Tuesday, April 01, 2008



I'm on the third leg of a round trip from Damascus to Copenhagen via London. The first leg was very pleasant, on BMI, in a very spacious modern plane with the huge benefit of a power socket by my seat, so I was able to work most of the flight. As I had offered to do some work on a strategy document for the Trust, this was a good opportunity to break the back of it.

Then came Heathrow, and luckily no need to pass through the new and chaotic Terminal 5. As it was we arrived 50 minutes behind schedule and it takes about that time to get from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4, so it was fortunate that I had three hours in hand before the next leg, by BA, to Copenhagen. This was a much less impressive plane, absolutely full, cramped, and with fairly underwhelming food. After the last experience with BA to Copenhagen I was taking only hand luggage, and it and I both arrived safely. Likewise back to London, where I was due to spend a couple of days to celebrate Helen's 60th birthday.

Then yesterday just to be on the safe side, I called BMI to double-check which Terminal at Heathrow the flight to Damascus, scheduled to depart at 2105, was leaving from. Oh, came the reply, that flight was rescheduled and left at 1450 this afternoon. It was now about 90 minutes later than that, so I had missed my flight. Had BMI told anyone? We inform all passengers of any change to schedule. But not me. Perhaps your travel agent does not have your contact number, sir. True, but he does have the office number, and the office would most certainly have informed me if they had been told anything. But I can't find your: name, booking reference, ticket number on our system, are you sure you booked with us? I have a BMI ticket in my hand right now. Anyway, after around an hour of pointless conversation, my interest now was in getting onto another flight. I'll get back to you, sir. Unsurprisingly, noone phoned back.

So I called BA, as this was a codeshare, and spoke to a very good-humoured gentleman. Yes sir, I have your details here. It looks like BMI changed the time without informing us either, because our schedule for this flight still shows 2105. But I'll book you onto the same flight tomorrow. All done. Restored my faith in human nature.

Until the next day, when, just to check once again, I called BA back. No, you're not on our system as having been re-booked on today's flight. Oh....... Let me see what I can do. Okay, we've sorted it out with BMI and you now have a pre-assigned seat, 4A. Many thanks, that's very helpful.

Arrive at Heathrow. No record of me having a pre-assigned seat, but at leat I AM CHECKED IN now any with luck will get on the plane.

Now why does all this have to happen? Frankly it's pathetic that BMI have such a god-awful customer helpline, based in India somewhere, where they just don't know what's going on. It's pathetic that their system enables them to reschedule a plane and not get information even to the airline they code-share with. It's pathetic too that two long phone calls to BA still haven't finalised things, even though I suspect the fault lies with BMI anyway. These are not multi-disciplinary businesses, they just fly passengers from A to B. Why do they make such a pig's ear of it?

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