BA set me up to be frustrated - a rant

Old Sep 5, 17, 5:42 am
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BA set me up to be frustrated - a rant

I have to say I'm already so thoroughly soured on the BA experience, even though my trip is still almost 2 months away.

Background - I'd been AA EXP/OW Emerald for a number of years before eventually souring on AA and the value (or lack thereof) of flying and trying to maintain status with them. I ditched AA to become a free agent, but still had a pile of miles to use up. Several months ago, I figured I'd use the last of these miles for 2 roundtrip tix to Europe in Oct for a river cruise. I expected I'd be unlikely to find any AA options when booking with miles (one of the reasons I left AA is because of how scarce award inventory to Europe can be with them now), so forked over the miles and BA's surcharges to fly LAS-SEA-LHR-BUD in Club World (a far from ideal itinerary but, again, the perils of award travel - out of the way connections, super long layovers). No longer having any OneWorld status, I also went ahead and paid an additional $300+ to be able to select somewhat desirable seats on the 747's upper deck from SEA-LHR.

Lo and behold, when randomly checking my reservation one day (I'm the type to just open up the mobile app and give it a quick look for no reason in particular) I see we no longer had our seats. BA dropped the 747 for the flight, replacing it with a 773. Unable to look forward to checking the upper deck of a 747 off my bucket list, I now had to see what appealing options existed in the 773. Oddly enough, I actually thought when re-selecting "Row 16 is a risk, because so much of their longhaul fleet doesn't even have a row 15 in CW and if they change the plane again...". Nonetheless, I put us in 16A/B because it offered most of what we wanted (one window seat that also had aisle access, another seat with easy aisle access).

Sure enough - you see where this is going - only a week after choosing new seats on the 773, BA again changed the plane. 772 now, with no Row 16. Once again, our [paid-for] seat selection was rendered obsolete. By this point, no more window seats were available; no more outside window/aisle pairs were available. I was now left only able to choose from seats I'd expressly paid to avoid having to choose from out the outset of this entire process months ago.

Now, I'm a fairly mellow person and accept reality for what it is. I understand why an airline would change aircraft type, and I've flown enough to know you can't be entirely sure what you'll be flying until you're on the plane (and, even then, it's not quite 100% guaranteed). I also get that I have no status so when I'm left looking at all these unappealing (to me) seat options, something might come up at the 24hr-to-checkin mark and also that it makes sense for a top-tier BA Executive Club passenger to have access to something I don't.

Ultimately, though, I can't help but find myself kinda giggling and shaking my head at just how far it can feel like BA goes out of its way to make changes or inconveniences all the more frustrating. For instance...

- They charge for seat selection, even in business class. This is far from standard practice, and even as a lowly, non-status passenger on AA metal for my return leg of this trip, I didn't have to pay to select seats (and never do in J). Heck, BA is the only airline I've ever had to pay for seat selection when flying in anything above economy.
- With respect to award travel in particular, BA's surcharges are far from appealing. They also make it even harder to swallow changes and inconveniences easily. Without them, one might be able to just shrug their shoulders, shake things off, and say "Well, it's just miles!". In this case, though, it's quite a lot of miles... and then $1000 in surcharges (part of which can be attributed to the Club Europe portion of the journey from LHR-BUD, admittedly). AA shares blame on this for often giving you only surcharge-leveling partner options on award travel.
- Their hard product in J makes you feel like the stakes are that much higher. Not all seats have aisle access. Not everyone wants to have to climb over others, or be climbed over. Some seats offer hardly any privacy or might make for sharing what's almost a loveseat with a total stranger. Even BA kinda acknowledges this in Manage My Booking, when suggesting you go ahead and pay to select seats if you're particular about where you want to sit. On other airlines with better J setups, not getting your preferred seat might not make that much of a difference but with BA it can really turn day in to night.
- No notifications get sent out when your seat selection is taken from you, or the aircraft type changes. While I'm the type to keep checking on my reservation ahead of time just in case, I wonder how many passengers have shown up to the airport on the day of travel only to find a seat that at one point had been "Confirmed" no longer exists, and they're stuck with something else entirely. Can the mobile app not give a push notification? No SMS? No e-mail?

For BA's own sake, and that of its employees, I'd have to imagine some of the above can make for some unnecessary misery. While I'm fairly good at taking things in stride (I'll just post excessively long rants online), how many passengers - feeling angry and slighted - end up being rude to cabin staff, ground crew, or customer service reps? How much effort and energy do these folk have to expend hearing out people who were gradually set up to be more frustrated than they needed to be?

