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British Airways can now kick you out of the Executive Club if you criticise it online

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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:

British Airways Executive Club status cards

“Misconduct”

includes:

  • 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.
British Airways Executive Club misconduct

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.


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Comments (95)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Riccatti says:

    But still, who are those people at Executive Club now empowered to evaluate your misconduct like your 5th grade teachers..

    This sort of ’empowerment’ should be not be encouraged in service industries — otherwise you would be downgraded as a customer who orders too much tea and coffee during a flight..

    • Andrew says:

      It’s very much encouraged.

      Look at the Scottish Government and see how they are instructing service industries (Universities & Colleges) to deal with adults.

      Throw up wire fences and arrange for the Police to patrol…

  • Tim Riley says:

    Fair enough. It’s their “club”.

  • RussellH says:

    Would it save your avios if you moved them to Aer Club or Iberia before making accurate comments about BA that they nevertheless would very much prefer not to be in the public domain?

  • MKB says:

    These anti-abuse clauses do get used by some staff against customers making polite, calm and reasoned complaints. I’ve been on the receiving end of this twice in my lifetime. It’s not pleasant because staff who were not even present will back up each other, and without CCTV, you’re hung out to dry.

    You can’t even whip out your mobile to record an exchange to protect yourself, as the act of doing that is more likely to inflame a situation than achieve the objective of trying to put right the complaint.

    • ADS says:

      Yes, we need to look out for not just the use of this new clause, but the threat that it could be used.

      Sometimes the threat, either explicit or implicit, is more powerful than the implementation of it.

  • HH says:

    Speaking of Executive Club, I have a question about status extensions – sorry if I’m being dim.

    My TP collection year ends 8 Aug and I’ve been Silver since 2018. By March 2020, I had over 600 TPs for the collection year, so my account showed my TP year ends 8 Aug 2020 / card expiry Sep 2020 and that I’d retained Silver for the following year.

    When BA rolled out status extensions in June, I got the email from BA saying ‘12 months extra on us’ and my account shows TP year ends 8 Aug 2021 / card expiry Sep 2021. But I had already qualified to retain Silver until that date with the TPs I’d collected, so I’ve effectively not been given an extension by BA. Is this right? Or will my Silver actually be extended to 2022?

    • AJA says:

      The easiest way to be certain is to check your BAEC account online. It will show if your card expiry has been extended to 2022. Logically it should have been extended to 2022 but I suspect you may find it is just showing as 30 Sep 2021. The extension really benefitted those who didn’t have enough TP to retain status.

      • HH says:

        EC account shows 2021, which would mean I haven’t benefited from a status extension at all if that is the case. I’d really like to know from others who were in a similar situation in June what’s happened with their expiry dates.

        • AJA says:

          I’m sorry to say there’s not a lot you can do. You are not the only one in this situation. There is a lot over on FlyerTalk from others in your situation who didn’t really benefit from the extension. Go read their stories on FlyerTalk – all equally unhappy. The only thing is that you now only need to earn 450TP to retain status.

        • Mikeact says:

          @HH…make sure you don’t post any derogatory comments anywhere !!

  • Charlie Whiskey says:

    A provision such as these new ones are possibly acceptable if there is a well-established level of trust between the company and its clients: we could then be assured that they would be interpreted fairly.

    The problem here is that BA has a lamentable record of being fair towards customers, and a long track record of taking the maximum and giving the least.

    I personally have been lied to by BA during a dispute over the cause of a delayed flight when making a subsequent claim under EU legislation . This resulted in a major climb-down by BA just prior to a Small Claims Court hearing when BA were exposed as providing false documentation and written evidence.

    Experience that, and you are convinced that BA is quite capable of being vindictive …..

    • Lady London says:

      +1
      Sadly I do think British Airways is one of the companies – that will eventually abuse this power once obtained.

      There is just too many cases that get reported where BA has lied, delayed and just tried too many tactics that were illegal at mass level ( like the active steps they took to block customer access to refunds) or unfair or worse at individual level.

      This is not to diminish the very many incidences of kindness beyond the rules and other nice things BA sometimes also does. It’s just that when they are really naughty BA should get called out for it and this is what they seem to be landgrabbing to stop people doing with this new term.

      • Julian says:

        Inevitably the bad BA staff members with very poor customer service skills will be the ones who end up provoking full scale confrontations with customers and then utilise these new terms and conditions to end up demanding that the “guilty customer” is kicked out of the Executive Club (and therefore by and large off the airline) so that poorly skilled and unhelpful members of staff can continue their careers of customer indifference and/or mistreatment while immune from any possible form of comeback…………

        It strikes me that if a customer does something really bad towards a staff member the airline already has a remedy through the Police and the courts but this shouldn’t be extended to BA being able to steal a customer’s potentially huge Executive Club points balance for posting reviews that essentially amount to Fair Comment on the level of service received.

        • Anna says:

          It wouldn’t be stealing. You agree when you open a BAEC account that the avios continue to be BA’s property. You may get redress in a civil court for claiming back avios that you have handed over your money for (or cash equivalent), but in no way would it be considered theft on BA’s part.

          • Julian says:

            I think stealing one’s points for criticising the quality of the airline’s services would amount to an Unfair Contract Term if tested properly in court with adequate legal representation. Of course that’s a lot of hassle so probably better to stay stum, spend all one’s existing Avios points and start travelling with rival airlines as much as possible (given that it isn’t always possible to avoid BA on some routes).

      • Anna says:

        Totally agree, but at that point one would hope people would start giving their money to another airline!

  • Mikeact says:

    So you think BA are being tough or unreasonable…..

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-54335789

  • NFH says:

    Don’t forget that British Airways can’t interpret its own terms and conditions in its favour. Section 69 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which codifies the long-established doctrine of contra proferentem, states that “If a term in a consumer contract, or a consumer notice, could have different meanings, the meaning that is most favourable to the consumer is to prevail“. In addition, Part 2 of the same act prevents unfair contract terms from being enforced.

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