Reader Email: British Airways Irop Disaster & Accommodation Offered At Brothel?

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A LoyaltyLobby reader sent us an email about irregular operations with British Airways plane in St. Lucia that ended up some passengers sleeping in the lounge floor (had declined accommodation at a brothel – provided by BA).

BA Disaster

Remember that you can always email us, send a message via Facebook or use Twitter and include photos too. We’ll try to cover Reader Questions & Comments here several times a week.

Here’s reader’s question to us:

A night on the floor of check in at St Lucia. The circumstances are below.

My question is what are CEDR likely to recommend if I go ahead with them?  Passengers were sent to Sandals at the north of the island.  My inclination is to take a night at this resort, taxis each way and breakfast and double it for lack of duty of care

Here’s what the reader sent to BA:

This is in response to your email of 27th February with both the above case number and with a further Case REMOVED covering our regulatory delay allowance.  I acknowledge receipt of your email but feel that you, on behalf of BA, have failed to grasp the level of acute distress and discomfort and indeed real fear that I and my wife Andrea have had to suffer as a direct result of our experience St Lucia.  This message format, while convenient to you does not help me explain our situation as fully as I would want.

I would ask you to read our notes in the lower part of this message block where the circumstances we faced are described in detail being based on our contemporaneous notes and photos. You will be familiar with the article in the Sun newspaper with this link: https://www.thesun.co.uk/travel/8425183/british-airways-passengers-sleep-airport-floor-cancelled-flight.   I am unable to send you by attachment the image of myself sleeping on the floor of check-in and my other photos in this message format.

I would ask for a satisfactory response to these questions:

*  Why were we not given food or hot drinks from 7pm until 8.00am, a period of 13 hours, and hot food for closer to 22 hrs?

*  Why was no visible formal prepared plan available to and executed by the local ground staff to cover the St Lucia delay? Does ISO9001 have any meaning to BA and are you not certified to it?

*  Why were the ground staff unprepared to provide suitable hospitality when there was a known situation of low available accommodation as a result of the Cricket Test Match?  It is not be difficult to think of a number of options that might have been provided with a little planning even with a difficult hotel situation.

*  How did BA manage to put us at such physical risk in search of completely unsuitable accommodation in the early hours of the morning?  We were close to being killed or very seriously injured as the taxi in which we travelled in search of accommodation was run off the road by a car on the wrong side of the road, probably driven by an intoxicated driver. This hazard is much more likely at 1.30am than 4pm. How was this allowed to happen?

Is this all, very seriously, the treatment that two 72 year old passengers should be prepared for in travelling on BA?  How does this allow for my diagnosis of Diabetes?  My wife and I both feel that BA have a moral and legal responsibility to our care that BA signally failed to uphold.   As passengers of our age, how did BA manage to put us through the physical risk, lack of food and accommodation, discomfort of trying to sleep on a tile floor for our own personal safety and loss of one day of our stay in Grenada? Your offer of £400 as an e-voucher to spend against a BA flight seems a very inadequate recompense for the experience that we have had and just part of the cost to BA of the normal cost of accommodation that other passengers received.  It clearly ties us to a further BA flight within 12 months when understandably we might think that we would not want to travel with BA again.

We are looking for altogether more realistic and substantial compensation that recognises that our treatment was a failure of your regulatory responsibilities.

In answering the above, please also advise me where I should escalate our complaint to achieve a resolution.

Here’s how reader describes circumstances:

Our 13th February, BA  flight 2159 to Grenada departed Gatwick and arrived on time at its St. Lucia stop, being uneventful apart from a reported failing of some inflight entertainment in some seats (but not ours).  The flight entertainment equipment appeared old with weak screen definition and poor colour.

On arrival at St Lucia and with a crew change, we were advised around 4pm that there was an hydraulic leak that local BA Engineering were hoping to fix.  After several deadlines and around 6.30pm, the Captain asked us to deplane taking our carryon baggage with us.  As we deplaned, I asked him what the problem was and he said that the starboard engine had a hydraulic leak in its thrust reverser system.

