A British Airways Executive Club agent just hung up on me…

Despite booking award tickets all day every day, here’s something that might surprise you — I don’t remember the last time I was hung up on by an airline agent. It’s probably for one of two reasons. I suspect the main reason is because I’m always nice (but firm) with airline agents. You’re not going to get anywhere if you’re rude, and they always have the power to note your record if they don’t like you. Second, I suspect it also has to do with the fact that I avoid confrontations with phone agents. That’s the beauty of being able to politely hang up and call again.

Well for the first time in forever I got hung up on today, and it was a British Airways Executive Club agent that did it to me.

I have a policy of always going online to verify that the reservation is correct before letting the agent hang up, since I’d rather have any problems dealt with right then and there. Unfortunately in this case the agent ended the call before I had the opportunity to ask him to wait as I check the reservation online.

I figured it was no big deal, since 99% of the time reservations are correct. Well, this reservation was part of the 1%, as it was booked for the wrong date. The flight numbers and times were exactly correct, but the dates were off. It was supposed to be for the 5th of the month, but instead was booked for the 15th of the month. So I got back on the phone and got an agent that was willing to correct the error. He put me on hold for about 20 minutes to make the correction, and then came back to say that it was fixed. He commented on how they were waiving the fee as a “one time exception” because it was their error, but if I wanted to make any other changes there would be a change fee involved. Before letting him go I asked him to hold so I could just quickly pull up the reservation online.

He reluctantly waited, and I realized that he had booked a different flight from Hong Kong to Taipei (this was an award ticket from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Taipei). This wouldn’t usually be a big deal, but in this instance the passenger was traveling with a relative that was booked on the original flights using American miles. I pointed the error out to the agent, and he started by claiming that the flights were actually the same ones, but the times only changed slightly.

That wasn’t the case. Cathay Pacific operates an insane number of flights between Hong Kong and Taipei — at least one an hour — and both flights in question showed four business class award seats. When I pointed this out to the agent, he responded by saying that the later flight wasn’t available. I mentioned that the website showed four business class seats available, and he responded explaining that the website can sometimes lag in terms of availability.

In theory that’s possible, though I then nicely asked to be transferred to a supervisor. He snippily responded that supervisors don’t talk to customers at British Airways. Wow, that’s a great approach to take. Usually I would have politely hung up at this point, but given that it was a fix to a previous mistake, it would have been tougher to find an agent willing to fix a previous agent’s mistake after fixing a previous agent’s mistake.

So I decided to ask him the question where I knew he’d be caught in a lie. I asked him what other flights he saw available that day between Hong Kong and Taipei in business class. He claimed the one they were booked on was the only one with availability. I said “that’s strange, because the British Airways website shows four business class award seats on the 4:45PM, 5:35PM, 6:20PM, 6:55PM, 7:30PM, 8:00PM, 9:20PM, and 10:45PM, just to name a few. You really don’t see space on any of those flights?”



Filed Under: Awards
  1. I have bad experiences with BA. One agent was lecturing me on the rules like a grandma would talk to their grands. LOL. Also been connected to FLA based agents with UK and Scotish accents instead of NY.They also keep a log of every calls you meke per pnr, so they know how often you call.

  2. BAEC has been on a roll. I called Sunday night to switch my flight to hong kong to 1 day earlier after qantas showed availability and supposedly the guy ticketed it and I will be getting an email in 10-15 minutes. After 3 hrs there was no email. I call back and they are of course closed and the seats aren’t showing up on qantas. Call back Monday morning and get everything squared away but today I see that they charged me for the Sunday nite ‘fix’ and Monday change…ugh

  3. I’ve been getting the bum’s rush on a lot of phone calls lately. I think management is timing the CSR’s phone calls and ANYthing “extra” is seen as a ding against the CSR. Scary.

  4. Sounds like the agent has a nice future ahead of him (or her) at Office Max. That’s the kind of service Office Max CSRs seem to have down pat.

  5. I have routinely had VERY bad experiences with BA phone agents. Please, airlines, make your booking websites better so we can bypass your rude staff.

  6. Was the agent’s name Larry, by any chance?

    Because I recently had an extremely unpleasant exchange with a BA agent who introduced himself as ‘Larry’.

    It got so bad that at one point I totally lost my cool and sort of yelled at him something really sarcastic and asked him to identify himself. He just kept repeating that his name is Larry. Finally he gave me some ID number, U2. I don’t even know if it’s possible for an employee number to be 2 symbols long…
    In any case, I was too lazy to complain about this moron to his supervisors.

  7. They have YET to deposit back the Avios to my account for a friend’s cancelled trip, though I’ve had the conversation with them twice…third time’s the charm??

  8. The times below are the lengths for individual calls just trying to get them to change one reservation. How do “normal” people (i.e., folks not in our community) deal with BA?

    33 minutes
    11 minutes
    13 minutes
    23 minutes
    47 minutes

    Also, I like their “this must be manually priced, call back in 24-48 hours to find out the price and pay for it”.

  9. That’s funny — the only time I got hung up on was also by a BA agent. 🙂 They’re incredibly short-tempered… I don’t know if they’re understaffed or underpaid, but they seriously hate their job!

  10. The only time I had a rude agent was with BA too. I learned my lesson the next time I called and started 2 phone lines 5 min apart during a 20min wait. And as luck would have it the rude one picked up again and in 2 mins told me seats were not available and hang up on me. Just in time for the second line to pickup with a much nicer agent who was able to book the seats for me.

  11. I hate hang up, call back with BA because of the really long hold times.

    I got a gem of an agent today, though, I wish I could get a direct dial for him.

    The BA website does have some issues with phantom availability, in my experience especially with LAN. You often assume that if it shows it isn’t phantom availability, it’s an IT glitch or an agent who doesn’t know what they’re doing (or that’s searching the wrong airline code).

