Here’s What a British Airways “Yellow Card” Warning Looks Like — Before They Ban You From Flying (and Call the Police)

British Airways started giving out ‘yellow card’ warnings to unruly customers at least as far back as 1998 but they got a bunch of attention again with BA’s introduction of these warnings for ‘ground rage’ in the fall of 2002. Apparently they believed they had a problem of customers losing their stuff even before they board.

British Airways has become the first airline to bring in soccer-style yellow cards for “ground rage” passengers.

The final warning cards were already in force on BA planes for “air rage.”

Now the airline has announced that cards will be shown to any traveller who is disruptive or abusive towards a member of its ground staff.

The yellow card will warn passengers that if they do not moderate their behaviour then police will be called or passengers may be refused travel.

Nonetheless, I had never actually seen one.

SchrottFly relays having received one for insisting on a supervisor when the British Airways check-in counter couldn’t print his onward American Airlines boarding pass.

I won’t speculate on what version of the story check-in staff would tell. Instead I’m most interested in the warning itself:

(Click to Enlarge)

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. Hey, Memo, British Airways, take your Yellow card and shove it where the sun don’t shine. What a bunch of gutless bloody wonders they are. These check-in people, flight attendants, airline staff in general! Far to much power for the intellectual levels they have. Can’t get a real job, so go and work for an airline. These people sicken me. And the audacity of “Contact our Customer Service Department after the flight”. What the Fuck! I wouldn’t fly that shitty airline ever again. You just got a red card BA. Fuck off.

  2. ” Far to much power for the intellectual levels they have”

    Irony thy name (today) is Robbo (the Intellect)

  3. To be sure, there are plenty of insufferable travelers out there. That said, were I at BA, I’d ask myself, “What are we doing to contribute to the anger of so many people?” LHR is plastered with signs along these same lines—don’t abuse the staff, yada, yada, yada. And they have such an ongoing problem with angry travelers that they have to print and hand out warning cards.

    Put another way, if, say, one doesn’t see this sort of obsession with passenger anger with AA at DFW, or with AS at SEA—and one does not—then the question becomes, what is it about BA, LHR, or the combination of the two?

  4. I find it entertaining that they claim it’s illegal under UK law to act in an insulting manner. And here I always thought it was just tradition!

  5. Actually, as of February of this year, the UK Public Order Act 1986 is amended such that “insulting” is no longer part of the text. So “threatening or abusive” behavior is still out, but insult away. Meta-points for insulting BA in the course of pointing out that their “yellow card” is incorrect.

  6. I’m with Frank on this one. What amounts to a “Calm Down, you abusive scumbag” card seems a bit counterproductive.

  7. This is a guess, supported only by anecdotes (including my own), but I’d guess that BA’s problems with passenger anger are a function of a) the immense, hair-pulling frustration that LHR can drive people to; b) the ossified, non-customer-service-focused nature of many BA staff; and c) the self-fulfilling prophecy nature of putting up signs about angry passengers everywhere. When you’re stuck in another horrible BA situation, the LHR and BA staff seem to be actively making it worse, and then you look up and see a sign telling you how they won’t tolerate abusive behavior, there’s a small part of you that feels like maybe you should start abusing someone.

  8. Surely somebody is going to distribute a bunch of yellow cards that customers will start waving at BA staff when attitude appears.

  9. For the life of me I don’t understand why anybody would be a loyal British Airways traveler. LHR T5 is the worst terminal in commercial aviation for connections, and even if you’re based in London, 1) there’s almost always another airline flying where you’re going or 2) Flying from T2 and connecting in a pleasant airport like MUC or ZRH is a net stress reduction vs T5 and direct flight on BA.

    My wife’s bag was pulled from the X-ray for further inspection (for hand weights – not liquids she didn’t remove) and we waited — no joke — over an hour between the time the bag was set aside and the time we actually walked away from security. As first class passengers at their home airport. Compare that to flying first of the home airline out of FRA or CDG…

  10. You’ll see those “don’t abuse the staff” signs across much of the UK transport system (and oddly, the National Health Service too). I think it is has less to do with protecting those staff and more to do with protecting the employer. It allows the employer to argue they did everything they reasonably could to protect staff from injury or abuse (i.e. telling customers not to do it or bad things will happen) when that staff member begins an employment law action.

    I leave it to others to judge whether it is a product of a more or a less mature service industry, but UK staff are far less tolerant of the abuse often directed at reps elsewhere in the world and their employers support that position. There is much more of an expectation for the customer to grasp they are dealing with a representative, not the actual source of whatever their problem is and behave reasonably.

    For that reason, either they have no power to help you, or the discretion to help you by stepping outside of the protocol. Language like “Far to much power for the intellectual levels they have. Can’t get a real job, so go and work for an airline. These people sicken me.” is unlikely to move you towards your desired resolution in either case.

    I say this having just returned from an interaction with the most incompetent, indifferent lounge dragon I have ever had the misfortune to meet. However, I think that view is far more usefully put to BA corporate rather than her – she needs training or firing, not me yelling at her. As soon as I raise my voice, I become a difficult customer which she might be praised for “managing” when she puts her side of the story. Instead, by smiling sweetly and noting her name, I walk away with the hope that by putting my disappointment in writing to BA I might even get some avios in return for my time and frustration.

  11. I’d like to see a yellow card developed to give to the AIRLINE. Perhaps a blogger or frequent flyer could put something together for the common traveller (I’m in Australia, so I spell traveller that way!) to hand out to poor staff. Priority boarding not offered? Yellow card the gate staff. Luggage does not come out among the first? Yellow card. Grotty lounge and stale food? Yellow card. What’s good for the goose . . .

  12. The real irony here is, of course, knowing that British Airways will not correct a problem after your flight. I have had numerous responses from BA customer service along the lines of “you are absolutely right, you should have been entitled to X, and we sincerely hope you will receive it next time you fly with us – but will not provide it retrospectively”.

    This is a catch 22. If you try and get what you’re entitled to at the airport, you’ll be issued a yellow card and told to contact customer service. If you contact customer service they’ll tell you that you’re right, but they won’t take any action retrospectively to make up for their error, better luck next time.

    I really can’t imagine poorer customer service than these yellow cards!

  13. As a former loyal BA customer I can confirm the insulting way I have been treated at LHR T5. BA staff have consistently done very little to help, but rather tried very hard to refer to BA “rules” to justify charging me more, not helping solve my problem, etc. Ever tried to get an “Executive Club” question answered at T5?! Don’t bother. You will be told that Executive Club isn’t actually part of BA, but rather a contracted relationship with another business. I finally “divorced” BA this year and am not using BA as my first choice or even a preferred carrier. Flying from USA to Europe and Africa regularly, I am exploring other options. I don’t expect better treatment from another carrier but am getting it even as I start to build up elite status all over again.

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