In March of this year, Sean (one of our Admin Team) found that British Airways was blocking access to our website (http://firearmsuk.org) from the PCs provided in their lounges. The reason stated by the filtering system was “British Airways blocks access to certain Internet sites which may be considered to be illegal or offensive. This site is currently on the barred list.”
Taking exception to being considered as an administrator of an “illegal or offensive” website Sean contacted British Airways, the response he received was as follows;
Thank you for your email dated 18 March 2013. I am sorry to learn that you were unable to access a website in the lounge at Aberdeen airport. I can understand how disappointing this must have been for you. Please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused to you.
I would like to inform you that many BA lounges have PCs that are available for customers to use and access the Internet. In order to protect the PCs and users a number of security measures are installed. This includes URL blocking or website filtering. The aim of this is to prevent access to sites that may host computer viruses or be generally viewed as objectionable.
Your feedback is a meaningful indicator of how our valued customers are feeling and I have passed on a copy of your email to our Customer Experience team for review. Some issues are easy to fix quickly, and some may take a little more time to put right. We want to iron out the difficulties, and our Chief Executive expects us to make continuous improvements across all areas of our business for our customers.”
Needless to say Sean got straight back on to them advising them that all that is required is to remove the URL from the barred list. The reply he got back was;
“Thank you for coming back to us. I am sorry that you are unhappy with our response. I understand that you feel that we did not take your complaint seriously enough.
As explained to you earlier, a number of security measures are installed so that the PCs and users are protected. This also includes URL blocking or website filtering.
I would like to reassure you that your views do matter to us, and as you fly with us a great deal, we particularly value your insights. Your views have been recorded and will be considered, together with all the other issues raised by our customers, at a cross-departmental group. Their aim is to listen to the customer, find out where problems are reoccurring, and put plans into place to solve them. Some issues can be easily fixed, but others may take a little more time to put right.
As well as taking account of feedback from individuals, we do invite small groups of customers to meet our senior managers from time to time. This allows our customers to ask questions and discuss the things that really matter to them. We also use an independent research company to get our customers’ views, and the results of this are reviewed across the business each month.
Thank you for following this up with us and I hope we can welcome you on board again soon.
As BASC were running a campaign to get mobile phone operators to stop blocking access to perfectly legal shooting related sites, Sean contacted them to see if they could put some additional pressure on British Airways.
Conor O’Gorman immediately contacted the British Airways Chief Executive’s Office. After several weeks of emails back and forth, British Airways eventually came back saying, in summary, that they have tested a range of BA lounges including Aberdeen and found that access to shooting websites was available on WiFi via private devices but not in some cases on BA provided desktop PCs. Sub-contracting is involved for the BA provided desktop PCs and they don’t wish to alter anything there as with the WiFi availability they feel that adequate access is provided.
So, British Airways is prepared to censor web content that is perfectly legal and non-offensive, and even worse not remove the blocks when advised that their systems have got the classification incorrect. Surely the reason the PCs are made available in the lounge is for those passengers not travelling with a WiFi enabled device?
Will Sean be flying with British Airways again? Well yes to use up his Avios points, but after that perhaps Richard Branson would like his business?