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Transport / Warning islanders may lose out when booking ADS flights through BA website

BRITISH Airways is “urgently investigating” why the Air Traffic Discount (ADS) function on the company’s website has not been working since at least early September.

The malfunction came to light at the start of this month when an eagle-eyed islander booking a connecting flight from Sumburgh to London realised that despite going through the Scottish Government funded ADS function on BA’s website no such discount was granted.

The two flights from Sumburgh to Aberdeen, operated by Loganair, and from Aberdeen to Heathrow, cost exactly the same regardless of ADS.

Loganair and British Airways operate a code share which allows people travelling on Loganair flights and connecting to British Airways services to book via the BA website and thus benefit from being ‘in transit’ should planned connections fail.

It took British Airways more than two weeks to acknowledge a problem with this element of the company’s booking system, and it is not yet known how many people have lost out.

The company has made no statement with regards to possible compensation.

It was back on 6 September when Maggie Bird, from Vidlin, realised BA had not taken off the 50 per cent discount for islanders on the Loganair element of the flight to London she was about to book.

She immediately contacted the ADS scheme’s helpline to report the issue only to be told it was not their problem; she needed to raise it with Loganair. The Scottish airline, in turn, referred her to British Airways.

When she contacted British Airways two days later she was referred back to the ADS scheme.

Bird said: “BA were pretty dismissive of any responsibility for the scheme’s operation when I did contact them, and I didn’t feel I would ever get any further as a lone passenger with an ‘unusual’ problem.

“I guess I felt that it is primarily the responsibility of the administrators (ADS/Transport Scotland) as the guardians of the public funds assigned to the scheme to make sure that it is being properly run and is accessible to scheme members, and to resolve any issues with its operation.”

She added that meanwhile she had no choice but to book a flight without applying the ADS discount, and had to do so early, simply to avoid fares going up closer to her planned date of travel.

First contacted by Shetland News last Wednesday, it took British Airways more than a week to acknowledge the problem and confirm that work was underway to fix it.

This followed confirmation from government agency Transport Scotland on Monday that it had been in touch with the airline to “identify the issue and work on a solution”.

Late on Thursday, BA issued the following statement: “We’re urgently investigating this matter and are currently liaising with the third-party company who are part of the process to deliver these discounted fares to ensure the issue is resolved as quickly as possible.

“We thank our customers for their continued patience and understanding.”

British Airways did not respond to questions seeking clarifications on possible reimbursement. Neither did it give an indication how many islanders have been affected by this, nor when it hopes to have to the ADS function up and running again.