A number of further deadlines came and went as the engineering team continued to work and with the Captain and crew being ready to take the plane on to our destination of Grenada that evening.  During this time, we were offered a voucher of EC$25 (US$8.71) each for refreshments.  The airside restaurant appeared to struggle to provide hot food especially against a possible departure deadline and my wife and I found that our joint EC$50 allocation would purchase one scone, one small piece of cake, two cups of coffee and a small bottle of water.

At around 10.00pm and after a series of updates, the Captain advised us that the fault had not been fixed and he would not be continuing to Grenada that evening.  We were asked to go to baggage claim to collect our checked baggage and from there to the BA desks at Check In for allocation of accommodation.  By this time this applied also to the St Lucia to Gatwick passengers who, we were advised, comprised a further full flight.

The local ground staff appeared to be overwhelmed by the load placed upon them.  It further appeared from the time taken and informal nature of their recording (on unlined paper, handwritten) that they were not operating to a pre-prepared contingency plan to deal with the load thus compounding their problem and efficiency of its handling.  We were also advised that the Cricket Test Match was affecting the availability of accommodation.

A long queue formed.  At one stage we were told that Gatwick and Grenada passengers should form separate queues and we moved from our then current queue place to the back of the other to comply.  This separate queuing instruction fell by the wayside and ground staff were unable to respond to my request for queue separation and control in spite of quantities of taped barriers being present and available.  Passenger queuing was full of frustration that would have been eased by the usual zig-zag check-in arrangement.  Around 12.30am we personally received an offer of accommodation at the Stanley Guest House, Micoud, and we departed for Micoud in a small minibus in a party of eight to this and another.  I have since found on checking that Stanley Guest house appears to have no formal listing or rating on common websites.  We were unable to find and affix seat belts for the journey.

On arrival at Micoud, there seemed to be both some doubt certainly initially on the location of the guest houses and then of no available space at the Stanley Guest House.  The taxi driver used his own initiative to find an alternative.  We found ourselves down a side road where we were told there were rooms.

There was a loud bar a few yards away active even at this time in the morning.  A number of young males were in the immediate vicinity.  We judged that some were intoxicated.  My wife felt unsafe and unwilling to leave the safety of the bus.  The BA passengers on the bus, including ourselves, took a mutual decision that they also felt unsafe and, as a group, we asked to be taken back to the Terminal where we would at least  be under the protection of duty police. (We had earlier been advised at the airport not to stray outside beyond security for our own safety).  We intended to find space to sleep safely at the airport, arriving back around 1.30am.

In the course of this journey and following a shouted warning by one of our passengers in the front passenger seat, our minibus driver was forced to emergency brake and drive onto the verge to avoid a head on crash with a high speed saloon car that was approaching us on our side of the road.  It would have hit us with very severe consequences if we had remained on the road.  The car did not apparently slow or stop and we were unable to take its number.  We were shaken and alarmed but unhurt.  This reinforced our desire to return to the safety of the Terminal.

On our return, we asked for and received both blankets and water but there were no further offers of or opportunity for food or refreshment and we commenced to make ourselves comfortable on the tile floor and chairs of the airport Check-In area.  At around 2.30am, a further minibus of passengers returned to the Terminal having refused to accept accommodation which they said they thought included a brothel of scantily clad women.  This extraordinary failing of BA’s duties was a lighter moment in our very unpleasant experience.  We asked if we could use airside seating or the aircraft itself as being more comfortable than the check-in floor.  This was refused.

I asked terminal Check-In staff if they could make less noise so that we could sleep.  One of our number of approximately 28 passengers had an unsatisfactory telephone conversation with BA that appeared to give us contradictory information that included passage to Port of Spain and return to Gatwick plus advice to contact travel agents in spite of clear requests that it was information on the flight later that day to Grenada that was needed and that passengers in a range of ages but including senior Citizens were sleeping on the hard tile floor.  We continued to be offered no refreshment beyond water.

