Wednesday 29 June 2022

An open letter to Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO - You are failing people with special needs

 Dear Mr Doyle,

I am writing to you in total frustration on this public forum, because as CEO you are in a position to do something positive about the way your company interacts with people with special needs. As the owner of a successful business myself, I am aware of the positive impact of my customers calling me out when we get things wrong. Although your business employs tens of thousands of people and mine employs ten, the principle is the same. We only improve when our customers tell us that the people who work for us could do better. 

In August, I am travelling from Gatwick to Bordeaux as a primary carer, with a lady with significant special requirements, who has cerebal palsy and who uses an electric wheelchair. There are aspects of our journey which I urgently need to discuss with your special assistance team. I was advised by the charity HCPT, who made the arrangements, that I had to speak to you, as you would not allow them to act on my behalf without authorisation.  They provided me with the number of your special assistance team and I have repeatedly tried to contact them. I have either been left hanging on a line being told that they are extremely busy and someone will be with you soon until I have had to give up due to work requirements, one time over 30 minutes or more recently being told that call volumes are high and please call back later, by your automated switchboard. 

In frustration, I tried tweeting you and got the following response.

Although it took a week to get a response, I was pleased that eventually someone seemed to be taking an interest. So I did what was asked and here is the conversation

My final message was posted yesterday at 2.47pm. I am no nearer being able to sort this issue out and I am no nearer even speaking to anyone who can help me. If I am in this position, I can only assume that every other person in the UK who is travelling with someone on BA with special requirements is also in the same position. We chose BA as we beleived that using a premium airline would mean that we got better and more responsive customer service. It can be quite difficult and stressful making travel arrangements for someone who has significant care requirements during travel. Whilst no passenger should experience the shoddy customer care we have received, I am sure you will agree that passengers who have significant requirements should be able to get through to someone who will resolve them with the minimum of fuss and bother. 

I have travelled many times as a carer and I have first hand experience of how important it is to ensure a smooth transfer from a wheelchair to a seat is for a passenger using a wheelchair. If this is not properly organised, then it can impact other passengers and delay the departure of the flight, which sadly causes all manner of difficulties.

I am sure that you will be keen to ensure that BA is viewed as a responsible airline and one that customers can rely on and trust. I am aware that your company has various issues with staffing at the moment, however if you are accepting bookings, then you should be able to provide the service that customers are paying for.

Roger Tichborne

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