All this has really reaffirmed my decision to ditch AA (and OneWorld and BA), but even as a "free agent" I just can't see myself ever deciding to fly BA again until they've totally upgraded their business class hard product to the point where so many of the seats in it aren't so unappealing, and thus the stakes not so high. We'll see if I can get any refund on the seat selection fees, but I'm not holding my breath.

Last edited by brytpa; Sep 5, 17 at 5:47 am
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Old Sep 5, 17, 5:46 am
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You should get a refund of the seat fees.

The rest is, as you say, just a rant.
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Old Sep 5, 17, 5:49 am
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Originally Posted by Ldnn1 View Post
You should get a refund of the seat fees.

The rest is, as you say, just a rant.
It's therapeutic. I don't wanna be one of those people who harasses the BA twitter account so came here instead haha
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Old Sep 5, 17, 5:52 am
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I would also keep an eye on Avios availability from LAS to LHR, availability can be good in the fall.
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Old Sep 5, 17, 5:54 am
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Originally Posted by brytpa View Post
I have to say I'm already so thoroughly soured on the BA experience, even though my trip is still almost 2 months away.

Background - I'd been AA EXP/OW Emerald for a number of years before eventually souring on AA and the value (or lack thereof) of flying and trying to maintain status with them. I ditched AA to become a free agent, but still had a pile of miles to use up. Several months ago, I figured I'd use the last of these miles for 2 roundtrip tix to Europe in Oct for a river cruise. I expected I'd be unlikely to find any AA options when booking with miles (one of the reasons I left AA is because of how scarce award inventory to Europe can be with them now), so forked over the miles and BA's surcharges to fly LAS-SEA-LHR-BUD in Club World (a far from ideal itinerary but, again, the perils of award travel - out of the way connections, super long layovers). No longer having any OneWorld status, I also went ahead and paid an additional $300+ to be able to select somewhat desirable seats on the 747's upper deck from SEA-LHR.

Lo and behold, when randomly checking my reservation one day (I'm the type to just open up the mobile app and give it a quick look for no reason in particular) I see we no longer had our seats. BA dropped the 747 for the flight, replacing it with a 773. Unable to look forward to checking the upper deck of a 747 off my bucket list, I now had to see what appealing options existed in the 773. Oddly enough, I actually thought when re-selecting "Row 16 is a risk, because so much of their longhaul fleet doesn't even have a row 15 in CW and if they change the plane again...". Nonetheless, I put us in 16A/B because it offered most of what we wanted (one window seat that also had aisle access, another seat with easy aisle access).

Sure enough - you see where this is going - only a week after choosing new seats on the 773, BA again changed the plane. 772 now, with no Row 16. Once again, our [paid-for] seat selection was rendered obsolete. By this point, no more window seats were available; no more outside window/aisle pairs were available. I was now left only able to choose from seats I'd expressly paid to avoid having to choose from out the outset of this entire process months ago.

Now, I'm a fairly mellow person and accept reality for what it is. I understand why an airline would change aircraft type, and I've flown enough to know you can't be entirely sure what you'll be flying until you're on the plane (and, even then, it's not quite 100% guaranteed). I also get that I have no status so when I'm left looking at all these unappealing (to me) seat options, something might come up at the 24hr-to-checkin mark and also that it makes sense for a top-tier BA Executive Club passenger to have access to something I don't.

Ultimately, though, I can't help but find myself kinda giggling and shaking my head at just how far it can feel like BA goes out of its way to make changes or inconveniences all the more frustrating. For instance...

- They charge for seat selection, even in business class. This is far from standard practice, and even as a lowly, non-status passenger on AA metal for my return leg of this trip, I didn't have to pay to select seats (and never do in J). Heck, BA is the only airline I've ever had to pay for seat selection when flying in anything above economy.
- With respect to award travel in particular, BA's surcharges are far from appealing. They also make it even harder to swallow changes and inconveniences easily. Without them, one might be able to just shrug their shoulders, shake things off, and say "Well, it's just miles!". In this case, though, it's quite a lot of miles... and then $1000 in surcharges (part of which can be attributed to the Club Europe portion of the journey from LHR-BUD, admittedly). AA shares blame on this for often giving you only surcharge-leveling partner options on award travel.
- Their hard product in J makes you feel like the stakes are that much higher. Not all seats have aisle access. Not everyone wants to have to climb over others, or be climbed over. Some seats offer hardly any privacy or might make for sharing what's almost a loveseat with a total stranger. Even BA kinda acknowledges this in Manage My Booking, when suggesting you go ahead and pay to select seats if you're particular about where you want to sit. On other airlines with better J setups, not getting your preferred seat might not make that much of a difference but with BA it can really turn day in to night.
- No notifications get sent out when your seat selection is taken from you, or the aircraft type changes. While I'm the type to keep checking on my reservation ahead of time just in case, I wonder how many passengers have shown up to the airport on the day of travel only to find a seat that at one point had been "Confirmed" no longer exists, and they're stuck with something else entirely. Can the mobile app not give a push notification? No SMS? No e-mail?

