Something Good to Say About British Airways… Yes, Really!

I had no idea how this story would go. And until recently, it wasn’t looking good. I was REALLY pissed off at British Airways, and here’s why. On a British Airways flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to Las Vegas (LAS), a flight attendant spilled wine all over my Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones and they stopped working. Sitting in business class, I did get a lot of attention from the flight crew after this happened. There was wine all over my seat, too. I was told there was not another empty seat on the plane, so the crew put layers of blankets on my seat to cover up the spill. But for the next 10 hours, my seat smelled like wine, and oddly enough, the flight attendants never wiped down the area of the console where the wine spilled.

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The flight manager did admit responsibility, took down my information, told me he’d file a report, and gave me his “personal” email address and told me if I didn’t hear from British Airways, to contact him within a week. He sounded like he’d be helpful, though he was already anticipating that I would have trouble with customer relations. Here’s the email I got from British Airways after the flight manager filed the report. My favorite part is where they tell me “not to chase a response.” If their customer relations wasn’t so awful, this would actually be funny.

It had been over two weeks since that email came. I did email the flight manager, Chris Jupp. Here’s his email reply. Sounds like another plea from British Airways for patience. And frankly, I wasn’t “resting assured” at all.

Grant contacted the British Airways Twitter team. The first response was another one of those “be patient” pleas. In the next tweet Grant sent, he asked for a phone number to call or some specific information as to what the procedure for this kind of replacement claim would be. That tweet went unanswered for a few days and then finally the Twitter team gave me a phone number to call. Please note that in all their emails to me, they never provided a phone number to me. That’s why I specifically asked the Twitter team who to call.

Do I sound pissed off at this point? I was. It’s not a matter of going out and getting new headphones. I expected British Airways to pay for them. I’ve written many times about how I love my headphones and never ever travel without them. I called British Airways (1-800-452-1201) and though the hold music was lovely, after 45 minutes it does get to be a bit much. I was connected to the customer relations department. The first thing the rep said to me was, “You mean no one has called you or followed up on this yet”? What I wanted to say was, “And no one ever would have had I not called YOU,” but all I said was “nope.”

We went over the whole story, they had the report from Chris Jupp, the flight manager, and I told them I had spoken to Bose and Bose wouldn’t repair them. Once liquid has spilled on the headphones, they are unfixable. It was clear that British Airways was going to make me jump through hoops to get this resolved. There was a lot of putting me on hold, and yes, at times I lost my cool, because all they kept saying is, “we have our procedures.” They wanted to get the headphones repaired and I wanted brand new headphones.

Here’s what they said I had to do next. They went online and found a company in Utah that has you mail in headphones and then they’ll repair them, or not. That was it. The hoop I had to jump through. I won’t tell you the name of this company. No way was I mailing my headphones without speaking with someone at the company first. I called them, left multiple messages over the course of a week, and even though their answering machine says someone will get back to you within 24 hours, I’ve still not received a call back more than a week later.

I decided it was time to be more proactive and I took my headphones into a Bose store. I already knew, having spoken to a Bose rep on the phone, that they wouldn’t repair my headphones, but what I needed was for the manager to write a letter to that effect. And indeed that’s what happened. I uploaded the letter to British Airways and from that point, it took a few days and the full original price of my Bose headphones had been refunded to me.

Looking back, the lessons learned are that being proactive is required in these sorts of incidents. I’ve never had anything like this happen before. Sure, luggage gets broken, but both times that’s happened to me, both Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines were a breeze to work with. And although losing your cool as I did in my first conversation with British Airways never gets you the result you want, it did speak to my expectation that British Airways would replace, rather than repair, my headphones. You can see why I had no idea how this would all work out. I’m glad that what could have been a frustrated rant about British Airways turned into a success story. I’m curious if any readers have had issues with airlines damaging tech items. Did it turn out well for you? Let me know in the comments below.

20 thoughts on “Something Good to Say About British Airways… Yes, Really!

  1. Brant

    So Shelli,

    I am confused. What is the “something good” you have to say about British Airways?

    This sounds like the typical fiasco one has to endure to get any satisfaction from BA and only after a considerable expenditure of time, effort and aggravation. I would in no way count this as a “win”. It does sound like you had an easier go of it than I did to get my promo Avios credited to my account, but honestly, should this POS airline just take care of it’s customers without totally pissing them of and ignoring them in hopes that they will simply go away?

