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)