British Airways: No Refund For Man In ICU Who Can’t Talk

Travel News — By David Chalk on May 6, 2010 at 4:50 pm

After a car crash, Robert Bates, 22, is in stable but critical condition, unable to speak and still in intensive care.  Five weeks before the crash, Bates booked an Orlando vacation as a birthday present for his fiancee, who also broke her pelvis and suffered a perforated ear drum in the accident.  Wanting to make sure Robert had something to look forward to after his recovery, his sister Nicole tried to save his vacation.  Orlando hotels and Disney World both gave refunds or postponements — British Airways took a harder line on Robert’s £800 ($1,200) flights.  Despite being told repeatedly that Robert was in intensive care and couldn’t speak, British Airways insisted the booking could only be changed if Robert got on the phone.

After the family contacted a local newspaper, British Airways is being more cooperative, but the airline’s initial response seems pretty cold.  “They weren’t apologetic at all,” the fiancee told The Telegraph. “They just didn’t want to speak to us – only to Rob even though he’s in intensive care.”

Sister Nicole:

I phoned BA and they said ‘We’re not going to discuss anything with you.’ We asked if they wanted a doctor’s note but the woman said it wouldn’t work. They just wanted to speak to Rob, I had to explain about five times he was in intensive care and couldn’t speak. The lady persisted in putting Rob on the phone.

A British Airways spokesperson’s not-that-apologetic statement:

We are now in touch with the family to offer them further assistance in this exceptional case. Like all airlines we are bound by data protection rules which mean we can only discuss the detail of a booking with a customer. We cannot ignore the provisions of data protection law but we always try to be flexible in our approach to customer issues. We will always look at any exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

It is too much to expect that an airline have a way to look at exceptional circumstances without the family of the seriously injured kid having to go through the media first?

[Image: Cisco]

Tags: airline, British Airways, customer service, data protection, horrible customer service, Orlando


  • The Guitar Hero says:

    WTF ! wow now these are some tough rules !

  • Lou Woods says:

    Wow! That’s cold, Dude!

    Lou Woods

  • Joe Gats says:

    I understand where the airline is coming from. Of course this looks bad and yes it would be nice if there was a way around it, but for every 1 case in a million like this one, there are probably hundreds of cases of ex wives, ex boy friends, noise people and the such who try to do the same thing. If they were successful, the people who cry foul at the airlines not giving in on this one case would be quick to sue to airline for a violation of privacy. It’s easy to look at this one case as the airline being tough on their customers. Buts often forgotten that this same case shows how far their willing to go to protect their customers. Even risking negative media exposure.

  • Common Sense says:

    The golden rule when talking to a CSR on the phone, if they don’t give you what you want, politely ask to speak to a supervisor. Repeat until either you’ve gotten what you wanted or the CEO has refused your request. Remain polite and courteous the whole time, but be direct about what it is that you want.

    Of course some low level minimum wage phone jockey is probably just reading from a script, you gotta escalate!

  • Jason M says:

    Glad I found this story, just before I’m to book flights for our family vacation. I’m not purchasing twelve round trip tickets (from Los Angeles) through BA. They have lost any future business with me now. I hope others will follow.

  • Thomas says:

    This isn’t really that hard to solve. Fax a power of attorney authorization to British Airways and have that referenced in the customer’s file. From there on out, they can speak to the authorized person in question.

  • AngryTechnician says:

    Another example of companies using the Data Protection Act as a BS excuse for poor service. If the customer can provide all the details of the booking, there is nothing in the DPA that would prevent the airline from dealing with the family – DPA only applies if the family wanted BA to give them information they didn’t already know.

  • Joe Gats says:

    I agree with Thomas, the rest of you are cry babies who want the world to have rules unless their inconvenient to you


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