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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Open Letter to Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Dear Mr. Walsh,

I felt compelled to write to you one last time as I believe there is a dire need to remind you of your words from British Airways 2009 Annual Report, as your airline’s customer service continues to sink to new and hitherto unimaginable lows. “We will not let this crisis compromise our long-term goal – to create a world-leading global premium airline with a reputation for being the very best at meeting its customers’ needs.” Everybody makes mistakes but your staff’s attitude and lack of care, concern and pure arrogance after the poor experience we had is abhorrent and led me to make the decision never to fly BA again. However, BA again started courting me for my business a few months ago through numerous emails, letters and offers promising a new and vastly improved customer service and experience. It was this promise to woo back the countless customers’ it has no doubt lost over the last few years that prompted me to make one last effort to resolve the matter.

Once again I have had no joy from your Customer Service department. I corresponded via your website’s customer complaint mechanism, and initially Mr. B, from BA Customer Relations (as in 2006) sent me a response and then again there was complete silence when it came to actually resolving my issues. And this upon my supplying both clarification of the facts, and the supporting documents he requested; boarding cards and credit card statement, with e-ticket#, as proof of purchase (Fax dated: 2/2/2010).

In short, I never received what Mr. B himself promised me by way of apology in 2006, mileage credit to my wife’s account, nor did I get the refund/partial credit owed me from travel completed in 2005.

In summary our experience in 2005 is as follows: my wife and I were travelling New York-London-Dubai-London-New York with one full fare Business Class and one Premium Economy ticket. BA messed up our reservations causing us to miss our flight out of NY, then promised to upgrade my wife from London to Dubai, as there was no extra seat available in Business on the next flight, nor was my pre-booked aisle seat that I had on the original flight; so I too downgraded to economy from NY-London (and was promised a refund of the fare difference, which I was told would be automatically credited to my credit card within 60-90 days). Then your staff in London refused to honour the upgrade promise made to us by your staff in New York. Upon my seeking assistance from your London staff and getting the run around, frustrated, I finally asked who I needed to speak with in BA to help me, I was told, and I quote: “there is nobody in this airline that can help you.”

Sadly and truthfully, my expectation for resolution at this stage is virtually zero from both you and your airline, but I feel that in the end it is unhappy customers like me remaining silent that allow companies like British Airways to continue charging high premiums, while delivering subpar quality and service. Most importantly, our silence allows you to continue to treat your customers like cattle and take our business for granted. So consider this my way to stop turning my head and looking the other way, allowing companies like yours to continue the pursuit of profits at the expense of customers and everything else that matters. With this open letter, I am going to make every effort to ensure that the world is made aware of our less than poor experience and encouraged to do the same, through my personal blogs, Facebook, Twitter and all the various public and travel forums and discussions I actively participate in.

In my opinion British Airways, over the last decade has squandered its well earned reputation as “The World’s Favourite Airline” and become the “World’s Worst Airline,” and this from a customer who for years remained steadfastly loyal to your airline in the face of increased and better competitive options becoming available.


Mr. Vaish

NOTE posted on 4th December 2010: I got a response from BA one month after sending this letter, and responded ( and of course have heard nothing back.


  1. I could not agree more! I have just had a not too dissimilar experience during the Volcanic Ash disruptions.

  2. We had a very traumatic experience with British Airways. Our original flight was delayed 6 hours and we missed our flight, we were told not to worry everything would be looked after, when we arrived in London and lined up for 4 hours, we were told, w were on our own And uwould have to purchase new tickets as we missed the flight. This was no fault of ours. I have written to the CEO of BA and got no response from him. I had a number of generic responses from their Customer Service saying, it is not their responsibility are you surprised? BA has to have the worst Customer Service. We will not fly BA again

  3. BA really do need to train their staff properly.

    I was shocked at the lack of professionalism displayed by a couple of crew members on board a flight my family and I took.

    Talk about professional misconduct.

    It was the worst start to what turned out to be a disasterous holiday too. I feel sick when I think we actually paid for it. And I can't tell you how much I needed that holiday. I was so ill from stress afterwards.

    Needless to say I won't be travelling BA again unless it is in a coffin and I know nothing about it.

  4. Well, I was just going to book a return ticket on British Airways for the BANGALORE-WASHINGTON sector but I'm having second thoughts now, seeing this kind of feedback. This is looking more like a trend than a one-off incident.

  5. A one off event is a symptom. It shows that there are problems there.

    The problem with a trend is that it is clear that nothing is being done about it.

    Sounds like a company putting profit first if you ask me. As for the staff, one or two rotten apples can spoil the lot. Particularly when a large number of staff are not happy in their jobs.

  6. Open letter to #BritishAirways. The Squiss wins first prize in #lost #luggage competition. Full diatribe #TheSquiss: