Saturday, 24 April 2010

BA raises prices while travellers remain stranded

British Airways has hiked up the prices of long-haul tickets from airports where passengers are stranded following the volcanic eruption in Iceland. The airline faces fierce criticism for putting tickets on sale to other travellers for up to £4700.

Angry passengers stranded in the US, China and India said the earliest flights they have been offered leave in at least two weeks' time, yet BA has put on sale tickets for flights that depart sooner. Many passengers are furious the seats have been placed on the open market when they are increasingly desperate to go home.

Stranded passengers have severe difficulties accessing tickets because of reservation phonelines taking three hours to connect. They have experienced problems with accessing the BA website from airports.

At Delhi airport dozens of stranded BA passengers queued for several hours in intense heat for only a handful of seats.

Erica Weald, a London School of Economics (LSE) lecturer, was told her earliest replacement flight from Mumbai would be on 6 May. "It is pure greed", she says. "If they were interested in getting people back, they would just freeze all the seats. They told us initially they would not sell new seats. People are so desperate somebody will pay that money to get back."

She reported that only four of the 60 stranded passengers who managed to get into the airport for Thursday's flight to London were given seats. Some hopeful travellers couldn't even get into the airport, as they couldn't afford to bribe security guards to get in, she added.

Saleem Althaf, an accident and emergency doctor stranded in Chennai, tried to buy one of the tickets but was told by BA in India the flights were exclusively for new customers.

BA's naked pursuit of profit will come as no surprise to cabin crew workers. They recently took strike action against Willie Walsh's union-busting regime, which aims to take first place in a competitive race to the bottom in the airline industry.

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