    But today I got an agent who told me the flights I was asking about weren’t available.

    I asked him, “Would you indulge me on something? Would you request the seats manually for me?”

    He said, “I’m sorry, there’s no way to do that.”

    Since he was friendly and seemed sharp in my interactions up to that point I pushed my luck — “I mean, would you mind doing a long sell and request the space on a Need Need basis?”

    He said, “Oh, sure, I can do that!”

    He entered the flights I was asking for, they came back WL. so in fact they weren’t really available, and moved on to some other flights.

    90% of BA agents are incompetent. 50% of them are unpleasant. And the systems they work with are junk. A wonderful combination.

    Once in a while you luck out!

  12. I find BA EC to consistently have the most unpleasant CSRs of any of the airlines that I have dealt with (though not nearly as many airlines as you or Gary have dealt with). But I will say, that I’ve also been hung up on by agents at other airlines as well, when it just seemed like they didn’t want to deal with a complex itinerary and/or a problem.

  13. Aren’t you always telling us that if you get an agent who won’t cooperate, to hang up and try again? I guess this one got a customer who wouldn’t cooperate. 🙂

  14. My favorite [booking stopover F award]

    “Let’s see, you can do CX885 [LAX 1pm->HKG 7pm+1] or 883 [LAX 1140PM -> HKG 530+2], but I know you don’t want that late one ’cause it’s gonna take 2 days!”

    Fortunately I was able to talk him into the late one. 😉

  15. You should start recording your calls, and when you get a chance to talk to the airline executives, show them the incompetent ones. Customer service nowadays has declined from SERVING to ego-centric behaviors…

  16. I’ve had local (American) BA agents that were extremely pleasant. I’ve also had BA agents with English accents that were argumentative when I called to make a change. So it can be hit and miss.

    But at Heathrow, I’ve had an extraordinary experience with the agents where they went above and beyond to fix my ticket.

  17. Just had a HKG agent tell me that I can’t change an award rez except thru US call center, is that correct?

  18. I was told by several agents that in-person agents at the airport cannot handle award tickets and that it must go through the executive club mega-hold time line.

  19. It sounds to me like the agents you got are simply imbeciles! There is no need for poor customer service whether on the phone or in person.

  20. I though AC was bad……true service at BA I see. I hope I don’t have to darken their doorstep anytime soon.

  21. @Scottrick – Lucky’s a masochist. He lives for this kind of crap even though he knows better. And it provides blog content when he deals with any combination of rude, untrained, uninformed, uneducated agents despite knowing better than to even try.

  22. If you’re lucky enough to be Gold exec, the agents on that line seem consistently pretty good – I think that’s where they put their competent people + they pick up quickly … When I’ve used 1-800-airways (not had my gold card with me) the hold times have sometimes been atrocious ..

    Remind them to practice what they preach – “To Fly, To Serve” … (their latest ad slogan)

  23. I find many of the BA phone agents to be rushed and rude- the long hold times are ridiculous as well-I have been hung up on too! Interesting though-I find the flight staff to be wonderful. Their relatively new slogan to serve must not apply to phone agents…..

  24. @ Scottrick — Of course, but this was a special situation since it was fixing a previous issue. It was easier to try and reason with the agent rather than to call back and get an agent to fix the mistake that a previous agent made when they were trying to fix a previous mistake. You feeling me?

    @ RakSiam — Nope.

    @ Chris — Unfortunately I believe so.

    @ robert — In my experience it’s the same agents, but they just pick up faster.

  25. Coincidentally, two days ago I also spoke to a terrible BA agent about changing business class flights from HKG-TPE. It must have been bad feng shui for HKG-TPE that day.

  26. BA is awful. A couple of years ago I redeemed a 2 for 1 award and they used my wife’s certificate (which expired a year later rather than mine. They would only correct it if I paid a change fee even though it was their mistake, and they were insulting about it.

  27. they hang up on people or are rude since they are rated on length of call. Last agent I talked to started by saying sorry for talking really fast. She said the length of call was key employee review metric.

  28. I thought Aeroplan Agents are rude or put it this way, they are not rude if there is no issue, but if there are issues they need to fix even though it’s error on their end, you will see the lacking desire to assist don’t bother me attitude, that happened to me more than once…

    TACA/Life Miles agents are polite on the phone like a robot, they have good tone of voice but when their is issue they lack the skill to resolve it most of the times

    I strongly believe on-going poor employees service reflect the ability of the head of the company. here is the contact info for the CEO of BA, they need to fix their issues..

    [email protected]

  29. I have ~ 6 million million miles on different airline programs and unfortunately close to 700k with BA.
    These are basically useless miles. Tried to get
    from US to Israel 8 months in advance booking
    and the 1st class charged brought me back in business only and the fuel, taxes (as they say) counted some U$ 1200. Didn’t go.
    I don’t know ANY airline that rude and arrogant than BA, starting with their reps.
    What I’m doing now, instead of wasting these miles and at the same time paying at least the cheapest coach fare, I’m using their miles for hotels and when done, I don’t even piss towards BA.
    What wonders me is that folks don’t vote by refusing to fly bA. That airline in the USA wouldn’t make 6 months. Is the seat availbility in British isles so bad, that they are forced to accept the torture.
    One other thing, when you google the executive club/BA to see complains, they (BA) has filled the several first pages with their own propaganda, with different websites to push the complains to the far away pages that most folks don’t go.
    They know that they are bad and arrogant and don’t even try to change it. It’s terribel
    operation if not crocked.

  30. You got through? I’ve been waiting more than an hour on hold waiting to get thru to executive club to “combine my avios” because the website won’t let me.

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