    1. Shelli Post author

      I hear you, Brant. I really do. Grant, for instance, thought this would drag on for a long time. So did I. I guess my good to say is that in the end, when I did present them with evidence, not from the source they insisted I use but from my own proactive idea, within a few days I had my reimbursement fee. This took me by surprise. It was the first time I’ve flown BA metal and I certainly, given my total experience with them for service and seats, won’t be looking to fly them again anytime soon. I didn’t do the offer, but I know it’s been a hassle for everyone. Like you, I don’t think BA cares about their reputation. On the flights I took it seemed the crews were well aware of what low esteem BA has amongst flyers. Thanks for reading, and sharing your thoughts. I hope this clears up my thinking a bit.

  2. Brenton

    I think it’s only a success if you set the bar as low as BA obviously expects you to… I’d definitely file a separate complaint in pursuit of either a partial refund or miles as a goodwill gesture on their part.

    1. Hoang

      I agree with Benton since you were in business class and had to sit through the flight. Long time ago I flew Northwest airline 1st class from Allentown (ABE) to LAX. They offered the meal with 3 choice chicken, beef and fish but all ran out except fish. So I wrote a letter to complain about it why the choice of food already ran out for 1st class. They sent me a voucher for upgrade to 1st class next flight.

      1. Shelli Post author

        HI Hoang, Thanks for reading and for offering some advice. If I do decide to contact BA and ask for other compensation, I’ll update the post. Have a great evening!

  3. Freddy

    Are you not going to ask for compensation for having to sit in a stinking seat and console? Did they not offer you anything for the accident?

    If you need advice, the good people on Dan’s Deals forums can definitely tell you what to do.

  4. Doug

    Had a very similar experience….but with a very different outcome. On an AA flight between DFW and SNA, a cart clipped the wire of my Bose headphones and rendered them useless. The FA was apologetic and told me to stop at the gate agent’s desk upon deplaning. I did, and she helped fill-out a brief form. Within three weeks, I had a check from AA for the entire replacement amount of the headphones. The interesting point; I told them that I thought the fix might only include a wire replacement, if possible. But, they simply went ahead and took care of it expeditiously and much to my satisfaction.

  5. Evan

    You really have to adjust culturally sometimes. In the UK we expect this level of difficulty to be frank – it’s about wearing you down and hoping you just go away. I’d say that’s part of our everyday experience. BA are not easy obviously but they are not so much worse than other large corporate entities. Ultimately you were successful. They were not rude to you – you just as you say “had to jump through some hoops”. And as for the comment above suggesting you try and obtain further “goodwill” points…well – nothing ventured, nothing gained but BA really are not that bothered about goodwill gestures (believe me). They have provided you with the minimum remedy and I doubt you would get anything more. I’m glad you got your new earphones and well done for being proactive and tenacious.

    1. Shelli Post author

      Great comment, Evan. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. Insightful, indeed. What I really wanted was just to get my headphones replaced, and have BA pay for it. I’m glad that I was able to turn the tide in my favor, too. Thanks for reading!

  6. Katrina

    I could relate to your frustration when dealing with the airlines when reading your post! There was absolutely anything of your fault, yet you had to waste so much time to make BA responsible for what they did (heck, $300 is not little at all).
    When it comes to “Customer Relations”, Lufthansa gets the prize for not responding and brushing you off! I had emailed them multiple times (they broke my valuables while I was flying in First Class), yet after 8 months nobody cared to reply or resolve/compensate.
    I also had bad experience with Cathay, when a flight attendant, without my permission or asking, put some heavy airline items in my closet right on a very expensive china set. Several items were broken, yet Cathay`s reply was just that they “would monitor” their flight attendants. Btw, also flying in First.
    As far as BA, I would only use their miles for short-distance flights in Asia-that`s all the airline is good for. They are so cheap that even don`t offer complimentary pretzels or soda on 3 hour flights-nothing, but water from lavatory. I thought American airlines were the worst ones until I flown in Economy on BA.

    1. Shelli Post author

      Thanks for reading, Katrina, and taking the time to share your stories. Sounds like Cathay and Lufthansa have a lot to learn about customer relations. Hope all your flights go more smoothly from now on!

  7. Sam

    Boy, finding good news about BA in this story really documents how low BA sets the bar.

    Why do people fly this airline?

    1. Shelli Post author

      In my case, Sam, it was the only option I had during the holidays to get back to the states. It’s never a first choice, that’s for sure. Thanks for reading!

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