conversation, a friend of mine got me worried about flying out of Boise on Alaska Airlines. Therefore, I called Alaska and they told me that they would not supply oxygen under any condition on a flight from Boise to Seattle. Now what do I do? British Airways had told me that even this part of our journey would have oxygen supplied to my husband. My son and I asked this question specifically.
I immediately call British Airways and the man I talked to told me that Alaska Airlines was wrong. He told me that he would straighten the problem out with Alaska and call me right back. I gave him my telephone number and told him that I would be waiting anxiously for his return call. No Return Call!
The next morning, 04/17, I called and talked to Arlene. I asked her about my husband's oxygen arrangements and when she checked, she told me, British Airways didn't have the oxygen setup for Clyde! After all the telephone calls and having asked your employees to double check the oxygen arrangements for my husband on our flightand I was always told not to worry, everything was taken care of, those arrangements still hadn't been taken care of! Arlene said she would take care of it immediately and wanted me to call Sarah in a couple of days to double check with her.
Talked to Sarah on the 19th and the arrangements were in place but due to the problem with Alaska Airlines, could we drive to Seattle? This would eliminate the first leg of our trip, which was originally booked through British Airways, but since Alaska would not provide the oxygen for Clyde, we had no other choice but to drive. On the morning of the 20th, I called Sarah and told her we had hired a young man to drive us to Seattle in his van. We planned to leave Boise on Monday the 21st and drive part way due to Clyde's Doctor had not received the medical papers from your medical department yet.
Early morning on the 21st our doctor's office called and told us that, the BA medical papers had arrived and we could come down to the office anytime. We left immediately for his office and then returned home to finish packing. When our driver got off work that afternoon, we had him load his van and prior to leaving Boise (approximately 5:00 P.M.) I called British Airways again. I talked to a woman named Rose in the medical department and I was told, Everything was fine and ready to go. So we left Boise and headed North to Yakima, Washington.
The next morning I called British Airways prior to leaving our motel room in Yakima, Washington. A young man checked our booking and said everything was confirmed. Then I specifically asked him to go to the medical department and check on the oxygen arrangements for my husband. He put me on hold' and when he returned he said, Mrs. Morgan, everything is AOK. We will take good care of you. We left for Seattle.
We arrived at SEATAC about 2:00 P.M. and checked in at the counter. Our flight was confirmed and we received boarding passes. Even our seating was assigned and our luggage checked through. There were No Red Flags! I was instructed by the counter personnel to pay for the oxygen at an office around the corner, which I did ($313.00).
Because we had plenty of time before boarding, it was decided we should get something to eat. Our driver had not eaten since breakfast and he really did not want to stop to eat until he was clear of the rush hour traffic around Seattle. While having a sandwich British Airways paged me to return to their counter. When I got there, the people took me into an office, asked me to sit down and then told me that my husband and I could not board the plane. The reason given to me was that the British Airways Doctor had refused to allow Clyde on board due to his oxygen consumption needs. I asked to use the telephone and called our doctor in Boise and he told me that he had talked to this doctor about Clyde but still could not get him to authorize enough oxygen to make the flight. Please note that in the beginning of all this mess we were told that we could take a 22 lb. bottle aboard the airplane. One of those bottles will last my husband a minimum of elevens (11) hours. Now the doctor was telling us, after all the checking and double-checking and triple checking plus paying for all the services that he would not authorize enough oxygen for my husband to make this flight. One of the last surviving World War II veterans cannot return to Italy because some doctor will not let him have enough oxygen! What is wrong with you people? Putting us through all of the stress of making the arrangements and checking on them, then getting up to Seattle only to be told at the very last minute that we could not go. It is a d**n good thing that our driver had not left the airport or we would have been in a bigger mess.
Nobody from the customer service department made contact with us concerning what has been described above until the Better Business Bureau of New York State sent them a letter and that to me is unbelievable. I have sent letters, faxes, emails and spent good money on national and international (London) telephone calls to get help from BA's customer service and was either brushed off or promised a returned call that never came. I even wrote letters to their Corporate Director of Customer Service, CEO and Chairman of the Board. I quoted the last two from their own reports to the stock-holders report of 2002 and that produced absolute silence. British Airways will be defending themselves in court in Idaho very soon. Lets see how well they do against us 'Idaho Spuds.'
British Airways acts and re-acts like they are owned by the French; don't like American Veterans or what?