BA fined in the US, plans to improve passenger flight experience

British Airways, the UK’s national air carrier, has been fined in the US after its website failed to make discounted baggage fees available to some passengers who booked through agents.

According to the US Department of Transportation (DoT), customers who booked through third-party agents received a ‘system not responding’ message when they attempted to pay baggage fees online. An investigation found ‘a number of consumers who attempted to pay baggage fees at the discounted rates were unable to do so,’ it said.

The airline expressed regret but did not admit a violation of fare rules. It also accepted a token USD40,000 fine, half to be paid immediately and the balance only if there is a repeat occurrence. The carrier said that passengers who contacted it were offered refunds or alternative ways to obtain the discount rate.

British Airways reportedly told US Travel Weekly that it ‘co-operated fully with the DoT and has adequately resolved its concerns’. The DoT said that the issue came to its notice in May 2012.

Separately, British Airways said that it is testing a new electronic luggage tag this month, which could do away with the traditional paper tag. With the electronic tag system, the passenger simply holds their smart phone over the electronic tag, which automatically scans a unique barcode containing their flight details and an easy-to-see view of their bag’s destination.

‘Along with other initiatives we are investing in, we believe it has the potential to revolutionise the way our customers check in and pass through every airport around the world in the future,’ said Frank van der Post, managing director of Brands and Customer Experience at British Airways.

The development of the personalised electronic bag tag is part of a wider strategy by British Airways to improve passengers’ airport experience. Over the next five years, British Airways plans to invest more than GBP5 billion in smarter cabins, lounges and new technologies to make life more comfortable in the air and on the ground, the airline said.