Today I had a terrible experience with British Airways. My family (my wife and 8-year old son) was not allowed to check in to a British Airways flight scheduled from Brussels (Belgium) to Heathrow (UK) this morning. It’s the first leg of their journey, followed by a connecting British airways flight from Heathrow to Bangalore, India (their final destination).
The issue was whether my family would need a transit visa for layover of 2 hours at the London Heathrow airport without changing the terminal (Terminal 5). The lady at the British airways Check-In assistance desk @Brussels airport kept arguing that we must have a transit visa to pass through UK Border control. I tried to convince her that my family wouldn’t need to cross border control since they wouldn’t need to change terminal/airport. In addition, my family had valid US visas on their passports and valid resident permits from an EEA country (the plastic cards with chip issued by Belgium authority/commune). This means my family is exempted of a transit visa and wouldn’t need a Direct Airside Transit visa (DATV) or a Visitor in Transit visa.
But the lady at the British Airways Check-in desk failed to understand this. Instead she was forcing us to buy another airlines ticket from an adjacent counter. After much persuasion, the lady at the British Airways Check-in desk agreed to check in my wife but denied check-in for my son. This was because my wife had a valid resident permit card (plastic card) with a chip while my son had his valid resident permit in paper format (issued by the Belgian commune and legally accepted everywhere) and not in plastic with a chip. For me, it was very strange.
I was very much aware of the visa guidelines as outlined by www.Gov.UK and therefore I tried to explain the same to the lady at the British Airways check-in assistance desk @Brussels airport. But it was in vein as she or her duty manager did not allow my family to check in at the end.
British Airways is simply playing patriotic with an excuse from a country (UK) that does not know which side they belong to. It may be legally acceptable, but morally it isn’t for any international traveler. I don’t know how long British Airways would be able to sustain with this kind of unfriendly attitude.
Today I went through a loss of around 1400 euros (worth of ticket), mental peace, and had to go through a lot of stress, agony and frustration. I wish no international traveler should go through this ever. I demand a compensation from British Airways in form of refund for the tickets.
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