British Airways, the airline with a reputation for leaking customer data and firing staff, has hatched a novel plan to halt growing criticism among its most loyal customers by threatening to boot them out of its Executive Club.
The company is still contesting the proposed £183m fine for a breach of GDPR which saw the personal data of hundreds of thousands of customers compromised.
BA’s lawyers recently secured a fourth delay to the final decision. In August, it emerged that the airline was confident of securing a huge reduction in the fine, setting aside just €22m (£19.78m) – a markdown of nearly 90% – although some claimed it may not pay a single penny.
Last year, when the Information Commissioner’s Office announced its “notice of intent”, Commissioner Elizabeth Denham warned: “People’s personal data is just that – personal. When an organisation fails to protect it from loss, damage or theft it is more than an inconvenience. That’s why the law is clear – when you are entrusted with personal data you must look after it. Those that don’t will face scrutiny from my office to check they have taken appropriate steps to protect fundamental privacy rights.”
Meanwhile, the airline was branded a “national disgrace” by MPs after it revealed plans to fire 12,000 staff at the height of the Covid pandemic and rehire those who remained on lower pay.
But, according to a report in The Sunday Times, BA has decided to tackle this criticism head on; not by changing its practices and becoming more customer friendly but by changing the T&Cs of its Executive Club.
Now, passengers who criticise the airline publicly can be ousted from the scheme – which is estimated to have nearly 10 million members worldwide – and lose all their Avios points.
The new T&Cs state: “Any conduct that causes a detrimental effect or reflects unfavourably on the reputation of BA or any aspects of its business, brands, products or services” may lead to expulsion.
In response to The Sunday Times report, the airline said: “Like all companies, we regularly review our terms and conditions to ensure we clearly stipulate our expectations of fair conduct and respect for others.
“We offer customers a number of channels to communicate with us to raise any concerns or provide feedback.”
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