Here is a copy of a letter I just sent to British Airways.
"After a hard week in Jozi I ran the gauntlet of a jam packed highway in my hired car to the airport and the BA flight that would bring me back home in time for the weekend. Even though the traffic was insane I was well prepared and arrived at the check in deck a full hour and 10 minutes before departure. But. The check in line at British Airways snaked right into no-man’s land and I had to join the absolutely not moving queue. Harassed BA employees dashed among the lines calling out flights and times. I just stood there and time ticked on. Finally, the harassed BA employees called our flight and time and we were jumped forward. I should have known there was trouble when the woman at the counter next to me started shrieking. It was true; the flight was over booked (by about at least 20 people) and we couldn’t be issued boarding passes. We were ushered to the Kulula desk, manned by hysterical BA personnel. There were already twenty people there waiting to get onto the flight. I think the three businessmen and I who huddled together just knew there was no hope of us getting on. We were all put on to the next flight, leaving an hour later. For the inconvenience we were issued a one-way free flight voucher. The ripple effect of this kind of mix-up is rather huge though. The flight left late because stand-by seats were filled at the very last minute. People who were put onto the flight at the last minute couldn’t get their special meals. I had to make at least three phone calls to rearrange my transport home.
At the end of the day (the very end) I was only an hour and a half later than I would have been and it wasn’t a crisis. I think that a free flight voucher is a great gesture. I just wonder how it is possible for a flight to be that overbooked in the first place and also how it is possible to be that early and prepared and still be penalised.
As we waited on the plane before disembarking I chatted to the woman across the aisle from me and we imagined what the airports and airlines were going to do during the Soccer World Cup in 2010. It made us shudder. I’ll be staying at home. I won’t be flying anywhere!"
And now I remember something else. When my flight arrived in Jozi on my way up there, the pilot had to park in Siberia and nowhere near the airport and the magic snaky special pipes that take you from the plane to the airport. And then we had to wait because ACSA didn’t have enough steps and couldn’t find us a set so we could disembark. Charming.
I suppose these problems are minor when compared with the new terminal 5 disaster at Heathrow, but hey, I just can’t help but feel my hackles rise.