At around 3.15am, a person who appeared to be management advised us that we could use the customer courtesy lounge on the first floor up to 8am when we would be given breakfast in the restaurant adjacent to Check-In plus the possibility of use of a resort for washing and showering.  We were also told that there would be both a flight and a rescue flight at 4pm that day that would allow us to complete our journey to Grenada as well as relieve the passengers needing to return to Gatwick.

At this point we collected our belongings and our 28 passengers were moved to the courtesy lounge on the first floor, guarded by airport staff because we were airside.  Thirteen of us, including my wife and myself, selected either one or two chairs for their comfort and the remainder slept on the floor.  Blankets and water were made available but we were not offered hot drinks or food or the ability to freshen ourselves.  We were not permitted to move from the area except to the adjacent toilet.   A feature of sleeping without privacy was that one of our number had an extremely loud snore.  In practice, we have very little sleep.

Around 8am, we were offered coffee in an adjacent lounge.  Half an hour late, at around 8.30am, we asked for a BA representative to come and speak with us.  This was refused and we decided that it was in everyone’s interest that we went down for breakfast.  This was not of a typical European style and I found it unpleasant.  Fried fish was not what my wife and I felt we wanted after the disturbed night.  Hot drinks were available.  BA paid directly for our meals, the first hot food we had been able to have since that served for lunch during the flight the previous day.

The  suggestion of being able to go to a resort to wash and change did not materialise and we checked in for our Grenada leg after a modest lunch that we paid for and are claiming. We were joined at check-in by passengers who had been put into good quality accommodation, received food and an ability to freshen themselves.

Check-in was confused and slow and had to be done manually since the system could not deal with our bags and the confusion of flights.  Staff needed to ask management for instructions on how to deal with the glitch.  The flight to Grenada was completed without incident in an aircraft that had a better standard of cabin fittings.

I would comment that the Captain made every effort to be visible and keep us informed through a series of missed deadlines by the engineering team until we parted company with him at 10.00pm on 13th February.  Next day on arrival at Grenada in the replacement aircraft, he again made himself available at the bottom of the steps to speak to deplaning passengers.  This was all at the suggestion of us as passengers.  In allocating accommodation, the ground staff appeared to allow a chaotic situation to develop without efficient queuing and an apparent prepared plan.  According to our travel agent, this was not the first time this situation has occurred.  One can think of a number of potential alleviating measures.  Local management did not speak to us as a group until 3.15am.  I am surprised and disappointed that they did not respond to us at breakfast time.  Instead we found that baton carrying police officers appeared to be enforcing our move out of the area.  Refreshment facilities were basic, inadequate, not timely or of the standard that would be appropriate for BA passengers. Suggestion of an opportunity to freshen up was not followed through leaving us in the clothes that we had commenced our journey early the previous day.

Here’s statement from BA’s press office:

We provided hotel accommodation to the vast majority of our passengers. Due to a limited number of available hotel rooms, we also offered our business class lounge at the airport, providing bedding and food and drinks to ensure they were as comfortable as possible despite the circumstances.

We are sorry for the inconvenience and have sent a relief aircraft out to Saint Lucia to get customers back to London Gatwick as quickly as possible.

Conclusion

It seems that many things went wrong here after captain deemed the plane unfit that caused cancellations of two flights.

British Airways often struggles with providing irregular operations accommodation even at their hub in London that is required by EU EC261/2004 legislation, and just asks passengers to book on their own and later claim the expenses back from the airline.

In retrospect, the reader should have booked whatever was available on the island by himself and requested reimbursement from BA later along with delay compensation. Obviously this doesn’t work too well late at night when OTA’s often no longer allow bookings for the night in question.

It is clear that the airline is on hook for 600 euro compensation per passenger due to getting them to the final destination more than 4 hours late. I am not familiar with the UK law whether the reader is entitled to something else too.

I would proceed with Money Claim Online (MCOL) as CEDR is likely more favorable to British Airways.

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