Calling British Airways

On Thursday I posted about how British Airways finally shut down their US based call center, and the calls are now being routed to the UK. While I for the most part didn’t love their US call center, I have to say their UK agents are even more surly, at least in my experience.

In that post I expressed one of my major frustrations with Executive Club, which is their policy that you can only phone the call center of the country in which your Executive Club account is registered. That wouldn’t be an issue if their call centers were 24/7, but their US call center for example was only open from 7:30AM till 8PM ET. So if you needed to contact them at other times you were basically hosed and had to wait till their call center opened again in the morning. Living on the west coast made this especially challenging, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve stayed up until 4:30AM just to call British Airways.

Anyway, in that last post reader Khan noted that British Airways has actually changed this policy as of last month, finally. Per this FlyerTalk post:

As part of a programme of changes for our Executive Club Members, we are delivering something that I know you will really welcome following a lot of your feedback on Flyertalk. From today, Executive Club Members can call any service centre to make or change their bookings. This includes both tickets booked with cash or with Avios. You will no longer be asked to call only your local service centre. The numbers that you call will not change and we do encourage to call your local service centre when you are in your country of Membership but we realise that there will be times when you need to reach us wherever you are and our colleagues will be happy to help.

I would say “great job British Airways,” but I think the more appropriate statement is “it’s about damn time.”

So that’s a relief, at least. Now, given that the US phone number is now redirecting to the UK, it’s simply beyond me why they can’t make calling British Airways from the US more efficient, and have the US phone number available 24/7. I suggested this to them on Twitter, and they simply responded with “it is currently not possible.”


I’d love to know what part of that, specifically, is “not possible.”

Filed Under: British Airways
  1. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for an airline to provide the minimmally acceptable level of customer service.

  2. Not Possible? Hogwash! I work for FedEx Express. We have call centers all over the world. Your call routes to the closest open call center. For example in the US, it goes to the call center with the least wait time at that moment. And, we do have at least one call center, always available to take calls 24/7/365. FedEx is as global as British Airways. So, BA is just making excuses.

  3. what i want to know is: anyone ever been able to get BA to long sell an award? specifically for all of those LAN business seats that are available but coded into a class letter that does not show up on the BA site or in the phone agent systems. anyone? when i ask BA agents about long selling or manually requesting a seat, they say they’ve never heard of it. what’s on the site is what you get. period. would love to hear from others…

  4. @JohnB and lucky: I think I can hazard a guess at what the problem is. Say that you call the US call center, and it’s closed. The nearest open call center is the UK, so you want your call to be automatically forwarded to the UK call center. The problem is that’s an international call, which makes things considerably more expensive… if you used a traditional phone line.

    However, let’s say all of the internal phone lines were based on a voice-over-data network. Data service is usually charged at a certain fixed capacity per month, not by usage. This same network could be used for “normal” company use as well. When you place a local call to the US center, the phone call first passes through a gateway that bridges the call to the internal network. The US center is closed. The internal network then routes you over to the UK center. No additional expense is incurred.

    I would bet that BA hasn’t yet networked all of their customer service centers together yet, which would make each country’s phone number working 24/7 an expensive proposition.

  5. Whoops. I was jumping around in that comment correcting the mistakes I made while typing it on a phone, so I forgot to add this last bit: the current fix (having the UK center answer US calls but only for a limited time period) may be a decision made to limit the number of calls that need to be forwarded.

    Like I said though, that was a guess.

  6. Well at least when you call you actually get BA. How long before American starts taking BA calls at their call centres like DL takes KLM/AF. I cringe when I have to call KLM and hear the other person on the line say “how ya’ll doin? May I hep yew?”

  7. @Steven L, you’re missing the point where he said the US call center is closing, so calls from the US will be routed to another call center anyway, so why not extend the hours to 24/7. Surely there wouldn’t be as many calls after hours as there would be during business hours.

  8. I just do a workaround. I call the executive club in the uk directly or call their HK facility long distance. The only hitch is that the HK office is closed Saturdays and Sundays. So you are stuck calling their uk offices which is open during the weekends from 6 am-9 pm London time.

  9. BA should have 24/7 period, specially for the US customers since the US market is its biggest one. I still remember the days when I was trying to make a change to my flight while in Europe and given the time difference the US call center was closed and the UK one would not change my ticket because my executive club membership was based out of the US.

    On a slightly unrelated topic, we should lobby for having a OneWorld Emerald help desk. It is really frustrating and time-consuming to contact a partner airline and go through the main help desk. I spent almost 50 minutes last week on the phone to change a J ticket with LAN calling its main help desk in Chile.

    @Lucky, would you champion this issue?

  10. BA not having 24/7 call centers is silly. I had no problems calling SQ’s KF line 24/7. Heck, even S7 has a 24/7 line!

  11. Hopefully, British Airways can do something about this. It would be a shame for one of the world’s biggest airlines to be let down by poor customer service–on the ground, no less. If people don’t like how their concerns are being handled before they even step on a plane, they might just walk away and look for another airline.

  12. BA HAS Devolved into the most difficult to contact, most unhelpful airline out there. A disgrace, If there was a way I could foward my miles to another carrier I would.

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