August 16, 2003
Rod Eddington, Chief Executive
PO Box 365
Dear Mr. Eddington:
On August 11, 2003, we were aboard BA #2025 from London to Houston. An hour before the scheduled landing in Houston, the Captain advised that rainstorms in Houston would delay the landing. After holding east of Houston for some time, the Captain advised the plane was low on fuel; we would fly to New Orleans to refuel. Upon landing there about 3:30 p.m., he said re-fueling would take place quickly, and we would soon be on our way to Houston. Sometime later he advised that refueling had begun, then later that it was finished, then later yet that paperwork was taking longer than expected. Then he announced the crew had exceeded their flying hours (something he must have been aware of earlier); we would have to overnight in New Orleans. Unfortunately, we couldn’t exit the plane until customs could handle us around 9pm. Our luggage could not be offloaded at all. At just past 10 p.m., after seven hours of sitting on the plane in cramped and crowded conditions (the flight was full), we were allowed to disembark and pass through customs/immigration. The Captain said the flight would return to Houston at 5 p.m. the next day; we should be at the airport no later than 4pm. This was the last communication we had from BA. We were given hotel vouchers (but no food vouchers) and efficiently shuttled to the Wingate Hotel.
Doy contacted BA after arrival at our hotel. The phone agent knew nothing of the situation but made, at our request, a reservation to return to Houston the next morning on Continental Airlines. He implied that BA or AA (handling the flight in NO) would endorse the ticket, assuring reimbursement. The next morning Doy again phoned BA and after nearly an hour on the phone was told:
1. BA had no authorization to endorse tickets or to reimburse.
2. The flight would now leave New Orleans at 10pm (some 30 hours after landing in New Orleans).
We decided to return to Houston on Continental as it was most unreasonable to wait on the BA flight. Upon arrival in Houston, we immediately went to the BA counter and after some confusion, the agent took our information and arranged to have our luggage delivered. It finally arrived Wednesday night at 10:30 p.m., some 56 hours after the scheduled arrival in Houston.
We have the following questions about BA’s handling of this situation:
1. Why could not arrangements have been made to allow us off the plane in a contained area with food provision and a place to walk around?
2. Why couldn’t adequate meal or food service be arranged in New Orleans? (After announcing that a "snack" had been delivered during the ordeal, BA served us with a 5 oz. soft drink and ½ oz package of pretzels during our 7+ hour stay on the tarmac.)
3. Why couldn’t the crew waiting in Houston have been flown to N.O. to bring us back sooner?
4. Why weren’t passengers routed onto other airlines?
5. Why was there no contingency plan in place with customs and INS?
6. Why at no time were temporary or long-term health risks mentioned nor were we given suggestions on how best to counteract them? As studies have shown, sitting in a cramped coach seat for more than 19 hours, breathing the same recycled air for that period of time, can have serious health consequences, both short- and long-term.
While we acknowledge that the initial rainstorm was a natural event, we believe that BA’s handling of the situation was untimely, inefficient, uninformative, and inhumane. Therefore, we expect the following from BA as partial compensation for our ordeal:
1. Full reimbursement for our one-way Continental Airline tickets from New Orleans to Houston in the amount of $112.50 each for $225 total (receipt attached)
2. Full reimbursement for two round-trip BA tickets Houston/London or equivalent tickets.
3. Double-credit frequent flyer miles for the recent trip/ordeal.
4. First class upgrades.
We expect a prompt response to this matter. Enclosed are all of the pertinent documents.
Doy F. & SuzAnne C. Cole
BA Executive Club Member # 21176321
cc: Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, Chairman, British Airways
Customer Relations, British Airways
Harry Shattuck, Travel Editor, The Houston Chronicle
SuzAnne C. Cole took her first international flight at age 5, 65 years ago. Now a retired college instructor, wife, mother, and grandmother, she and her husband have traveled and hiked the world including Iceland, China, Nepal, Panama, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, Argentina, Austria, and Russia.