British Airways made an interesting change to the terms and conditions of British Airways Executive Club on Friday.
You can see the full T&Cs here.
The changes are around the definition of ‘misconduct’. This is what the rules now say:
- failure to comply with these Terms and Conditions or the terms and conditions of a Service or Airline Partner; or
- attempting to obtain Tier Points or Avios points by Fraud; or
- misusing the Services; or
- misconduct on board a British Airways or Airline Partner’s flight or in a Lounge or while checking-in; or
- any misconduct including but not limited to the use of false, threatening, abusive or derogatory language or behaving in a threatening, abusive or derogatory manner in dealing with or directed at British Airways’ staff or the staff of any Service Partner; or
- any conduct, including but not limited to making misleading statements, which causes, is intended to cause or is likely to cause a detrimental effect or reflects unfavourably on the reputation of British Airways or any aspect of its business, brands, products or services; or
- failure to comply with the applicable conditions of carriage and any other applicable rules and regulations.
What has changed here?
The two paragraphs in bold are the ones which were added last Friday.
The first one is self explanatory and I would hope that no-one would have an issue with it. Anyone who mistreats British Airways staff or contractors is likely to be banned from travelling with the airline, and having their Executive Club account closed is likely to be the least of their problems.
The second one is more interesting:
“any conduct, including but not limited to making misleading statements, which causes, is intended to cause or is likely to cause a detrimental effect or reflects unfavourably on the reputation of British Airways or any aspect of its business, brands, products or services”
Whilst the exact wording has been left suitably vague, this appears to be a catch-all phrase to protect British Airways against customers who make derogatory claims about the airline on social media.
To be fair to BA, the word ‘misleading’ is used. However, this is ‘including but not limited to’ misleading statements. In theory, BA can expel you from the Executive Club even if your claim is true if it makes the airline look bad.
Realistically, I would hope that this won’t happen. I very much doubt that BA is planning to come after people who post critical comments about the airline online if those comments are true.
It does, however, give the airline some power against people who post a one-sided story online without mentioning any mitigating factors or attempts by the airline to provide recompense. It clearly gives them some power if the story is untrue.
To be fair to British Airways …..
This change may have been triggered by the recent cabin crew dispute.
BA received some criticism online for removing staff travel privileges from an ex-employee during the dispute.
The story put around was that this person had been posting criticism of the airline online.
I saw some of these posts. They were, frankly, obnoxious, and included posts comparing BA management to Nazi war criminals. The person involved got off lightly if their only punishment was the removal of staff travel privileges.
I also know myself, from looking into occasional cases on behalf of readers who claim to be have been wronged by the airline, that there is often some key fact that the reader has ‘forgotten’ to share. Experience teaches you that, unfortunately, you should always treat online criticism with a pinch of salt.
No Executive Club member should be concerned that British Airways is trying to stifle genuine criticism. I doubt my account would survive a month if that were true!
You should, however, think twice about posting anything online which would not stand up to scrutiny – although I hope that would always be the case anyway.
Hat-tip @jtgenter on Twitter