Open Letter to Willie Walsh


                                                                                                                            Parents of Jamie Robertson

                                                                                                                            Cambridge, UK

                                                                                                                            Click for email address


                                                                                                                            2nd March 2016

Mr Willie Walsh

Chief Executive of IAG

Dear Mr Walsh

Separation by BA/Iberia of disabled child from his mother

BA case reference 14805280

We flew back from a family holiday on 28th December 2015 on Iberia flight IB3166. Our son Jamie Robertson, who is disabled with autism, was caused very considerable distress and anxiety by his enforced separation from his mother. She was downgraded to another cabin so that a BA staff member by the name of Carlo Garcia could take her place in business class. This was very distressing to the whole family and especially our son. Being the only family on board with a disabled member, it is possible that this may be a discriminatory act by both Iberia and BA.

We have complained through both BAs’ and Iberias’ complaints procedures, but after 5 weeks of correspondence we have reached the following impasse:

1. Both BA and Iberia have failed to apologise for the harm caused to a disabled child and his family, offering only a terse acknowledgement of the “inconvenience”;

2. Neither airline has accepted responsibility for this grave error, each seemingly “passing the buck” to the other despite both being part of IAG;

3. No explanation for why Mr Garcia was given preference over a family with a disabled member has been offered, or why his retaining his business class seat was so important that a family with a disabled child had to be split up in order to accommodate him;

4. After a tortuous process involving many phone calls and emails, the derisory sum of €31 has been offered as compensation: this is nothing less than insulting.

For your reference, the price paid for the family ticket booked nearly one year in advance (ref. X5VXNA) was £1273.62 plus 45000 Avios (air miles). The original booking was made for a BA flight number BA2699 which was cancelled by BA who booked us onto the replacement Iberia flight. Our original complaint (case reference 14805280) made on 29th December can be found here.

Since the standard complaints procedures from both airlines have clearly failed, we are appealing to you directly as Chief Executive of IAG to intervene. Clearly there is scope for rationalisation between the two airlines since the customer service is clearly not “joined up”. This case needs bringing to your attention for this alone. The level of compensation should also reflect the impact on the whole family, rather than just the price difference in the class of travel at the time of booking for one family member. BA/Iberia have taken advantage of the fact that our ticket was booked well in advance and ignored the effect on the whole family in order to minimise the amount of compensation: a very mean-spirited approach.

Most important of all, this serious mistake, which could be construed as discrimination, cannot be allowed to rest without a full apology. We hope you can make this public so that all parents of disabled children can be assured that this will not happen to them when they fly with BA or Iberia. I have attached a letter from The National Autistic Society, sent to BA’s and Iberia’s diversity and inclusion teams through the customer feedback system, which explains the difficulties families travelling with autistic children face, and why their carefully planned journeys should not be disrupted in this way.

We look forward to hearing from you. 

Yours sincerely,

Christopher Cytera and Rhona Robertson

(Parents of Jamie Robertson).