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Snowmaggedon has come and mostly gone… And your intrepid blogger was caught up in it… again! But I’m sure that my readers don’t mind, as I can then share my insight into what steps to take when faced with major disruptions.
This time I was stuck in London’s City Airport’s departure lounge last Friday – LCY was completely closed to arrivals and departures for most of the day – rather than dealing with matters from the comfort of a hotel room…
1. By All Means Join the Queue, But Pick up Your Phone Too…
There is a very important reason why British Airways insist:
Don’t go to the airport if your flight is cancelled!
Queues will be long, and there are far fewer customer service staff based at the airport than are available via their call centres worldwide. If you are already at the airport, it makes sense to join the queue for help, but pick up your phone, connect to airport wifi if you would otherwise be roaming, open Skype and call British Airways.
BA’s Disruption Assistance team can be reached on 0800 727 800 in the UK. Alternatively, those with elite status with British Airways Executive Club can log-in to their Exec Club account and find the phone numbers that presumably allow them to jump the phone queue somewhat.
The worst case scenario is that you remain on hold for the duration of your time in the physical queue. But you will probably be served quicker over the phone, and you can happily step out of the queue when that happens. If you want to make friends, when you’re done with the phone agent you could even hand your phone to the person standing next to you and let them sort out their issues…
2. Download Airline and Hotel Chain Apps Ahead of Time
Whilst I was watching the queue gradually become larger and larger thanks to multiple flight cancellations, I could see what was going on thanks to the British Airways App. Unfortunately I ended up with a version of this message again:
But that didn’t stop me from making a separate Avios reward booking for Sunday. Why? I would be able to cancel for free within the 24-hour cancellation window. It took me about 2 minutes to at least guarantee myself a flight for two days hence, in case the weather turned REALLY messy.
And since you’re probably going to stress about finding out which flight you’ll be re-booked onto, you can at least track which upcoming flights are already selling out.
And those hotel chain apps? We’ll need them in Point 3…
3. Know BA’s Policy for Expense Reimbursement
Joe raised a great point in the comments section of a recent post. Is snow during the wintertime really an “extraordinary circumstance” that should get BA off the hook for EU261 compensation? However, I’m generally more relaxed than many about fighting for extra compensation – I don’t blame the airline for snow, ash clouds, even IT meltdowns – provided the airline sorts out my added expenses quickly and with minimal fuss.
Perhaps most readers have a certain expectation of what should happen during a so-called IRROP. Wait in a queue and then receive a voucher for some food/drink (in the case of delay) and a voucher for a hotel in the event of a cancellation that requires an overnight stay. But British Airways offers you an additional option. According to a letter I was handed by BA staff whilst at City Airport…
If you are away from home and require overnight accommodation, British Airways will assist with providing hotel accommodation. Alternatively, you may make your own arrangements and reclaim the costs back from Customer Relations. We will reimburse up to £200 based on twin share.
On the transport side,
If you are travelling between London area airports, or returning home, we’d encourage you to make use of public transport as road travel is also hampered by the adverse weather. Reimbursement for additional costs incurred are limited to £50 and should be submitted online to Customer Relations.
Now which option do you prefer? To wait for British Airways to hand you a voucher to the Travelodge or Premier Inn nearest the airport, or to book your own £199 hotel at your preferred hotel chain in central London?
Once I had my new flight confirmed, I sat down and ran though my hotel options. Would it be a Hilton hotel for 2,000 points and 2,500 Lufthansa miles? Perhaps a Starwood Preferred Guest hotel for double points and a 500 Starpoint weekend bonus? Or a Hyatt with a 1,000 point per night bonus? My choice… And regular readers should know which one I made… 😉
A potentially stressful situation simply wasn’t. I didn’t particularly NEED to arrive to my destination on Friday – because I leave lots of extra margin when positioning for other flights – and because of my smartphone and a piece of paper from BA, I felt pretty calm about the whole situation. Hopefully these tips will come in handy the next time it snows in England… and that I’m on the beach in Southeast Asia instead of travelling to/from London at the time! 🙂