Travel: Bumpy ride

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The Independent Travel
EVEN if you have a ticket costing pounds 5,000, it seems there is no certainty you will get to your destination. I was to fly from Heathrow to Amsterdam on British Airways, with a confirmed ticket which had cost about that much. Yes, I know you can fly there and back for pounds 79, but this was an Air Miles ticket: it had cost around pounds 5,000 to earn the required points.

My money did not buy just any old ticket: this was in Club Europe. If you 'spend' double the normal number of Air Miles you get to travel in BA's Business Class.

But when I turned up at Terminal 4, I was told the flight was full. A dozen others were also denied boarding. Besides intense irritation, we had something else in common: we were holding Air Miles tickets. It appeared that the airline penalised passengers hoping to fly 'free'.

Compared with some of the other passengers, I was lucky to have been offloaded from only one flight. Jo Askham and Richard Flack, from Essex, had arrived the previous day for a lunch-time service to Amsterdam. That flight was also overbooked; other passengers were transferred to the Dutch airline KLM, but the Air Miles couple were placed on standby for the rest of the day. When the last flight left without them, BA assured them they were confirmed on the early morning flight. The next day, the story had changed: 'When we said 'confirmed',' the supervisor explained, 'we meant 'confirmed on standby'.' I had not previously encountered this status.

Our collective irritation was eased when the airline began handing out cash in mitigation for its mismanagement - and to meet its legal obligations. I was offered a flight some hours later from Gatwick to Rotterdam, but decided to give up and cycle home instead. It wasn't Club Class, but at least I got a seat.

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