British Airways USA Call Center Closed

In March I reported that British Airways was closing their US call center, located in Jacksonville, Florida. This would result in 280 layoffs, which is of course sad. I had my frustrations with some of the agents that I found to be rather rude, though over the past nine months I developed a bit of a random phone relationship with Paul, who works the Executive Club Gold Line. I mean, for the past few months we’ve basically become BFFs.

It’s kind of funny because it’s not like I had his direct line, but just about every time I’d call he would answer. I redeem Avios for travel on Alaska Airlines all the time, so as soon as he answered the phone and recognized it was me he’d say “Mr. Schlappig, I realize we’re well acquainted, but I just need to verify a few security questions.” Once I verified the answers he’d always say “and I assume you’re wanting to go somewhere on Alaska Airlines today?” Awesome guy, and the first time I’ve actually “known” someone that randomly picks up the phone.

Anyway, I was rather sad a few days ago when I called British Airways only to find that their US call center now seems to be closed, and is being answered by people in the UK. Now I’ve been told it will eventually be outsourced to India, so I’m not sure if that’s still the plan and this is just an intermediate solution, or what. But it sure is hard to adjust to them.

I called today to make a change to an existing Avios booking. The agent curtly informed me that they couldn’t help with existing bookings but rather only new ones, which is the first time I’ve had an Executive Club agent say that. I’m not sure what the difference is between assisting with a new or existing award booking. They’re also rather smart-a$$ish. I said I wanted to book a 3:30PM flight, and the agent responded with “you mean a flight at fifteen hundred thirty.” Um, okay…

But here’s the part that really gets at me — British Airways’ US call center is only open from 7:30AM till 8PM ET, which are ridiculous hours, especially if the agents are based in the UK anyway. And the worst part is that you can’t call any of their dozens of other call centers worldwide, since only the call center for the region in which your account is registered can help. That just makes zero sense, in my opinion, and even less so as the centers are consolidated. I really hope they change that policy.

I tweeted them to share my feedback, and would encourage anyone else that’s frustrated by the policy to do the same.

Comments

  1. As a former employee that was just let go from the BA USA call center, I can tell you that all Executive Club Calls are going to be handled by the UK. Anything else, i.e. changes to regular tickets or general inquiries, those are going to be handled by an outsourced company to India.

    They handle things VERY differently in the UK. A lot more curt, make no exceptions, etc. Going to be a big change for a lot of EC members!

  2. I’ve had my share of unpleasant calls with them in the past, but the last few times I’ve called I’ve wonderful experiences.

  3. I recently booked my first award with BA’s much smaller rival, Virgin Atlantic. Totally different experience. Their UK based call center is open 24 hours, with an 800 number for US originating calls. The very friendly agent I spoke with my great, and gave me his name and direct extension (unprompted), just in case I had any further questions.

  4. I called United’s call center the other day to change two award tickets. I had my credit card ready for the change fee and was bracing for a negative phone call. The agent I spoke to was named Cheryl and was one of the nicest CSR types I’ve ever spoken to. She thanked me for having the new flight info and then waived the change fees.

  5. I happened to call their 800-247-9297 number three times yesterday; I believe each time I reached a CSR in India. Every single time I was given incorrect information, hence the repeat calling. I finally cried uncle and gave up. It was a nasty time suck. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t have had an identical experience with domestic reps though.

  6. I for one am delighted. I have always found the American reps to be incredibly rude and often unable to understand what I was trying to achieve.

    My first call to the UK crew this week was a breeze. Polite, helpful and to the point.

  7. 280 jobs is a tough hit, and I am sorry for those impacted, and for their families.

    That said, my encounters with the Florida BA call center were in 2011-2012 and based on my experience, closing that operation down might be thought of as euthanasia. I wish I has dealt with Paul, as he sounds like a get-it-done guy. I seemed to always reach a woman who wouldn’t listen, miss cited rules, and topped it off by sending my itinerary to some email address she imagined after inserting seemingly random letters and number into mine.

    The India news is hardly an upgrade, and same for the continuation of the “residency” calling rule. What exactly does that get BA?

  8. Getting the same agent isn’t really that strange depending on how the software is setup. I’ve run some call centers from the technical side and its easy to tell the computer to route repeat callers to the same agent. This can be to varying degrees from not trying at all up to only putting the call through to that agent or a anything in between. Usually there’s other priority logic that decides where to route the call as well. Which makes things more complex, but it is most likely the call center computer system was making some efforts to route you to the same agent each time you call

  9. I have called the Florida BA call center twice to book tickets to Hawaii via Alaska Airlines and both times the rep was extremely helpful. No experience with UK reps but anytime I speak with someone from India I always hang up frustrated.

  10. Welcome to good old fashioned British customer service. People here are so accustomed to getting bad customer service that it takes a truly atrocious interaction to warrant notice, but every interaction seems predicated on combativeness since the presumption is that the agent will almost always tell you why you cannot do what you’re asking. I have status on AA and I use Skype to call the US rather than deal with whoever AA have answering the phone when you call their British number.

  11. @FormerBA – You make it sound like it was a pleasure dealing with the US call center when in fact most of the agents there were rude, incompetent, insufferable, inflexible, and just plain horrible people. So, if anything, we’re just getting more of the same. Maybe you were an exception, but then you need to realize what your colleagues were really like.

  12. @A.S. – wait till you deal with the UK staff! I just spent two hours on the phone as they insisted they need to charge me a $40 change fee on a US based account as 40 GB Pounds. Three transfers from Newcastle to Manchester over two hours before they would charge me in dollars.

  13. Great news. I used to have to call the UK to find out the correct answer to my questions so that when I called the US I would know if I was being spun a line or not.

    And no-one says “a flight at fifteen hundred thirty” – are you really sure you got that right?

  14. Lucky, when booking Alaska flights with avios, are you generally able to get them to waive the phone booking fee? I’ve had luck with that in the past but recently have been told they would not waive it. Is this a difference in policy between US vs UK call centers?

  15. @ WB — I’m BA Gold so am not charged the phone booking fee anyway. That being said, I believe the UK center is unfortunately strict about not waiving it, which sucks.

  16. I’ve mostly had easy things to accomplish when calling people up in Florida and generally my experience had been good. The main downside was limited hours but it was still sad to find out it was closing down.

  17. Wonderful – call center busy and they hang up saying all lines busy and “call back later”. Then get busy tone. Then finally get connected and it’s a 30 minute hold. Then they spam me about “Excutive Club benefits” for 30 minutes?

    Got to love when companies “enhance” things.

  18. I have tried to call the award reservation all day and no one ever answered. Gosh, are they working at 7:30-8pm UK time?

  19. On three occasions, I tried to call BA customer service about the more than 100,000 Avios points they wrongfully deleted from my account. Each time I got a message that they were experiencing an “extremely” high number of calls. Each time, I was placed on hold for more than an hour. I’ve tried to contact them by mail and have received no response. I’m an experienced traveler. I’ve probably flown a million miles all over the world. BA’s customer service is worse than anything I’ve experienced.

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