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No accessibility for disabled customers - what to do?

No accessibility for disabled customers - what to do?

Old Aug 17, 2023, 4:32 am
  #1  
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No accessibility for disabled customers - what to do?

Hello everyone,

I'm a semi frequent flyer and very often use BA because up to now, I've found them quite good.

I have a disability that makes it very difficult for me to talk on the phone. I contacted BA in writing explaining this, and asking how I'd go about using some flight credit (which is expiring soon) towards a new flight without needing to phone up to book. I thought they might be able to offer a voucher or promo code to be used when booking online or failing that, just let me book the new flight and refund the credit in cash. They said they'd look into it, but after a month, there was still no resolution at all, and I was getting increasingly anxious that flight prices would rise, rendering my flight credit useless. I ended up having a friend help me book a flight by calling the call centre (a horrible, humiliating experience for someone with hearing issues) and figured that I'd take it up with BA later. The agent on the phone said the flights would be changeable online, but it seems that they're not - if I wanted to make changes, I'd have to ring up, which I can't do! I would not have booked the flights if I'd known this - I specifically asked to confirm they were changeable online. I also don't think I should have been forced to book these flights right now just because it was the only time I had disability support - a hearing person would be able to plan their trip, keep an eye on flight prices, and book whenever they were ready. I had this choice taken away from me, and what should have been a straightforward situation to resolve has now become a horrible, stressful mess. Not being able to change online is the cherry on top.

This has been a completely depressing, demoralising experience. There doesn't seem to be any humanity there at all - I keep getting a "computer says no" type response from every BA employee I interact with. Considering how much BA go on about being a disability friendly airline, I'm pretty shocked at how callous they've been here. The general attitude is that my disability is my problem - there's no sense of urgency whatsoever to help. Issues other airlines would resolve in a matter of minutes drag on for days, and they don't seem to see what's wrong with it.

Is there any hope at all of getting a resolution to this? Any time I ask to escalate, I'm told I can't...so they can just get away with this and there's nothing I can do?
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 5:00 am
  #2  
 
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What a horrible experience, I can only sympathise.

Someone will be along with some more specific advice but have you tried Twitter? They are usually good at making changes without a phone call.

I think its worth taking screenshots of what you would have booked/changed showing the cost, as if BA hasnt met its obligations under the disability legislation I wouldve thought youve got a good case to be put back into a position as if they had (ie the difference back if prices have risen or change fees has been incurred.)
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 5:12 am
  #3  
 
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That's very poor from BA, and sorry you've had such a bad experience.

I agree with the suggestion above at trying to use Twitter to get their attention. If that doesn't work, or the changes are too complex for a Twitter exchange, I wonder if this is an occasion where a service like Relay UK might be able to assist? They can call BA on your behalf and relay the discussion to you in real-time via text in an app.
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 5:13 am
  #4  
 
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Have you tried 'speaking' to BA using the Relay UK service? It is there to help hearing impaired and/or speech impaired people.

https://www.relayuk.bt.com/about-relay-uk.html

Being left somewhat deaf from my service in HM Forces (amongst other injuries) I usually lip read, so using the phone can be difficult. I use the Relay UK service quite often with many companies. You can even download a transcript of the conversation.

I have found that the BA call centre are aware of the Relay UK service and are quite familiar in using it, even to answer some of the most oddball queries I have thrown at them.
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 5:28 am
  #5  
 
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I am sorry to read this. BA has a specific page re disability assistance, here:

https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb...ity-assistance#

About 2/3rds down there is this:

"If you have a hearing or speech impairment, you can contact us at 0845 700 7706 (Minicom), or you can send us a message by selecting the 'Email us' tab and filling out the provided form."

I wish you well in resolving your problems with your travel!
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 6:17 am
  #6  
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Welcome to Flyertalk and welcome to the BA Forum.
In addition to the great points raised already:

1) BA supports BSL via the SignLive service. details below. As a signer myself, I know the limitations of BSL when booking flights, it's a slow process, but it is there and you work via the Disability Team in Newcastle who can make things happen.
https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb...hrow%20Airport.

2) Third Party Nominee
This was originally for captains of industry to get their secretaries to arrange their travel, but it is now simply allows one person to facilitate another person to do everything over the phone once past standard security. The contact centre won't need any confirmation from you after the initial set up. You will find this explained in BAEC under Profile, and also in FT threads.
https://www.britishairways.com/cms/g...ation_Form.PDF

3) Third Party Nominee with a twist
Now usually you may think it good to have your spouse or friend to be your 3PN, and I'm a very occasional 3PN to 2 friends of mine, one very much present on this forum. But I'm also 3PN to someone I've never met, know nothing much about and have no idea why they want to travel. So it's almost anonymous and I have no skin in the game, I'm just a telephone operator. Going down this route requires a bit of care, to ensure your 3PN is still trust worthy, so I would suggest you work with any existing charity, MDT, church, support organisation with whom you already have a relationship.
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 7:04 am
  #7  
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Originally Posted by rugby23
What a horrible experience, I can only sympathise.

