British Airways: Two Ways They Screw Up That Could Affect You

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Last week I wrote about the incompetence and lies you can come across when dealing with British Airways so today I thought I’d highlight two further ways BA screw up that may or may not affect your plans and travels. Think of this as a PSA for anyone considering flying with British Airways 🙂

a group of airplanes on a runway

The Missing E-Ticket

This was something I only noticed the other day when checking through my monthly credit card statement. I keep a very close track of my spending on each of my cards so I know what to expect when my statement comes through – this helps me keep track of just how much I’m spending and helps me spot fraud if and when it arises.

This month something strange happened: A charge for a pair of British Airways flights that I booked at the beginning of June wasn’t anywhere to be seen on my credit card statement.

I checked the folder which contains all my travel itineraries and in it I found a pdf of my booking which showed my Madrid flights as confirmed…..

a screenshot of a boarding pass

….so why had BA not charged me?

I logged in to and, in the “manage my booking” section of the website I scrolled to the bottom of the booking and selected “print/email e-ticket receipt”:

a screenshot of a computer

To my surprise this is what I saw:

a screenshot of a computer

This was strange. There was nothing wrong with my credit card and I have an email from BA showing that my booking is “confirmed” so what was going on?

Years of flying have taught me that you never, ever accept that you have a confirmed reservation on a flight unless you have your e-ticket number (more on how you find those later) and I suddenly realised that I couldn’t find any document from BA showing that number.

So I called up British Airways, gave the agent my booking reference and this is what I was told:

My booking had “somehow” fallen out of the system and had never been ticketed.

The agent assured me that as my flights were still a few months away this wasn’t an issue and he would “send the reservation to the ticketing team” to have them issue the tickets as soon as possible.

a plane with a red and white tail

Here’s the issue:

I picked up on this because I was checking my credit card statement….but what if I hadn’t been so diligent? Would BA have caught the issue before my travel date? Possibly….but who’s to say they would have?

If I had been making a last-minute booking I would have almost certainly turned up at the airport to find I didn’t have a ticket (a month after my booking BA still hadn’t picked up on the fact that my ticket hadn’t been issued) so what would happen then? Would I have had a seat on the flight?

Technically I wouldn’t have a reservation because I wouldn’t have an e-ticket number….so what happens then?

The agent to whom I posed all these questions had no reply other than to say that “it wouldn’t come to that” and that he was sure “they would be able to sort it out at the airport”….but would you want to risk that?

Check You Have An E-Ticket

Whatever paperwork you have from British Airways always check you have an e-ticket number.

It will usually arrive in an email with the word “e-ticket” in the subject line, the heading of the email will look something like this…..

a screen shot of a ticket receipt

…..and somewhere in that email will be your e-ticket number that are presented like this:

a screenshot of a computer

If you can’t find the correct email here’s what you do:

  • Log in to your BA account
  • Pull up your booking
  • Scroll towards the bottom of your booking until you find the “quick links” section
  • Under “Administration” click on “print/email e-ticket receipt”

That should provide you with a document with your e-ticket numbers. If it doesn’t, call up British Airways immediately and ask them check your reservation.

Don’t ever accept that you have a valid reservation with an airline unless you have your e-ticket number(s) – they are your ultimate confirmation of your booking and, should there be any issues, having those to hand will be a very big help to you.

Phantom Avios & Tier Points

This is a reasonably well-known issue by those who fly BA a lot but it could really mess with a travelers BAEC status plans if they’re not aware of this little BA quirk.

Put simply – there will be times when the number of Avios and Tier points you are set to earn from a trip will be incorrectly displayed in your reservation.

The most common occurrence of this appears to be when you upgrade using Avios.

Here’s an example:

Joanna, mini-Joanna and I were booked to fly to Los Angeles in Economy Class and back to London in Premium Economy.

