Does British Airways Promise Transportation – Or Transportation Free From Urine?

We’ve seen reports of passengers not quite finding the lavatory on planes, whether Air India or Vietnam Airlines or on JetBlue or American Airlines. When that happens there’s not much you can do.

On British Airways though it seems to be a recurring problem. The airline had to tell staff not to go in the cargo hold of their 747s. And last year when a passenger on a British Airways flight discovered their seat was soaked from a previous passenger they were told to clean it up themselves.

In that case the man complained and was offered 5000 Avios as compensation. He went public demanding a ‘real apology’ and BA upped its compensation offer to “a flight voucher worth £435, or a free upgrade on his next flight to Cape Town.”

In contrast a British Airways business class passenger found his seat similarly soaked and BA offered 40,000 Avios as compensation.

“We were on board the plane and made our way to our seats and so I sat down with a glass of Champagne and thought this is brilliant.

“Then I noticed that the pillow that I was sat on was a little damp and I stood up and then so were my trousers.

“I turned the pillow over and you could see that the pillow and the entire seat was saturated in urine. The cabin crew tried to take the seat cover off and it was disgusting as it had soaked right though.

“I had to move seats and I was not able to sit with my wife for the flight which was really disappointing as well.”

His Armani jeans were ruined — flight attendants put his pants in a plastic bag, but once he made it to Jamaica he was without a washing machine and didn’t pay the hotel to launder them. During his trip several people from the flight were at his resort and kept asking him about the ordeal. He felt he couldn’t escape it and enjoy his holiday. As a result he’s disappointed by 40,000 Avios worth of compensation, but British Airways felt that was plenty generous.

BA had a rash of bed bug incidents as well, twice in January, a year ago and I wrote about it the year before that.

My view is two-fold,

  1. British Airways likely needs to do a better job inspecting the cleanliness of aircraft (and rectifying issues) prior to long haul flights. British Airways should never present this as their product.

  2. Compensation ought to be the full cost of the ticket at a minimum. British Airways may believe that 40,000 points is generous, that all they promise is transportation from point A and point B (never mind that this was business class). However I do believe that they promise transportation from point A to point B free of urine and they failed to deliver what the customer paid for. A refund is due.

Unfortunately British Airways seems not to agree with me about what their product offering entails.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think BA and other carriers generally follow a formula when assigning compensation to passengers. As the compensation is almost always a small portion of the ticket, they’re willing to act without a full investigation and just take passengers at their word.

    I’m guessing 40k was the max for a business-class seat. Without additional review, dude ain’t getting anything else.

  2. Wow! As bad as NYC subways have become of late, even the trains are still taken out of service as soon as the conductor is informed, and then verifies, that human waste, vomit or other bodily fluids other than saliva (e.g., blood) are found inside the passenger cars of its trains (the stations, alas, are another story 😉 ).

    You mean “Bloody Awful” can’t do better than the NYC subway and take its planes with urine soaked seats out of service?!?!


    Just how low will this formerly great airline go?

  3. What are 40,000 Avios worth? $400? And to use them, one would incur huge fees.

    I think that many of the man’s subsequent complaints, such as choosing not to have the hotel wash his trousers and becoming the subject of inquiries at his hotel (which did not prevent his making the incident widely known otherwise) are piled on to make the case stronger but in fact do not. The salient facts are that his seat was soaked with urine and apparently his wife had to sit next to it throughout the flight. Keeping the focus on those facts would be the stronger strategy, as I see it.

    Apparently, British Airways is unaware of the concept of service recovery (and likely to back up bad judgments made on the spot by harried crew). The resulting publicity has cost BA a great more, I have no doubt, when an immediate upgrade for the couple or a subsequent complimentary flight would have cost them little or nothing. Penny wise and pound foolish?

  4. @Chuck

    “As the compensation is almost always a small portion of the ticket, they’re willing to act without a full investigation and just take passengers at their word.”

    What needed to be “investigated” here?

  5. @Chuck

    What needed to be “investigated” here?

    “As the compensation is almost always a small portion of the ticket, they’re willing to act without a full investigation and just take passengers at their word.”

  6. I finally bit the bullet and booked a BA flight as it was the cheapest direct option and I had no other option. LOL. return!! in that 8 across J on a 777. I am dreading this. having second thoughts. should have just booked economy and saved my money. lets see what happens.

    Last I few BA was in 2004. have been avoiding them like the plague since then.

  7. You all should understand that his seat was changed immediately. ( reported elsewhere)
    The question becomes whether the compensation is sufficient for having sat in the fluids for a moment and to some extent ruined his clothing and his day.
    I can not speak regarding health risks as there are factors to consider, ie. breaks in skin and how wet he got.

  8. There is nothing acceptable here but a full refund in however the ticket was paid for as well as the 40k in miles or check for cleaning and or replacement of his clothing
    They shouldn’t have boarded the plane period to begin with without checking in the first place
    One way to knock into BA s head have the CEO and his partner sit in a seat urine filled and or feces and see how 40k happily resolves the problem
    This may be the only time one wishes they had flown Emirates for the onboard shower
    With BAs new extortion charge nuisance fees on award tickets it’s a great idea
    I’m ready to fly Delta now and that’s something I never thought I would live to say

  9. Because he was immediately re-accommodated to another business class seat upon discovery of the problem, and because he did not have to wear the urine dampened jeans during the flight, I feel the 40,000 Avios is a reasonable compensation.

    His claim his Armani jeans were “ruined” after being dampened with urine is a total “snowflake” argument. Maybe this man has never had to do his own laundry? If he had, he’d have known that the jeans would not be ruined if they were allowed to dry out when he arrived at his destination, regardless of whether or not they were washed right away or not. His argument he was unwilling to pay for the cleaning of the jeans by the hotel is a red herring: he could have washed the jeans himself in the hotel tub for free, and hung them out to dry. A man who can afford Armani jeans, and business class airfare to South Africa, who refuses to hand wash a pair of jeans, and who has just been awarded 40,000 Avios should have the wherewithal to pay the hotel ~$10 to launder his jeans.

    His invasion of privacy of claims are even more “snowflake”, not only because he waived his privacy by going viral about this on the internet, but also because it’s likely the primary reason so many passengers knew about the incident was because of how vocal and non-discrete he was onboard to FA’s and within earshot of fellow passengers.

    All initial sympathy for this whining, crybaby, snowflake evaporated like urine when the rest of the story was told

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