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Retrospective BA miles claims hinder online experience

by Jon White on 15 December 2009

British Airways might have enough problems at the moment what with making big financial losses and reports that its cabin crew have voted nine to one in favour of striking over the Christmas period. Nevertheless, I’d like to talk about a shortcoming I encountered deep within its website, specifically in the Executive Club section.

Firstly I feel I must insert a caveat here that I’m not knocking BA’s website as a whole, as it provides a very good user experience and actually topped Webcredible’s 2009 Flights Online Report. However, the problem I encountered came when looking to attribute BA miles to a previous flight.

When it comes to joining BA’s Executive Club and collecting miles, I’m guessing many people do it in the way I did – booked a flight, realised you could claim the miles, and signed up to collect them retrospectively – and it’s the retrospective element that I feel is slightly flawed!

Obviously if you’re a member when you book a flight, you use your frequent flyer number upon booking and the miles are added automatically when you’ve flown. When looking to add miles for previously taken flights however, I expected to see a clear link in the ‘Manage my account’ section, but that unfortunately wasn’t the case. The left-hand navigation is actually very well laid out, but it’s really not immediately clear where the required section would be.

After a good few minutes of searching I did find it in the ‘Collecting BA miles’ section, under the ‘Flights’ sub-menu, right at the bottom of the main content on the page, with the link text ‘More about claiming missing BA miles’. Now in hindsight, this does seem like a logical location, but for new users it can be very hard to find and surely should be promoted much more actively (as they are the users likely to need this facility).

I admit this is a minor point when it comes to the overall user experience of a very good website. But, when it comes to recruiting new members to its Executive Club, this point could be important for BA.

Given the partnerships between airlines to gain rewards for one airline from flights on another (I’ve accumulated most of my BA miles on Cathay Pacific flights for example), customers don’t have to join BA’s Executive Club to gain rewards on BA flights, and herein lies the point. If users have trouble claiming the miles on retrospective flights on BA’s website then they may simply head to another airline’s site and use its reward scheme instead.

Photo credit:  lrargerich via Flickr / Creative commons

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