Tuesday, November 17, 2009

BA - Bugger All Again 11/17/09

Air New Zealand came through spectacularly in giving me my upgrade as a reward for my having given up my favourite seat last month to La Toya Jackson.

British Airways, meanwhile, aren’t budging on the £3.60 for a flight I wasn’t able to take. Their view is that as I didn’t turn up at the check-in desk, they are not responsible for my not having taken the flight.

Never mind that I had to re-schedule an entire week’s worth of meetings and go to Paris on the Eurostar (hence my not “turning up” at their check-in desk), after they left my luggage in London when I flew to Toulouse; nor that in 19 months of correspondence, sending them everything they asked for three times, they never once said they would not refund the flight.

It is, I now learn, their policy not to (pity they hadn't thought to mention it 19 months ago), but guess what? In addition to my £3.60, they have credited me with thousands of Air Miles.

When I told them I would never be flying with them again, they said that if I did, I could have an upgrade. Fair play to the press office, they really have tried their best, but their hands are clearly tied, and something tells me that upgrade won’t be from Business to First, London/LA.

I have yet to talk to anyone who has a good word to say about BA at the moment. Rude onboard staff, dreadful food, lost luggage, general inefficiency.

Last month, a friend of mine turned up at Heathrow with her family to fly to LA, after checking in online. It transpired the computer hadn’t worked, and, 40 minutes before take-off, she was told the plane was then full and she couldn’t go on it. She had to wait another five hours to catch a Virgin flight.

Following the company’s recent merger with Iberia, BA’s Chief Executive Willie Walsh has just said that BA’s services are not going to be affected. Blimey. That can only be bad news for all of us.

Dealing with BA hasn’t been my only travel stress. The Atlantic haul that I have been doing quite regularly is starting to take its toll. Having just come back from visiting the UK and Paris, I am fairly wiped out after having my French mobile stolen on the Eurostar and then, I thought, my US/UK wallet, complete with every card, stolen from my hotel room.

I spent well over an hour in the police station, reporting every detail, and another hour cancelling various cards – only to remember that I had left it at home for fear of losing it.

Even buying a train ticket at Paddington brought stress, when an elderly couple admonished me for going to the First Class window to buy a First Class ticket, instead of standing in the long Standard ticket queue.

I had to shout at the guy to get his hands off me when he started grabbing my shoulder. When I told him to go away, he kept repeating: “Oh yes, I’m just a pathetic Englishman.” It saved me from having to say it, anyway.

Road rage and air rage have clearly extended to rail rage now in the UK, a country in which people seem to be more and more angry every time I return. The States has its problems, but the Californian sun really does seem to put people in better spirits for much of the time.

The only pleasure in UK travel is getting into a London black cab; they really are the most amiable taxi drivers in the world. The French don’t want to drive anywhere, the LA drivers can’t understand a word you say, even if they do want to take you, and in Wales you can never get a taxi of any sort if it’s raining – which is most of the time. There are some rotten apples in the black cab barrel, true, and some of the drivers’ views are a tad extreme, but they are courteous, knowledgeable, and, on the whole, pretty honest.

But it’s good to know I’m going to be car/train/plane free again for a few weeks, returning to my LA routine of white tea/gym/fresh fruit, after eating bread and cheese in a small French hotel room because the British pound is now about as appealing as a stale baguette.

Four euros for a cup of tea – that’s nearly £4 now. Next time I go, I’m taking a travel kettle and a box of PG Tips; actually, on second thoughts, I think I might just stay at home and look at the Eiffel Tower on the Internet.

Paris is still the most beautiful city on Earth, and it’s always good to go to the UK, too, and touch base with friends and family. I also loved doing another stint with the great people on ITV1’s Alan Titchmarsh Show – and this week I was able to say that I sang on the same show as Ronan Keating. Not in the same item, unfortunately, and my contribution was only one line from the Welsh national anthem, but it was still the same show.

I also enjoyed broadcasting again about I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! which has returned to ITV1 in its ninth series.

And with my last Air New Zealand flight from LA to London taking just a little over nine hours - and certainly the way my First Great Western journeys by rail are going - ANZ will soon be the fastest – and probably the cheapest – way to travel.

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