BT offers free flights to help switch to broadband

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The Independent Online

BT Group is offering to fly new broadband internet customers to America or Europe free, echoing Hoover's ill-fated promotion that cost millions and eventually led to the vacuum cleaner company's European business being sold.

BT Group is offering to fly new broadband internet customers to America or Europe free, echoing Hoover's ill-fated promotion that cost millions and eventually led to the vacuum cleaner company's European business being sold.

A decade on from the Hoover disaster, BT insisted yesterday that its free flights scheme would not land it with the same kind of customer relations disaster.

However, the promotion, which runs until 20 June, looks equally generous, with free return seats available on a range of airlines including British Airways to a host of popular destinations including New York, Amsterdam and Barcelona.

The broadband promotion also includes discount rates for cheap second seats to go with the free flights.

Hoover's ill-fated free flights offer eventually resulted in the vacuum cleaner company having to spend more than £20m on flights to the US to satisfy demand.

Hoover was also hit by claims for compensation from angry customers who were refused free flights, with several cases ending up in the courts. It offered free flights for people spending more than £100 on a Hoover product. The ensuing public relations disaster was so bad that Maytag, Hoover's owner, eventually sold its European Hoover operations to Candy.

BT said customers buying any broadband connection, starting at £19.99 a month, would qualify. Customers will receive a flight voucher which they can redeem themselves or pass on to a friend or family member.

A spokesman said: "Obviously lessons have been learnt from the past and safeguards have been put in place. We are happy that we won't be in a position where we can't supply the flights."

One condition is that the flights cannot be taken in the peak months of July and August. However, the airline seats available, apart from BA, include Air France, KLM, easyJet and BMI.

Customers will be able to leave from Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Gatwick with destinations including Paris, Brussels, Nice, Prague, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. A second, cut-price seat will cost £219 to the US under the BT broadband offer and £88 to European destinations. Any more people travelling in the same party will have to pay the normal price for a seat.

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