British Airways is being questioned by the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) following its handling of flight cancellations in anticipation of strike action that was announced by the union representing the majority of its pilot workforce.
Last week the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) announced that on September 9, 10 and 27 it will instruct union members to strike following a long-running pay dispute after months of negotiations finished inconclusively. The airline was then put in a position to proactively cancel flights affected on or near the declared dates, throwing thousands of passengers’ travel plans into jeopardy.
To make matters worse for the airline, an “email error” inadvertently sent messages to a number of passengers notifying them their flight(s) had been affected and would be cancelled, which turned out to be false, further enraging customers who then made other travel plans.
On Sunday, a spokesman for the airline said to The Guardian: “We are sorry that some customers received an email in error to say that their flight had been canceled on non-strike days. We are getting in touch with all those customers to clarify that their flight will go ahead as planned.”
British Airways said they would deal with any passengers that spent money on alternative arrangements who were caught in the mix up on a case-by-case basis.
Following the initial strike announcement and subsequent email error, thousands of passengers attempted to contact the airline customer service phone center to arrange alternative plans, leading to extreme waiting times to speak to an airline representative. The airline said they received around 60,000 calls and 52,000 tweets since Friday’s strike announcement.
British Airways said it had drafted in an extra 90 staff members over the weekend to help ease the pressure on the customer service phone lines and assist in rebooking and refunded affected customers.
The airline said: “Our contact centers are operating 24/7, and we have brought in additional resource, with over 500 colleagues working to support customers during this time.”
“Our teams are providing customers whose flights have been canceled with options to seek a full refund or rebook, including to a different date of travel, or flying with an alternative airline.”
On Tuesday, the CAA has made contact with the airline over its handling of the flight cancelations. The law requires any airline which cancels a flight to offer affected passengers the option of either a refund, a new flight at a later date or alternative travel arrangements including with other airlines. The CAA is now focusing on whether the airline has sufficiently offered passengers to fly with other carriers as per the law.
The airline celebrated its 100th-anniversary last weekend which has seen a significant PR push including a number of events throughout the year to highlight its centenary.
Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: “We have had a fabulous year so far marking our centenary and thanking our customers for making us the airline we are today – we wouldn’t be here without their pioneering spirits and sense of adventure.”
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