Someone will be along with some more specific advice but have you tried Twitter? They are usually good at making changes without a phone call.

I think its worth taking screenshots of what you would have booked/changed showing the cost, as if BA hasnt met its obligations under the disability legislation I wouldve thought youve got a good case to be put back into a position as if they had (ie the difference back if prices have risen or change fees has been incurred.)
Yes, I've been using Twitter this entire time. They are usually very good, but their responses to me in this case (several different agents) have ranged from disinterested to outright offensive.

I did take screenshots. We had agreed that they'd hold flights for me at the price I saw them at until they heard back from the accessibility team with a solution, but they couldn't confirm how much time I'd have to book once the issue was sorted. So they could have got a reply at a time I was unable to book (i.e. away for the weekend) and then immediately released my flights, and I'd have had no recourse. It's like they were purposely refusing to confirm anything for me so they didn't get into trouble, refusing to take any responsibility, but this meant I was disadvantaged and left hanging, anxious and stressed out.

They also couldn't confirm that they'd even hold flights at the price I saw. I sent screenshots, and they said the price on their system was different to the price on the website, and they'd have to check with the Fare team. They left me hanging for four days (over the weekend I'd set aside to make further travel plans, like accommodation) and then when I chased up, told me I'd "just have to wait". When I told them this wasn't OK, that I'd already been waiting for a month, I was told to claim on my travel insurance (!!!!!!!!!!) Yes, they literally told me that if I wasn't happy to continue waiting indefinitely to use the flight credit I'd already been given by BA (i.e. my own money) that I'd need to claim on my travel insurance. Totally unacceptable, IMO.

It's like they just are not understanding the concept that this is a disability discrimination issue. Every step of the way, the attitude has been that it's my problem and they're doing me a favour by even answering me. All I've been asking for is that I'm not losing out by being unable to phone, and I haven't been given any reassurance at all. They didn't seem to grasp that a large part of my anxiety was that I didn't want to have to commit to flight dates yet - I wanted to play around with dates and check accommodation and research plans and then book when I was ready, like anyone else would. Being essentially forced into already booking flights (because I didn't know if I'd have support to make a phone call again) before I was ready was also unfair.

All I'm asking for now is the ability to make changes to my flights, ideally for free, because it's not my fault their system doesn't allow for my disability, and in an entire month of back and forth, no solution has been found. It's cost me hours and hours of my time. I think this is more than reasonable on my end - I'm not asking for anything for free - I've just given them even more of my money. I'm asking not to essentially be forced to ring up (requiring support/assistance) and pay change fees for their lack of accessibility. But trying to explain this to them is hopeless...it's like dealing with bots.
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 7:09 am
  #8  
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Originally Posted by GM1985
That's very poor from BA, and sorry you've had such a bad experience.

I agree with the suggestion above at trying to use Twitter to get their attention. If that doesn't work, or the changes are too complex for a Twitter exchange, I wonder if this is an occasion where a service like Relay UK might be able to assist? They can call BA on your behalf and relay the discussion to you in real-time via text in an app.
This wasn't suggested to me at any point by BA, and I've already booked flights now. It could be useful in the future though, so thank you.

It might be worth pointing out that my disability is autism, and it comes with an auditory processing disorder. I can hear, the problem is processing the information in real time. I need to repeatedly ask for clarification and have the agent repeat themselves many times - it's humiliating and very difficult. My disability means it's difficult for me to make decisions on the spot, and that's why I was asking BA for a voucher to use online, so that I could take my time and book when I was comfortable and ready.

BA specifically market themselves as the go-to airline for autistic passengers, and I've been using them for this reason. Their support is usually excellent - they've massively dropped the ball here, and I don't seem to be able to find a normal, compassionate, human who gets it.
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 9:32 am
  #9  
 
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Originally Posted by leelapa
This wasn't suggested to me at any point by BA, and I've already booked flights now. It could be useful in the future though, so thank you.

It might be worth pointing out that my disability is autism, and it comes with an auditory processing disorder. I can hear, the problem is processing the information in real time. I need to repeatedly ask for clarification and have the agent repeat themselves many times - it's humiliating and very difficult. My disability means it's difficult for me to make decisions on the spot, and that's why I was asking BA for a voucher to use online, so that I could take my time and book when I was comfortable and ready.

BA specifically market themselves as the go-to airline for autistic passengers, and I've been using them for this reason. Their support is usually excellent - they've massively dropped the ball here, and I don't seem to be able to find a normal, compassionate, human who gets it.
Welcome! Hang around here as there are many helpful people who will assist you with your travel goals. Keep up the good fight.
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 1:07 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
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Originally Posted by leelapa
This wasn't suggested to me at any point by BA, and I've already booked flights now. It could be useful in the future though, so thank you.

