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Snow is forecast for this week and therefore travel chaos will probably descend on the UK – as usual – with the airlines (and BA in particular) likely to be particularly badly hit. If British Airways cancels your flight (or even if you just think they might – they started proactively cancelling some flights last night), here are some great tips on what to do, compiled by Craig when dealing with a previous white-out.
My own suggestion on what to do during these trying times is pictured above, but you may find Craig’s ideas more practical! Note that the details below refer to a cancellation back in December, but the tips are still just as relevant.
1. Don’t Check in Online
Whenever there is a crisis ongoing, DON’T CHECK IN ONLINE. Your reservation is safe and you will still get a seat (pre-assigned if you have elite status), as long as the flight operates. But once British Airways announces that anybody can change impacted flights via ba.com, the last thing you want to do is follow their advice and find this:
Since I had already checked in online (schoolboy error) I was left with no choice but to call British Airways to handle my situation. I had already pre-selected my seat, and didn’t even print out my boarding pass, so why did I bother?!?!
2. Don’t Call the UK Help Line
Well… you can… just don’t expect anybody to pick up. The phone queues were so long on Sunday evening that British Airways wouldn’t even let new callers join the queue!
But luckily any British Airways agent in the world will do. Skype is your friend! Call British Airways in Japan, Australia, India, the United States… anywhere where it is regular business hours. Some quick searching on the BA website will help you dig out the number.
Since it was Sunday evening, it was a bit too early for Asia to be at their desks working, so I called the British Airways number in the United States using Skype.
3. Be Proactive
At 7 p.m. UK time on Sunday, the British Airways “Flight Status” page looked like this:
My flight was cancelled, so I proceeded to points 1 and 2.
When did British Airways text and e-mail me to let me know my flight was cancelled? Over three hours later! By that time, every flight for the 11th and 12th was fully booked or cancelled…
If you see bad weather on the horizon (or outside your window or on the television) don’t wait for British Airways, jump ahead of the masses by being proactive.
4. Take Advantage of the 24-Hour Cooling-Off Period
This piece of advice is what truly saved me (whilst I was on a 3-hour phone queue in the U.S. only to be served eventually by a lovely, apologetic woman clearly based in Newcastle or Manchester)
For every British Airways booking, you have a 24-hour cooling-off period to cancel your booking at no charge. The only exception is when you are booking a flight that departs within 24 hours of booking.
So whilst my tablet was waiting for British Airways to answer my call, I booked a flight for Tuesday the 12th and another one for Wednesday the 13th. I happened to be using Avios and, due to my proactively booking before British Airways and its stranded passengers got around to re-booking, I still managed to find reward space on those mid-week flights. Due to the 24-hour rule, I could cancel either on Monday morning at my leisure.
As I mentioned previously, in the space of 3-4 hours every flight on the 11th and 12th become fully booked. (prices soared in real time – it was like watching a stock ticker during a boom, or the price of Bitcoin lately) When BA eventually answered my call, I was offered a seat on a flight on the 13th. When I heard this, I simply mentioned that I had already made a separate booking, so she could simply go ahead and cancel my Avios booking for the 11th – for a full refund. My ego, still wounded from my online check-in error, certainly appreciated the “Ooh, that was clever of you”.
And Monday evening, when it became clear that flights were going to operate as planned on the 12th, I took advantage of the 24-hour cooling off period to cancel my booking for the 13th.
Confused? I hope not. But essentially I booked three separate rewards using Avios for three consecutive days, and received full refunds for the two bookings I didn’t need!
Don’t go to the airport during a crisis! Find a good internet connection and hopefully these tips will come in handy the next time Alex Cruz is reaching for his hi-vis jacket…
Good luck everyone! Any more tips to add? – Let us know in the comments.