Man has conquered air.  Man has conquered space.  And one would think man would have conquered subtitles by now.

Guest Blogger Caroline O’Neil writes:

I’m going to the USA next month (June 2011).  When my family booked airline tickets I immediately contacted British Airways back in November 2010 (7 months ago) to enquire about subtitles on in-flight entertainment. As a Deaf person this is not an unreasonable request. I never heard anything back.

Undeterred, I contacted them again in January 2011 and received a brief email apologising for the lack of response and advising me most Boeing 777’s have the AVOD system fitted for entertainment which does have subtitles.  They said they would forward my email to the relevant department and hopefully they would contact me soon.

You guessed it.  No follow up from the relevant department.

I then tracked down British Airways on Twitter and queried further.

They sent me a link to their Disability Assistance page and informed me that the only things subtitled were foreign movies and the in-flight safety information demonstration.

I didn’t really fancy watching the in-flight safety information demonstration 109 times.

The route I’m travelling on currently offers eight movies and four TV channels. That’s a great choice but not if there are no subtitles on offer and you are Deaf .

I found my own solution – my ipad
My lovely fella bought me an iPad for Christmas – the idea being we could download films for me to watch on the journey over.  BRILLIANT.  My only concern was the battery life.

I twittered British Airways again to enquire whether I’d be able to charge my iPad on-board once the battery went? No.  Sockets are only available in Club World and WTP cabins.

Tired of the uncertainty, I decided to phone up and find out once and for all what cinematic adventures I could anticipate on my flight over.  I borrowed my office interpreter and gave Customer Relations a call.

I was put on hold for ages whilst they looked into my query.

BA: We can’t guarantee whether any films will be available with subtitles
When they finally got back to me they told me there were two subtitled films available on-board this month.  However, the films change on a monthly basis, the timing of which coincided with my flight.  As a result they could give me no information and there was no guarantee whether anything would be available with subtitles.  They added that this was not their responsibility, but the responsibility of the film distributors.

BA’s solution: ‘No’ to plug sockets to charge ipad but  suggests ‘buy another battery’
I mentioned the movies on my iPad and asked about sockets again, but they confirmed they would not be available.  I asked if it would be possible for an air hostess to charge it up when the battery finally went.  They said probably not and suggested I buy myself another battery. (Ipads are solid units they don’t have removable batteries).

My interpreter, at this point, was getting slightly annoyed and in a show of support told them that they were in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Once again, I was put on hold for a good ten minutes; they then came back on the line saying they’d referred it to their line manager, who had promptly checked it online and in fact I was incorrect, for my information, air travel is exempt from the Equality Act 2010 (true)

So there we have it.  If you’re deaf and planning on catching a plane, bring a good book (you won’t be watching any films).

What’s interesting is British Airways are an official partner of the Paralympics GB one of seven ‘Tier One partners’ (contributing in sponsorship to the £2 billion cost to stage the games).

I guess they only like disabled people when their ears work.

UPDATE Tuesday 17th May: This phone call took place on Tuesday 17th May, I made an official complaint via email, but didn’t get around to writing this article until the evening of the Thursday 19th May.  It is now Friday 20th and I have received an email from British Airways saying they are sorry I am unhappy with their customer support team, and they understand how disappointing it must have been for me to find out there are so few captioned movies on-board.  They have asked me to phone them, so I shall do that and report back.

FURTHER UPDATE Friday 20th May 2011: Just got off the phone to British Airways.  I gathered from their email that they wanted me to ring them for a discussion, but apparently I was wrong.

The conversation wasn’t particularly pleasant and in short they’re going to try and find out what, if any, subtitled films are available next month and let me know.

They also said they wouldn’t be able to charge my iPad and that there are no provisions that can be made.
I flagged up that business class seating had sockets available, so could it not be charged there, they said no – as there will probably be no seats available, although they did say if there was a seat free it could possibly be done, but they couldn’t promise anything.

I’m guessing from the tone of Customer Services I’m not going to be offered an upgrade anytime soon!

Tuesday 24th May: The member of staff I spoke to when I phoned last week said they would contact me to let me know about subtitled in-flight entertainment (if any) for my particular flight.  They have both my email address and my mobile phone number.  I still haven’t heard anything.  One thing I forgot to mention, they did say to contact them again with feedback – AFTER my flight…