British Airways

British Airways sued for sending passenger to the West Indies instead of Spain

If you have ever struggled with geography you are not alone.  British Airways officials whose job it is to know where they are sending their paying customers have mix-ups, too.  Unfortunately for the airline industry, this mix-up might cost them.  An American dentist is suing British Airways for putting him on the wrong flight when he tried to book a flight to Granada, Spain, but instead wound up in Grenada, the Caribbean island.

Edward Gamson, a dentist from Bethesda, Maryland, though he had booked a first-class ticket to Granada, Spain, on Britsh Airways.  But when Gamson asked a crew member why the plane was heading west from a short layover in London-when Spain was to the east- he got a surprise.  Dr. Gamson’s plane was headed to the Caribbean island of Grenada- about 4,000 miles from his intended destination.

Granada, Spain is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, where four rivers meet together.  It sits at an elevation of 738 metres above sea level, but is only an hour car ride from the Mediterranean coast.  The dentist was drawn to Granada for the art.  The greatest artistic wealth of Granada is its Spanish-Muslim art — in particular, the compound of the Alhambra and the Generalife. The Generalife is a pleasure palace with attached romantic gardens, remarkable both for its location and layout, as well as for the diversity of its flowers, plants and fountains.

“I have a lifelong interest in Islamic art. I’m also of Spanish Jewish heritage so it was something I had always wanted to do to visit Granada and the Alhambra,” Gamson told The Independent. “I made it absolutely clear to the booking agent I wanted to go to Granada in Spain. Why on earth would I want to go to Grenada in the Caribbean if I was flying back to America from Lisbon?”

It’s a mistake unlikely to happen on any online-booking service, but Gamson had called to make the reservation. “Grenada” and “Granada” is easy to mix up, although he claimed to have told the British Airways booking agent he was going to Spain.

After nearly three days of transit, Gamson just barely made it to the conference, but his vacation was ruined: He’s out the more than 375,000 frequent-flier miles he had used to book his first-class tickets, and he said the British Airways airlinewas less than helpful.

“I have no legal background; I’m a dentist, but I know right from wrong — I don’t know if that does you any good in this world. I really thought they would just want to settle with me, because it’s so apparent that it’s just a stupid mistake,” he said.

But British Airways fought back, first trying to get the lawsuit moved to a federal court, where international aviation rules apply, and then trying to get it dismissed completely.

Michelle Kropf, a spokeswoman for British Airways, said, “As this is active litigation, we are unable to make any comment at this time.”

The flight crew was very accommodating and tried to help as much as possible, Gamson said. He said they told him the same thing had happened a week before. But the original crew had to disembark at St. Lucia, and when Gamson and his partner got to Grenada, he said support staff on the ground there were less friendly.

British Airways offered him and his partner $376 each and 50,000 frequent flyer miles in compensation for the mistake, but Gamson had used 375,000 miles to book the first-class tickets and figures that, all told, including prebooked hotels, train tickets and tours, the aborted trip cost him more like $34,000. He’s suing British Airways airline and representing himself, NBC News reported.

“This was a long awaited vacation that didn’t happen,” he said.


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