For BA's own sake, and that of its employees, I'd have to imagine some of the above can make for some unnecessary misery. While I'm fairly good at taking things in stride (I'll just post excessively long rants online), how many passengers - feeling angry and slighted - end up being rude to cabin staff, ground crew, or customer service reps? How much effort and energy do these folk have to expend hearing out people who were gradually set up to be more frustrated than they needed to be?

All this has really reaffirmed my decision to ditch AA (and OneWorld and BA), but even as a "free agent" I just can't see myself ever deciding to fly BA again until they've totally upgraded their business class hard product to the point where so many of the seats in it aren't so unappealing, and thus the stakes not so high. We'll see if I can get any refund on the seat selection fees, but I'm not holding my breath.
I'm at a complete loss as to why you booked BA flights.
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Old Sep 5, 17, 5:56 am
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BA are not good at telling you about changes they make, but the MyFlights app is. It's free and I wholeheartedly recommend it to monitor your bookings for you.

The aircraft my change again so you might get lucky. Also, it's likely some of the window and aisle seats you would prefer are blocked by theoretical seating and may open up closer to the departure date. You can check this in ExpertFlyer or if you post the date and fight number someone will look it up for you.
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Last edited by gingeola; Sep 5, 17 at 6:38 am
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Old Sep 5, 17, 6:10 am
  #7  
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Originally Posted by rapidex View Post
I'm at a complete loss as to why you booked BA flights.
This is where AA comes in as a guilty party. It's the only option they give ya! AA's own award inventory has been cut down severely, so it can be extremely difficult finding any options on their own metal. This is a big reason why I ditched AA in the first place - I found they made it too difficult to enjoy the fruits of one's own labor, so to speak (even as an EXP, I had repeated experiences finding it difficult, if not impossible, to use their systemwide upgrades for any flights to Europe [the only longhaul flying I ever really do]). When using AA miles for award travel to Europe, BA is more often than not the only option given - so you use up your miles, and shell out surcharge money. This was the case not only on my preferred dates of travel, but even for weeks ahead of and following the dates I wanted. No other options given in this case, either (Iberia, Finnair, etc). So in my case, my frustrations are tempered a bit by my knowing I'm just using up my last AA miles to be done with em. If I was someone who'd busted their bum to score themselves a hard-earned, long sought after trip to Europe, though, I'd be even more the unhappy camper.
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Old Sep 5, 17, 6:13 am
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Originally Posted by brytpa View Post
This is where AA comes in as a guilty party. It's the only option they give ya! AA's own award inventory has been cut down severely, so it can be extremely difficult finding any options on their own metal. This is a big reason why I ditched AA in the first place - I found they made it too difficult to enjoy the fruits of one's own labor, so to speak (even as an EXP, I had repeated experiences finding it difficult, if not impossible, to use their systemwide upgrades for any flights to Europe [the only longhaul flying I ever really do]). When using AA miles for award travel to Europe, BA is more often than not the only option given - so you use up your miles, and shell out surcharge money. This was the case not only on my preferred dates of travel, but even for weeks ahead of and following the dates I wanted. No other options given in this case, either (Iberia, Finnair, etc). So in my case, my frustrations are tempered a bit by my knowing I'm just using up my last AA miles to be done with em. If I was someone who'd busted their bum to score themselves a hard-earned, long sought after trip to Europe, though, I'd be even more the unhappy camper.
I presume you have a new ffp.Were there no seats available with that carrier?
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Old Sep 5, 17, 6:14 am
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Originally Posted by gingeola View Post
BA are not good at telling you about changes they make, but the MyFlights app is. It's free and I wholeheartedly recommend it to monitor your bookings for you.

The aircraft my change again so you might get lucky. Also, it's likely some of the window and aisle seats you would prefer are blocked by theoretical seating and may open up closer to the departure date. You can check this in expert flyer or if you post the date and fight number someone will look it up for you.
MyFlights has come in handy for this - it was a MyFlights push notification that clued me in to a change on my return (the LHR-MIA segment), when AA switched it from a 773 to 772. While I don't believe AA uses Amadeus, I got a BA booking code because I'm flying BA from OTP-LHR on this trip so was able to enter the entire itinerary in to MyFlights. The aircraft change didn't cause any problems with the AA flight, though, as I didn't pay anything to select seats and the seats weren't that different between aircraft (tho it went from Zodiac to B/E Aerospace seats, it was still all reverse herringbone, all aisle access, all 1-2-1, etc). Oddly enough, though, I never got a MyFlights notification when the BA SEA-LHR flight changed from 773 to 772 (but it was the MyFlights app I went in to and manually refreshed to find out about the change). I installed the MyFlights app only after the first BA SEA-LHR change (from 744 to 773), when someone on here suggested it!

