Monday, July 19, 2010

Next time, I'm taking the bus...

The seemingly endless incompetence of British Airways never ceases to frustrate me, shock me and amaze me. I've flown with British Airways many times. I've had problems each and every time. I've been delayed for hours, had my luggage lost and had my vegeterian meal forgotten. I've missed connecting flights and trains because of the aparent inability of British Air to get anything right. Couple that with their terrible food and the worst customer service I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with, well, I am at a loss as to why they are still in business.

Today was no different. I tried to be a good, efficient passanger and check in at the self check-in booth as recommended by the airline. I entered all my information only to have it rejected, the stupid machine telling me to go see an agent at the "Assisted Check-In" counter. I hate that counter. The word "Assisted" just highlights the fact that the peoplein that line (myself included) cannot even enter some simple information into a computer which results in the printing of a flimsy piece of paper. It is the shmuck line, the linefor the technologically inept, the line for those who will die out once fluency in the InfoTech world becomes as important as the ability to breathe, or digest food. It is the'scarlett letter' line.

Anyway, I digress. As I stood in this line, a wonderful slug-like creature emerged and began to, quite roughly, verbally berate me as to why I did not have a boarding pass. She spoke so fast, asking so many questions, I barely had time to register what she was so snappy about. Her main concern was that now, with me and several other passengers not beingable to check in, she had two lines to deal with. Now, I'm naturally a very polite person, and I expect a basic amount of respect from people, and when someone who is supposed to be a customer service representative acts this way, I'm too shocked to respond and all the witty remarks come too late to use. So, I stood there, flabbergasted, barely managing to saythrough my shocked expression, "the machine said to come here". The creature then walked off in a huff.

Luckily, I was assisted by a marginally more pleasant assistant who informed me that my 1 hour flight was delayed by 40min, which was actually 1:30 and that is why I couldn't check in, because I was likely to miss my flight to Warsaw (at this point, I was having horribledeja vu of my first solo trip abroad). I had to then go to the sales desk, wait in another horribly long line to get on another flight, the only other flight available would arrive in Warsaw at 10pm, far too late to catch a train down to Sosnowiec/Krakow/Katowice, my final destination. The sales clerk was another lovely presentation of British charm and politess, answering gruffly to my desperate (somewhat teary) pleas to maybe possibly get me on another (earlier) flight.

After this was over, I was told to go back to check in, where I waited in line for over an hour only to be told that I should go to the sales desk. I almost cracked. I tried, as calmly as possible, to explain that I have been there, I've stood in line and I've seen the clerk, I've been tentatively put on the other flight and I might still make the 13h50 to Warsaw. I breathed deeply as the assistants brows made funny shapes while she typed things in on the computer, I held my breath as I put my luggage on the scales (4.2kg too heavy, but at least they let that go.) And now, here I am, waiting in Heathrow for 6 hours, bound to spend the night in Warsaw instead of with family.

I met an American biologist on the plane. Once I started recounting (in brief) my travels, he asked; "and what was the most important thing you learned in all these travels?" Strangely, no-one asked me this before. My reply was "don't fly British Airways"... I jest, their lounges are nice.

In all honesty, I'm not sure if this is worth it, if you calculate the time I waited, the stress I went through and the sheer amount of hours it is going to take to get to my homecity via London, it would probably be quicker, and less painful, to just take the 20 hour bus next time.

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