British Airways is notorious for their…less than desirable customers service on the phone. Their hold times are horrific, and though British Airways claimed to have improved that over the past few years, I have rarely been able to reach an agent without at least a 45-minute hold. There is a lot of bureaucracy going on between departments as well, so you might get handed off to a few departments to complete a simple date change request on an award ticket. In my experience, their agents might also be some of the more unfriendly I have encountered on the phone.
Despite being one of the major airlines in the world, they do not offer a 24-hour call center (though correct me if I’m wrong). They have tried to mitigate this in recent years, by allowing you to basically call any of their call centers around the world. Flyertalk member dunk even put together a tool where you can find which call center is open. I have had dramatically better interactions with some call centers (like Singapore) than others (like the UK), though there’s also a bit of luck involved.
Well, British Airways might be changing up their call centers in the UK soon. The Telegraph reported that the airline is planning to close down its call centers in Newcastle and Manchester, as part of a cost cutting measure. This will eliminate 1,400 customer service agents’ jobs in the UK, and the airline will be outsourcing those positions. They are already accepting bids from third parties for the outsourcing, but this isn’t a done deal; they still have to work with staff members and union representatives before reaching a final decision.
I don’t know if outsourcing these jobs offshore will mean better or worse service from British Airways. On one hand, some of the UK agents on the phone have really stinky attitude, which may go away with an offshore call center. But on the other hand, some offshore agents may also bring a communication barrier, and I can see how someone can be frustrated with that.
I almost never voluntarily try to get anything done on the phone with an airline; if it’s a functionality on the web, I’ll get it done there. But I’ve had to work with British Airways agents on the phone for a few award ticket cancellation and paid ticket upgrades, and calling them on the phone is something I absolutely dread. I am hoping this represents an improvement, though I’m not particularly hopeful.
Perhaps only time will tell.