How British Airways Handled A Recent Service Failure

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post explaining why I’m finding myself actively choosing to fly with British Airways a lot more than I have done in the past but, rather ironically, just a few days after the post was published I had an annoying (albeit non-major) service failure onboard the very next British Airways flight I took – this is what happened and how BA dealt with it.

One of the major drawbacks of the British Airways fleet is that far too many of its aircraft are old and therefore don’t offer power or USB ports in the Economy Class cabin.

It’s bad enough that the vast majority of the aircraft in the British Airways fleet still don’t offer inflight wi-fi but, when you’re faced with a 10+ hour flight and you have work to do, it’s particularly annoying when you have to do everything possible to preserve your laptop’s battery life because there’s no way of replenishing it or maintaining it onboard (some of the apps I run for work seriously sap my Macbook’s battery life).

a pair of earbuds on a keyboard

For a recent return flight from London to Los Angeles I was booked into Economy Class (yes, I fly Economy Class sometimes 🙂 ) but, although the early flight out of Heathrow was by far the most convenient flight for me to take, I had to actively avoid that flight because it’s operated by an ancient Boeing 747 with no power in Economy Class.

Instead, I booked myself on to the next available British Airways flight which is operated by a 787-9 Dreamliner (complete with power and USB ports at every seat).

The 787-9 Dreamliners are amongst the newest aircraft in the British Airways fleet but, once onboard my flight, there was an immediate suggestion that not all amenities offered by the aircraft were in full working order.

a sign on a door

The lavatory directly ahead of my exit row seat was out of order and remained out of order for the whole flight.

As it happens this isn’t something that bothered me…and it was actually a bit of a bonus because it meant that I didn’t have a constant flow of passengers going past my seat or groups of passengers standing in front of me waiting for the lavatory to become available.

What did bother me was that an hour or so into the flight I discovered that neither the power outlet nor the USB socket at my seat worked.

The outlets in the seats in the rows around me weren’t working either and, no matter what the crew tried, nothing was coaxing them back to life….and my laptop was rapidly running out of juice.

This was more than a little annoying…but here is where things got better.

The BA crew was fantastic. The flight attendants genuinely tried everything they could to get the power outlets to work and, when everything else failed and I was nearly out of power (around 4 hours before we were due to land), they even went around the cabin to find a working power outlet that I could use to get enough charge to last me until we arrived in LA.

On most airlines I don’t think a cabin crew would go to the trouble that this BA crew went to and their efforts and demeanor went a long way to making a disappointing situation a lot less annoying – it’s hard to be angry or annoyed when you can see that a cabin crew genuinely cares about an issue you’re having and does all it can to remedy the situation.

I was really appreciative of the crew’s efforts and I made sure I emailed BA after the flight to let them know how grateful I was.

I also emailed BA (a separate email) to let their customer care team know just how unimpressed I was that a supposedly new aircraft had so many malfunctioning power outlets and USB ports.

an airplane with rows of seats

Within 48 hours of emailing BA I had a phone call from the customer services team apologizing for the situation.

The representative who called me was incredibly polite and, after explaining that sometimes the airline has to take the decision to send out an aircraft with inoperative amenities rather than seriously inconveniencing hundreds of flyers by canceling a flight (an understandable decision to take), she said she had deposited 10,000 Avios into my account as a way of saying ‘sorry’.

10,000 Avios is an incredibly generous apology but, after I thanked her for the kind gesture, I pointed out that I hadn’t emailed in to get some Avios (I could find reasons to email in at least once a month if that was my motivation) – I’d emailed in because it was getting a little tiring having to put up with the airline continuing to operate old aircraft which lack certain basic amenities and newer aircraft on which some of the amenities don’t work.

(This wasn’t the first occasion I’ve had non-functional power ports on BA’s newer aircraft – it was just the occasion that finally drove me to email in.)

Clearly there was nothing the representative could really do in this situation except to assure me that the airline is taking its aircraft replacement/upgrade policy very seriously (it wasn’t her fault that BA’s fleet is so old) but I appreciated her listening to my comments and I appreciate the fact I got a phone call in the first place – in 10 years of top-tier status on American Airlines (and a number of far more serious complaints than a non-functioning set of power ports) I don’t think I got a single phone call from the airline.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

Bottom Line

I can’t believe I’m doing this but I’m going to have to applaud BA once again.

Yes, the non-functioning power outlets and USB ports were annoying and it’s getting a little embarrassing (for the airline) that the aircraft interiors and amenities are being so poorly maintained….but their response to this service failure was a very good one.

Once again a British Airways crew came out of an annoying situation looking great (I’d love to have that crew again) and even the customer services team have come out of this looking good courtesy of the very good agent who called me up.

It would have been easy to come away from my most recent BA flight with the non-functioning amenities at the forefront of my mind but, instead, I find myself focusing more on the great crew and the timely and polite response from the customer services team – this is a very good example of how, with a little effort, an airline can actually look good after it screws up….albeit in not a particularly major way in this instance.


  1. This article makes me think that I should provide BA more feedback and complaints, something I stopped doing 10 years ago after receiving frustrating replies from their customer service team. Before any other readers jump to conclusions, I do respond to all the surveys they send me whenever I fly with them and on numerous occasions I have awarded my ‘Golden Ticket’ to BA staff members who have gone out of their way to help me.

    • I think you’re right – it’s good to complain every now and again when you have a valid gripe.

      There’s a clear line between emailing customer services for every little thing and emailing in to let the airline know that you’ve really had enough of a series of failures (or even one significant failure).

      There is no way we can expect any airline to improve the service it provides if we (the customers) don’t let it know how we feel…but there’s also no way we can expect an airline to take our complaints seriously if we email in every time there’s the smallest of issues.

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