I'll definitely check out ExpertFlyer, tho. Thanks for the tip on that!
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Last edited by brytpa; Sep 5, 17 at 6:30 am
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Old Sep 5, 17, 6:21 am
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Originally Posted by rapidex View Post
I presume you have a new ffp.Were there no seats available with that carrier?
I'm a "free agent" now, booking with whoever offers the best deal and option for when and where I want to travel. I mostly fly domestic US, and live in Vegas. So 9/10 times I'll fly Southwest (and they have no partners, no flights to Europe). When I do take a big trip overseas, I just pay for whatever flight/airline works for it. This particular trip was an exception, though, as I had a bunch of AA miles that'd been sitting in my account for a few years (not expired cuz I'd occasionally earn a handful here and there from non-flight activity like dining and such) and I figured I'd finally use em and cut that last AA chord, so to speak.
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Old Sep 5, 17, 6:27 am
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Originally Posted by brytpa View Post
I'm a "free agent" now, booking with whoever offers the best deal and option for when and where I want to travel. I mostly fly domestic US, and live in Vegas. So 9/10 times I'll fly Southwest (and they have no partners, no flights to Europe). When I do take a big trip overseas, I just pay for whatever flight/airline works for it. This particular trip was an exception, though, as I had a bunch of AA miles that'd been sitting in my account for a few years (not expired cuz I'd occasionally earn a handful here and there from non-flight activity like dining and such) and I figured I'd finally use em and cut that last AA chord, so to speak.
Well sadly,harsh as it might sound,you cannot expect the privileges given to elites when you are no longer an elite.And free seat selection at time of booking is one of those privileges.
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Old Sep 5, 17, 6:47 am
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Originally Posted by rapidex View Post
Well sadly,harsh as it might sound,you cannot expect the privileges given to elites when you are no longer an elite.And free seat selection at time of booking is one of those privileges.
I'm aware of that, and acknowledged it. Nonetheless, BA's charging non-elites for seat selection in a premium cabin is still not standard practice. They stand out from other airlines in doing this. But hey, that's how BA does things and so be it.

Also, status or none, there's something to be said on delivering what's been paid for. In other words, while I don't have status I did pay for seat selection - and then had what was paid for taken away.

Again, I accept aircraft changes happen. But my point is potential frustration over aircraft changes could be tempered by a) not charging for seats b) having a better J hard product c) communicating changes to customers. In other words, I didn't find any individual inconvenience or policy to be all that frustrating or unacceptable or even unexpected - but BA just happens to operate in a manner that allows for their policies to combine to make changes and inconveniences more frustrating than they need to be.

Case in point would be my return, where I'm on AA metal LHR-MIA. My seats changed when the plane was changed from a 773 to 772. However, there was no charge for seat selection (even sans status); still a similar enough hard product even (all aisle-access, all reverse-herringbone, no surcharges for the award redemption) so ultimately no big deal.
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Old Sep 5, 17, 6:49 am
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BA choose to let those with elite frequent flyer status have a wide choice of seats, even those who book close in (and pay higher fares), by making the non-elites pay.

Many other infrequent travellers (especially those on award tickets) may not like that and complain about it ad infinitum (often, ad nauseam), but I can entirely understand BA's priorities.

AA 77W business: nice cabin, but booking within a couple of weeks of travel, you will never get a window seat. That doesn't much happen on BA.
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Old Sep 5, 17, 6:49 am
  #14  
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Originally Posted by rapidex View Post
Well sadly,harsh as it might sound,you cannot expect the privileges given to elites when you are no longer an elite.And free seat selection at time of booking is one of those privileges.
However, having status with BA [or indeed OW] and having free seat selection doesn't protect you un-notified aircraft and seating changes, as I have discovered on several occasions.

MyFlights, and neurotic re-checking on the carrier's website, remains the essential solution.
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Old Sep 5, 17, 7:10 am
  #15  
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Originally Posted by flatlander View Post
BA choose to let those with elite frequent flyer status have a wide choice of seats, even those who book close in (and pay higher fares), by making the non-elites pay.
Which is all well and good, but I suspect a reason why they do this is because so many of the seats in their hard product J are so entirely unappealing to FFs.

In other words, by having a hard product packed full of seats that are so undesirable, offering such disparate experiences, this practice of charging for them was made necessary. If they had a better hard product that could offer up a higher quality experience throughout the business class cabin - or at least a more consistent one - regardless of seat, they wouldn't need to try and compensate for that by introducing this pay-for-assignment system.
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