We were booked into Economy Fare code “O” so, per the British Airways avios calculator, we would earn 1,361 Avios and 20 Tier Points for the outbound leg…..

a screenshot of a screen

…and as we were booked into fare code “T” on the return journey we would earn 5,442 Avios and 90 Tier Points on the return leg…..

a screenshot of a screen

Correctly our online booking showed total earnings of 6,803 Avios and 110 Tier Points each:

a screenshot of a account

But then we upgraded using Avios and things went wrong

Now the reservation shows this:

a screenshot of a website

It doesn’t show potential earnings for Joanna and I as our AAdvantage numbers are in the reservation but for mini-Joanna it shows that she would earn 9,524 Avios and 160 Tier points if I added here BAEC number in to the reservation.

The problem is that this is flat-out wrong.

The number of Avios and Tier points that’s showing in that screenshot is what min-Joanna would earn had we paid for a Business Class flight on the way back…but we didn’t do that.

We upgraded to Business Class using Avios and when you upgrade using Avios you earn Avios and Tier Points based on the fare you actually paid for and not the cabin you upgrade into.

mini-Joanna’s earnings will still be 6,803 Avios and 110 Tier Points.

Why this can be an issue

A lot of us who enjoy playing the miles & points game keep a very close eye on how close we are to attaining the status level we’re going for…….and a lot of us book just the right number of flights (and types of flights) to get us to that status level.

Someone could quite easily take a look at how many Tier Points they already have, add on the number of Tier Points shows they’ll earn from future flights and come up with a wrong number.

a close up of a card

If the numbers a traveler sees on the screen aren’t right they could quite easily believe that they have enough travel booked to attain BAEC status when, in reality, they may not.

This would be an even bigger issue if, once the flights have been taken and the lower number of Tier Points earned, there isn’t enough time in the membership year for the BAEC member to take another flight to earn the missing Tier Points.

Bottom Line

While the phantom Tier Points & Avios may not be a huge issue for most travelers there will be those who could be pretty badly affected by this error – imagine how you’d feel if you fell short of Silver Status because of a miscalculation thanks this issue and then faced a full year without complimentary lounge access and reduced Avios earnings. Not fun!

The failure to ticket a reservation properly could be a medium-sized inconvenience if British Airways agents at the airport can rectify the issue at check-in or it could be a massive issue if travelers can, potentially, turn up at the airport to find out that they don’t actually have a valid reservation.

As I’ve never been in the situation of not having an e-ticket before I arrive at the airport I don’t know how big of an issue this is….but I don’t really ever want to be in a position where I find out.

Moral of the story: Treat every email you receive from British Airways and everything see on as if it comes from an unreliable source…because it does. Check every booking you have and don’t assume anything – that’s the safest way not to find yourself in a mess of BA’s making.


  1. I’ve got another British Airways story! The other week I booked three business class from LAX to Amsterdam for me and my elderly (84 and 88) parents. I made these reservations through Expedia and bought trip insurance due to their age. Before paying, we could choose our exact seats which must be together as I’m their caretaker. Upon checking on British Airways site to confirm the seating- we discovered we had no reserved seating and must pay a fee if reserved prior to 24 hours before flight time. We had no choice so I paid $834. Two days later, we had to change the routing and received a full refund from Expedia minus the insurance fee. British would not refund the seating fee as of today. I am no happy with British as you can expect! Buyer beware!!

  2. William Di Fiore,
    Your comments are so true. Every time I fly with British Airways there is a problem .I am 75 years old and can not walk long distances in need of a W Chair. Told on would be waiting for me
    upon arrival at LHR , NO W CHAIR , NOT AN AGENT IN SIGHT
    TO TALK TO , I could go on and on about the flight from JFK
    to LHR ( Flight 176 ) but non of it ever creates any change.

    There gate agents tell you one thing upon departing and on arrival
    your stuck .

  3. […] couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog highlighting a couple of ways in which in which British Airways is know to screw up and, potentially, seriously i…. One of the examples I provided in that post was something I was dealing with at the time and, […]

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