Terminal 5 trauma – British Airways and missed reputation management opportunities

Just one week ago, I was returning home from an Amsterdam holiday. I flew into Heathrow’s brand-new Terminal 5 and happily boarded my plane.

My luggage did not.

If you’ve been tracking the Terminal 5-blues news, you’d know that it’s been estimated that 20,000 bags were stuck in Heathrow. Volunteer British Airways staff are manually hand-sorting them as I type. Reputation-management wise, British Airways is in deep doo-doo, with calls for the CEO’s resignation. And customer-wise, travelers are booking with other airlines, trying to avoid Terminal 5’s chaotic reputation.

Unfortunately, every business is vulnerable to a public relations nightmare (although British Airway’s is exceedingly bad.) The key is how you deal with it. British Airways can be remembered as “the airline that will lose your luggage,” or “the airline that had a glitch, but overcame it with great customer service.”

From a customer perspective, I’m frustrated. Here it is, seven days later, and I still don’t have my bag. The BA.com luggage tracking system is down frequently, and customer service doesn’t have any new information. I understand that this is an extraordinary situation – but here’s what would make me feel happier from a customer service perspective:

  1. A dedicated mini-site (even a blog) focused solely on the lost baggage issue. 20,000 bags in backlog and missing bags seven days out would indicate that many, many people need help. It’s not like a site like this will hurt BA – after all, the luggage situation has made international news. But it would show that BA is trying.
  2. Information about claims as they apply to this situation. Granted, claim information is on the BA.com site. However, it’s been implied that BA will increased the compensation amount for passengers stuck in the Terminal 5 fiasco. If I knew that British Airways was increasing the compensation, I would feel OK about buying a new pair of jeans rather than feeling resentful that I’m spending MY money because of BA’s baggage issues. Having updated information on the Terminal 5 mini-site would be incredibly helpful.
  3. Updated general baggage information. If luggage is being manually sorted – and the database isn’t necessarily reflecting that – please tell us. If BA.com has reduced the luggage backload by 5000 pieces a day, please post it on the site. I feel much more comfortable in a control-free situation when I at least have the most accurate information.
  4. An apology. It may sound trite, but I would love to see a dedicated Terminal 5 site with a big fat “We’re so, so sorry” statement right on the home page. Customer service has been excellent in relying this information – but I want to hear it from BA.com’s management.
  5. A forum where people can ask general questions about the luggage situation. Granted, this would take some manpower on BA.com’s side. But it would be nice to have another way to contact British Air and learn new information without being put on hold for 10 minutes or more.

Setting up a Terminal 5 dedicated blog and creating content for it wouldn’t take much time. A smart SEO or reputation management expert could take care of it in half a day. And then, British Airways could point to the site and say, “See, we’re trying. We do care. And we’re doing everything we can to make this right.”

The one saving grace during this time? I have to say that British Airways customer service is excellent. Most of the reps I’ve talked with have been friendly and helpful – even though they are on the “where’s my luggage” firing lines. My only hope is that these excellent folks get some sort of hazard pay. They certainly deserve it.

Just called the airline to ask about my luggage. Apparently, 5,000 bags are being put on flights today. They can’t tell me if my bag was one of them. And so it continues… :)

11 replies
  1. golf travel bags
    golf travel bags says:

    My goodness. They are so irresponsible. I think you have the right to complain about it. I guess that this may happen to my country airline one day later too. Hopefully it don’t happen to me. I’m poor enough and I cannot bear to lose everything inside my luggage at once. :(

  2. Ecommerce solutions
    Ecommerce solutions says:

    i’m so sorry about what happen to you…i guess the holiday wasn’t good enough…it’s really hard when all the important thing that we need is not with us (your bag stuck for 7 days)….i agree with home directory, you should complain so that this thing won’t happen in future…

  3. Heather
    Heather says:

    Hi, home directory and Ecommerce solutions!

    All airlines have a limitation of liability – the BA folks said that things like clothes would be reimbursed, but I never bought anything new (thank goodness I was home) nor did they give me a specific dollar amount. I do know that I’ve heard of folks losing their luggage, and the airlines only reimbursed them a percentage of their actual replacement costs.

    Airlines usually state their limitation of liability somewhere on their site…it just may be hard to find. And in the future having travel insurance may be a good idea!

    Just glad it’s over and done with! I hope that BA learned from their Terminal 5 snafus….

  4. clone scripts
    clone scripts says:

    It a unfortunate incident but I think that they are doing too much. As a passenger, they should be patience enough to help you to track back your luggage. You have the right to make a complaint. I cannot think of what will happen to me if my luggage is lost, a lesson to learnt.I appreciate your advice, thank for sharing with us.=)

  5. Carrie
    Carrie says:

    I know it’s a year later but I was one of those whose luggage was lost. My flight from Paris was delayed and so I missed my connection out of Terminal 5. Those of us left behind wondered what the business sense behind stranding almost 200 passengers on that Paris flight continuing on to JFK.
    I had to spend an extra night in an airport hotel. Yes I got a room so shut up right? However, waiting at home were my parents to celebrate Dad’s 75th Birthday which fell on Father’s Day. I got home a day and a half late, missed all of the celebrations and was on the road for my next business trip before BA found my luggage. They did keep me from another day of family celebrations guaranteeing my luggage was en route that day (not!). 5 weeks later my suitcase appeared; interior was wet & mouldy…
    haven’t set foot on BA since


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