It might be worth pointing out that my disability is autism, and it comes with an auditory processing disorder. I can hear, the problem is processing the information in real time. I need to repeatedly ask for clarification and have the agent repeat themselves many times - it's humiliating and very difficult. My disability means it's difficult for me to make decisions on the spot, and that's why I was asking BA for a voucher to use online, so that I could take my time and book when I was comfortable and ready.

BA specifically market themselves as the go-to airline for autistic passengers, and I've been using them for this reason. Their support is usually excellent - they've massively dropped the ball here, and I don't seem to be able to find a normal, compassionate, human who gets it.
My brother has used the relay service mentioned above, he has similar issues to you and finds it easier using this as he can type please wait and he finds this helps him, I know things can be vary significantly with how people with autism deal with things but he definitely seems to get more time using this service which stops him getting flustered so easily.
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 1:28 pm
  #11  
 
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Do any of the BA insiders here know if there is a senior level disability champion or similar within the company? This seems like the sort of issue that gets sorted if (but only if) it gets across the right desk.
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 1:31 pm
  #12  
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Originally Posted by leelapa
BA specifically market themselves as the go-to airline for autistic passengers, and I've been using them for this reason. Their support is usually excellent - they've massively dropped the ball here, and I don't seem to be able to find a normal, compassionate, human who gets it.
It would interesting to hear from you what would be the absolute ideal way to handle these bookings, taking into account that we would normally want BA.com to do most things most of the time. So for those minority cases where automation doesn't work, what would be your preference. So not so much about the specifics of the voucher here and the perennial issue as to whether fares will go up or not (something that I can assure you is a well known stress point for those without disability). So something complex and somewhere down the line someone has to interact with you?

(I should have pointed out that BA has a not very well publicised Chat service, but it won't handle anything financial and so I suspect that includes vouchers).
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 3:41 pm
  #13  
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Originally Posted by Scots_Al
Do any of the BA insiders here know if there is a senior level disability champion or similar within the company? This seems like the sort of issue that gets sorted if (but only if) it gets across the right desk.
This is exactly what I need. I don't think I'm being unreasonable here. I think I've been endlessly patient - they just are absolutely not getting what the problem is. I feel like I've already gone way above and beyond what I should have had to do, and still got nowhere. I feel like the absolute bare minimum they can do at this point is make my flights modifiable (that wouldn't cost them anything - it would just mean they couldn't screw me even more), but as of right now, they're just ignoring me.
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 3:52 pm
  #14  
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Originally Posted by corporate-wage-slave
It would interesting to hear from you what would be the absolute ideal way to handle these bookings, taking into account that we would normally want BA.com to do most things most of the time. So for those minority cases where automation doesn't work, what would be your preference. So not so much about the specifics of the voucher here and the perennial issue as to whether fares will go up or not (something that I can assure you is a well known stress point for those without disability). So something complex and somewhere down the line someone has to interact with you?

(I should have pointed out that BA has a not very well publicised Chat service, but it won't handle anything financial and so I suspect that includes vouchers).
I don't think they are that much of a minority - that's the issue. When you add together people who are hard of hearing, autistic people, people who for whatever reason are nervous on the phone, that's a significant chunk of people you're cutting off from using your service for no good reason.

You're looking at it the wrong way. Why is it acceptable to purposely exclude a section of the population? Why isn't it automatic that flight credit is issued in vouchers to be spent online, rather than making you ring up? It's 2023 - that's absolutely possible, so why aren't they doing it? You used the word automation, but what BA are doing is the opposite. Rather than generating a code to be used online (which IS automatic), they're making people ring up to do manual bookings. Why?

I see you also seem to be missing the point about fares going up. If you're a hearing person, you can ring up at any point and book. I can't. I was at the mercy of the team getting back to me - no timeline, no guarantee of when it would be. I had no agency and no control, and was in a much worse position than someone able to ring whenever they wanted, and that's what makes this kind of thing discrimination.

As for the solution, they had loads of options. I gave the an entire month to sort it out. They could have just refunded me in cash if their lack of accessibility made it impossible for me to rebook. They could have told me to make screenshots of the flight I wanted and agreed to honour that price once I could find support to make a phone call. They could have given me Avios. They could have offered to upgrade me to a better cabin if I made a new booking. There were loads of things they could have done, many of which would have cost them nothing, but what they actually did was decide it was too much hassle and they couldn't be bothered doing anything, and hoped the annoying disabled person would go away and stop bothering them.

Do you think that's acceptable?
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Old Aug 17, 2023, 4:02 pm
  #15  
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Just for info leelapa your limited to 5 posts in your first day and finally another welcome to Flyertalk.
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