Beware! Rogue British Airways Booking Agents May Scam You
By Chuks Emele
When next you call a British Airways reservation number to make an online booking, just be careful. The person at the other end of the phone may be aiming to scam you.
Take the experience of one Nigerian who travelled to Vancouver, Canada, recently on a British Airways flight. Let’s call him Mr Aderonke, to conveniently discuss a matter already in dispute with the airline and likely making its way to the courts.
Departing Nigeria on August 28, 2022, Mr Aderonke had planned to stay away for one month, with the intention of flying back on September 28. However, after arriving in Vancouver, other things came up, and he realized he would have to return in a week’s time, making a two-day stop in London before continuing to Abuja, Nigeria.
Mr Aderonke first tried changing the tickets, which had two travellers, online. While the airline indicated it would charge more than 500 dollars to make the change, he found he couldn’t alter the London leg. So he decided to go the British Airways ticketing office at the airport in Vancouver to make the change. There, he was told the British Airways had no office or stall, with officials only appearing to despatch or receive scheduled flights.
The only option left was to call the British Airways reservation phone line. When he called the toll-free line, he spoke to someone who identified himself as a Mr Wilson, who took down his name and booking reference code in order to effect the change. After preliminary checks, Mr Wilson told Mr Aderonke that under the airline’s policy, he won’t be allowed to make the London stop; the only option was to fly straight to Nigeria.
Mr Aderonke then requested to have the ticket changed to return to Nigeria directly. Mr Wilson then said he would work on that. He asked Mr Aderonke to hang up the call and gave him another phone number and an extension on which to reach him if there was a long delay.
A little while later, Mr Wilson called back to say that the ticket change will cost more than US$870. Mr Aderonke was taken aback, remembering he had seen just over 500 dollars on the British Airways website. Then Mr Aderonke inquired from Mr Wilson if the payment could be made through ba.com? Mr Wilson said it wasn’t possible, that the booking change and associated payment could only be made through him, via the phone.
At this point Mr Aderonke became extremely suspicious, knowing that this Mr Wilson was lying through his teeth about British Airways online payments. Of course, he bought the ticket online from ba.com. Indeed, if not for the planned London stop, he could’ve changed the travel date without needing help.
At this point, Mr Aderonke told Mr Wilson that he would have to think about it because the cost was rather expensive. Mr Aderonke, who was by now in a taxi going back to the hotel, decided he would have to log into his “Manage my Booking” tab of the British Airways website to confirm that that was indeed the cost of making that change.
Mr Wilson wouldn’t let up. He called Mr Aderonke twice while he was on his way back to city, reminding to hurry up that the cost could go further up. It was typical scammer behaviour, Mr Aderonke was convinced by now.
On getting to his hotel, Mr Aderonke quickly logged into his British Airways account. There he confirmed the fraudulent intent of Mr Wilson. The travel dates, he found, could be changed there and then for US$575. Mr Wilson was angling to scam him off more than US$300. Mr Aderonke quickly paid with his debit card and was sent a receipt and change confirmation through email by British Airways.
Later that evening, Mr Wilson called again to find out if Mr Aderonke was still ready to pay his price. Mr Aderonke told him that there was a much cheaper fee online, which he already paid, for which the change was made and a receipt issued. Mr Wilson couldn’t hide his anger and said he would make sure it didn’t work. Mr Aderonke simply reminded him that he already has a receipt for that transaction.
It was two days later that Mr Aderonke logged into “Manage my Booking” once more to choose a sit for his September 6 flight, only to be told he had no booking. Evidently, Mr Wilson, in his fit of anger for having failed to scam a Nigerian, logged into Mr Aderonke’s “Manage my Booking,” cancelled his flight and, in place of a refund, applied for vouchers on his behalf that can only be used to book another flight on British Airways.
BA Defends Staffer
So, for a return ticket for two people that originally cost US$4130, that was only used one way, there’s a value of, at least, US$2,065 left. Add another US$575, then you have a total of US$2,640 being withheld by British Airways because their staffer, Mr Wilson, decided to punish Mr Aderonke for not allowing himself to be scammed.
Here is the British Airways response to Mr Aderonke’s complaint about their criminal staff member: “I’ve taken some time to look at your booking and I can see that the voucher was requested on 1 September at 00:14 and was done online via your account. Whilst I appreciate your reasons for asking once the voucher was accepted we’re unable to exchange this for cash.”
As Mr Aderonke pointed out, the British Airways customer service person, who wrote this response was careful to say the “voucher was requested” without being specific about who requested it. “Another staffer who took my call and gave her name as Jessica accused me of being the one that made the change myself,” Aderonke said. “And she hung up on me when I asked her why I should cancel my ticket and be asking her for a new ticket.”
On September 10, the British Airways customer service sent an email to the passenger, saying it was withdrawing the earlier vouchers issued and replacing them with e-vouchers. “That was a misleading ploy,” said Mr Aderonke. “I never received any initial vouchers nor any notification that my flight had been cancelled and turned to vouchers. I only found out when I tried to log into the booking “
The British Airways press office didn’t respond to an emailed request for comments in response to the allegations. Nairaweb.ng will keep you posted if British Airways responds or there are any further developments regarding this case.