Tavish Scott: Time for serious transfer talk at BA

Tavish Scott. Picture: Neil Hanna
Tavish Scott. Picture: Neil Hanna
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WE ARE going to America and I am getting a Halloween costume, exclaimed youngest son to his nursery class. The rest of the family were looking forward to time on the Gulf of Mexico with friends. But for junior the main attraction was having a cool new suit at the approaching Halloween party season.

So armed with a clear and concise shopping list, the taxi sped us to Edinburgh Airport.

The choices for flying across the Atlantic are good. New York is one flight away from both Glasgow and the capital. Cities across the US are a connection away. Aside from the ticket price, the choice is either to transfer from one aircraft to another on this side of the pond or the other. US Customs is a factor.

If you are not a government minister, a diplomat or a VIP of some kind then there is a queue to face. At any airport across the world this can be daunting especially with bored, tired children in tow. But there is no alternative. So the Scott family opted for the transfer at a European hub airport and then the US Customs experience at our point of arrival.

The reasoning being that friends were meeting us in Dallas, so by the marvels of texting we could keep them updated on how long it was taking to be processed.

The question, therefore, was which airline and which hub. KLM via Amsterdam and Lufthansa via Frankfurt were both assessed. But on both price and on family-friendly service at the back of the plane, the winner was British Airways. And that is how it proved.

BA does provide a great onboard service. Scott junior was given a flight pack with a colouring book. This kept him interested for precisely two nanoseconds until his older brother showed him the games on the back of the seat video screen. Apart from the envy of walking past the flatbeds in business class, the flight was faultless.

But where hub airports and airlines fall down is on the transfers. Or rather, when transfers do not happen. Our Edinburgh to Heathrow flight was late. The BA captain claimed that it was windy. Windy! He should try flying to Shetland every week. So what should have been an easy transfer at Terminal 5 from a domestic flight to an international one became more and more unlikely.

We arrived at Heathrow with 30 minutes to spare. We, along with half the passengers in a Boeing 767, were then denied access to international departures. BA then made us all stand in a queue for an hour-and-a-half to rebook on to another flight. Not to Dallas but Houston, and then a transfer to an internal flight. It all worked. The luggage followed. Two days later.

BA’s transfer operation at Heathrow failed. They did not have enough staff. This apparently happens on most days. Memo to the BA boss: get this sorted before saying T5 is the place to transfer. Otherwise next time we will go via New York.