British Airways passengers have expressed their anger at being unable to get through to the airline following the confusion over cancelled flights.
BA pilots are due to strike on 9, 10 and 27 September, but BA also told customers with tickets booked on other days that their flights were cancelled.
The company admitted on Saturday that it had told some passengers to rebook or get a refund by mistake.
BA said it had received nearly 40,000 calls and was working around the clock.
After initially sending one email informing customers of cancellations, BA then sent a second email to some people saying their flights would go ahead as planned.
But in the second email, passengers were not given a link to automatically rebook onto their original flight, meaning they had to contact BA directly.
Some customers say they have spent hours trying to get in touch with BA’s customer services without success.
One woman, Josie Simpson, told the BBC she called the airline 67 times to try to rebook a family holiday to Florida.
The company’s Twitter feed has also been inundated with messages from frustrated people.
In response to one passenger, BA said: “We’re extremely sorry that you’re having difficulties trying to rearrange your flights. Our teams have been working tirelessly to help as many of our customers as possible, in these unprecedented circumstances.”
Some customers who were told their flights were not scrapped after all have been left confused about whether their decision to accept a refund has now been cancelled.
Others have complained that they have been left out of pocket.
Ellie Kormis, from Surrey, spent the whole of Saturday trying to speak to BA after being told one of her flights for her family’s package holiday to Greece was cancelled.
She said they ended up booking new flights – which extended their holiday by three days – and extra accommodation, costing more than £2,000.
“You’re left in a situation where you can’t speak to anyone – and you fear you’ll either lose your holiday or be left out of pocket,” she said.
BA then contacted her by email to say her flight wasn’t cancelled after all.
She said it was “an epic mess up on their part”, joking that she had lost hope she would ever get through to speak to someone at BA.
Laura Gillespie, 48, from Perth, said she accepted a refund and booked new flights and trains after being told her flight from London to Edinburgh had been axed.
But she said BA now say they won’t give a refund as the flight has not been cancelled.
“I’ve now got flights booked with two different airlines going to the same place and I’m £140 down. I know it’s not a lot of money compared to some folk who have spent thousands but it’s so annoying.”
In response to customers being frustrated at not being able to get through to customer services, BA said:
- It received 38,000 calls and 33,000 tweets in first 24 hours
- Contact centres stayed open 24 hours to help resolve issues, with 70 extra staff
- Around 100 staff were working to answer Twitter queries
The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said on Friday the strikes were a “last resort” born out of “enormous frustration” with airline management.
Pilots have rejected a pay increase worth 11.5% over three years, which the airline put forward in July.
BA says it carries 145,000 customers every day – with a fleet of more than 280 aircraft – and a BA plane takes off from somewhere in the world every 90 seconds.
What can I claim if my flight has been affected by the strikes?
BA advice says you can request a full refund, rebook your flight for another time in the next 355 days, or use the value of your fare to fly to a different destination.
If your flight has been cancelled because airline staff are striking, the the Civil Aviation Authority said, then this would be considered within the airline’s control, and therefore you have a legal right to either:
- A full refund, and this includes flights in the same journey that might be from a different airline (for example, an onward or return flight)
- A replacement flight to get to your destination
- Or, if you are part way through your journey and don’t want a replacement flight, you are entitled to a flight back to the airport you originally departed from
In some cases, passengers may be entitled to additional cash compensation for the inconvenience – but only if you receive notice that your flight is affected less than 14 days before departure.
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