British Airways: It doesn’t get any worse

British Airways wasn’t able to deliver one of my suitcases at the same time they delivered me from London to Washington DC. While that’s not extraordinary, and they seem to have a plan in place to cope with that, their customer service is abyssmal. You just can not get worse customer service.

Part of the reason I say you can’t get worse customer service is because I can’t even reach customer service. Anything that exists is presumably better than non-existent customer service. So, let’s start with the facts and see where this might lead us:

  • They came right out and told me when I landed that something broke at Heathrow and lots of bags didn’t make it onto my flight. Frankly, I’m glad to be here, even if my bag isn’t. Better that than delay the flight waiting on bags (in my opinion).
  • They gave me a “file reference” number to track. They even gave me a web site I could visit to punch in my file reference and track my bag. Two points to BA so far: being up-front and having a proactive, accurate computer system.
  • While I was at the baggage claim they asked me if the address they had on-file for me was correct. Ooops. It was 2 years old and wrong. I told them ‘no’ and wrote the correct address. So far so good. They’re handling exceptions in the system.
  • Within a couple days the bag came over from Heathrow and they sent a courier to deliver it. Cool. That’s where things go wrong.

They ignored / lost / overlooked the updated address I wrote by hand when I was in baggage claim. They tried to deliver to my old address. When I went to the web site, it listed my case as closed and my bag as delivered.

Reaching British Airways

I tried a huge pile of things. I really wanted to reach a human, but that’s just not allowed. They give you lots of fax numbers and web sites to try.

Here’s a list.

  • I tried calling the number printed on the “property irregularity report.” (+1.800.828.8144). That’s just an endless phone tree. It accepted my reference number and was able to give me an accurate (although incorrect) description of my file being closed and my bag being delivered. Several different paths exist that seem to get you toward a human. I tried the path of “I got a reference number outside the US” and I tried the path of “I don’t know my reference number.” In both cases, the system thought for a little while (with hold music), and then tried to transfer me. I got “we’re sorry, but your call cannot be completed as dialed.” I bet they think they’re doing well since the number of calls they receive through this system must be really low! (i.e., zero)
  • I tried faxing to the “British Airways Baggage Services — IAD Airport” fax number, also printed on the “property irregularity report” (+1.703.572.8731). It just rings. No one (fax or human) ever answers.
  • The BA Contact Us page lists a fax number for baggage services (+1.347.418.4395). I faxed a note to them.
  • The same BA Contact Us page lists a fax number for Customer Relations (+1.347.418.4395). I faxed my complaint to that number, too. Mainly, this complaint was about how hard it is to reach the baggage people.
  • I found Customer Support numbers when looking to change the address they had on file. Dialing both the toll free and toll numbers for the US (+1.800.452.1201 and +1.718.335.7070) got a busy signal! A busy signal! In this modern age of IVR (interactive voice response) systems and phone trees from hell, how do you get a BUSY signal?
  • I found a contact customer relations form and filled it out. We’ll see what that does.
  • The online web site tracking my bag listed it delivered and had a phone number. The phone number turned out to be the courier service that delivered my bag to the wrong address. Calling THAT number got me a person and the person had answers.

Getting to the bottom

The courier service explained that they took my suitcase to the old address, and the person there said he/she was not missing any luggage. So, they brought the bag back to Dulles. She said they returned the bag to BA and had no more information. She recommended I contact British Airways. Uh huh. I’ll get right on that.

Well, a couple hours after that call, I was on the phone trying to reach the (busy) customer support number and my voice mail light lit up. I checked the message and it was someone from the courier saying they wanted to bring me my bag. While I was listening to that message, she called my cell phone. Yes! Diligence. This human had had the novel idea of reading the tag that’s on my suitcase identifying the bag as mine. She even knew the address of my office from the business card and they would have the bag here before the end of the day. Hooray courier company!