British Airways Kicks Off Two Lawyers After Refusing To Upgrade Their Nanny To Business

British Airways kicked two lawyers off of a flight after an onboard dispute over their nanny upgrading to Club Europe, BA’s business class cabin for intra-European flights. And while the airline staff were technically correct, I actually see the point of the passengers here.

Charles Banner, his wife and two children – aged 1 and 4 – were traveling with their nanny from London Heatrow to Turin, Italy on BA2578. They bought five business class tickets. However BA had oversold the cabin and downgraded the nanny.

Apparently not realizing that British Airways Club Europe is just a coach seat with blocked middle and catering, they got on board and saw they had empty middle seats and wanted their nanny to sit in the row with the kids. He reports that when he asked a flight attendant if the nanny could take that empty middle – less than they’d paid for – they replied “You wish.”

He says if he’d known that the nanny wouldn’t be allowed to sit with them, he’d have changed to a later flight. But since he found out at the airport they were stuck, and moving the nanny to an empty middle seemed like a reasonable accommodation. Since he persisted, the plane – already taxiing out – returned to the gate to kick the family off.

According to British Airways, “We do not tolerate disruptive behaviour and the safety of our customers and crew is our top priority.”

Ultimately the flight was delayed an hour and a half, inconveniencing not just the family that got removed but everyone on the plane. (Fortunately for return passengers planning to connect onward at Heathrow, the aircraft usually spends 3 hours on the ground in Turin.) BA wasn’t wrong in the immediate instance, but:

  • should have allowed the nanny to sit in a business middle seat since she had a purchased business ticket

  • and the lawyer should have been willing to downgrade himself since regular coach since the seat is largely the same in back and the flight is short, his loss of productivity from the removal was greater than any loss of productivity inflight without the empty middle next to him

In other words, what happened here was the worst possible outcome for everyone. Perhaps the lawyer should have gamed this out better. But British Airways, by overbooking and downgrading a business class passenger, is most responsible. What do you think?

(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

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. BA is a joke. I mean a real joke. They are the Spirit Airlines of Europe, at least Spirit is upfront about their product so that is an insult to Spirit. Maybe Air Canada has worse customer service….maybe but BA is a complete disaster.

    They didn’t just jump the shark, the pole vaulted the shark

  2. Just to confirm: an airline is RIGHT to split up a party that includes children among current cabin sections???

    Did the airline somehow know which adult was the nanny when the group was split up?

  3. Your headline is misleading. BA did not refuse to upgrade the nanny. It had downgraded her from her purchased class of service. You make it seem like the family was feeling entitled…when in fact they simply wnated what they had purchased.
    I appreciate your reporting and read every day, but I found the way you presented this to be very lopsided.

  4. I have travelled many times with BA and have found their waitresses rude and unhelpful on many occasions, the most recent last month. Unfortunately leaving for SA from Aberdeen one does not have a big choice with whom flies with.l

  5. Easy fix. I don’t fly British. Their fuel surcharges are and have been outrageous. I wouldn’t reward bad behavior in a child nor do I do it with companies. Hitting them in the pocketbook is the only thing they will ever understand.

  6. They were travelling with a 1yo and 4yo. I doubt the 1yo had a seat (on lap), because otherwise the nanny could have taken the 1yo seat with the kids on a row of 3. I suspect the truth is closer that the 1yo didn’t have an seat, and BA downgraded the nanny so that one parent could supvervise the 4yo and one could supervise the 1yo on their lap. And I’m sure no-one would have minded IF the middle seat they were requesting was between wife and husband, but then how much work would have been done!!

    It’s a 2 hr Club Europe flight, so econ and biz seat are largely the same. The lawyer could have refused at the gate. Or not been so disruptive that they go back to gate (they don’t do it lightly). And if he didn’t acceopt the chance to be downgraded, he shoudn’t have bought the ticket and in doing so accepted those EXACT terms and condiions,

    If I ran BA I would have banned him. All his colleagues would be customers for life!

  7. Putting “lawyers” and BA’s “business class” in one sentence sounds like the beginning of a good joke. Now we just need to come up with a punchline.

  8. “Do you know who I am?”
    “No Sir, but if you’ve forgotten it’s printed in your passport. Would you like me to read it to you?”

    But just to be clear, under BA’s T&Cs the “QC” agreed to:
    – 7a) Our right to refuse to carry you…. 7a2) If carrying you or your baggage may affect the comfort of any person in the aircraft.
    – 11b) Diversion costs caused by unacceptable behaviour. If, as a result of your behaviour, we divert the aircraft to an unscheduled place of destination and make you leave the aircraft, you must pay us the reasonable and proper costs of the diversion.

    Not very bright for a QC…. If I were in charge at BA, I’d be asking for a public apology or suing him for costs under 11b. He’d never contest it because if he lost he’d never work again – who wants a lawyer that chooses to fight a case and lose. And he WOULD lose. The pilots know the $$$ cost of returning to the gate – not done lightly.

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