Is BA “losing the plot”? Why is BA receiving negative press coverage?

Why has British Airways been receiving so much negative press coverage in 2017?

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British Airways Club World Boeing 747 (Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways)

Poor Alex Cruz, CEO of British Airways, is having a hard time of late.

Barely a week goes by without a negative news article or comment piece in the British press lamenting service cut backs on British Airways. The latest being from Victoria Coren-Mitchell in Sunday’s Observer.

Alex Cruz, who arrived at the airline last year from Barcelona based low cost carrier Vueling, has become a lightening rod for criticism that the airline is hell bent on becoming no different to Ryanair.

The catalyst for this was the introduction of Buy on Board catering (with significant teething problems) on short-haul flights earlier this year.

This was one of the first decisions made by Alex Cruz. Though it had been considered many times before his arrival.  After grumblings online a number of newspapers have picked up on other service cut backs and there is now a clear PR narrative of cut backs and decline.

On long-haul it’s also been criticised for service cut backs, such as the offer of a single solitary chocolate bar as the second meal service on long-haul economy and premium economy flights to the East Coast of the USA. It is doggedly sticking to its 2006 Club World business class seat whilst other airlines which were once light years behind BA, notably American Airlines, Delta and United whose products former BA CEO Willie Walsh once dismissed as “frankly crap”, have leapfrogged BA.  The airline is also due to switch from 9 to 10 across seating in economy on many of its Boeing 777s.

This isn’t the first time BA has made cut backs to its service. After the events of 11 September 2001 and the collapse of Lehman Brothers which triggered the global financial crisis, BA reduced cabin crew numbers on flights and made substantial cut backs to in flight catering and amenities.

But BA is not losing money. It’s profitable. Last year it made a record operating profit in excess of £1.4bn.  It’s also expanding, carrying 44.5m passengers last year.

So what’s going on?
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BA introduces new Club Europe catering

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British Airways Club Europe Cabin
British Airways Club Europe Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)

Regular passengers in British Airways short-haul business class “Club Europe” have not had a great time of late.

After the “densification” (IAG & BA lexicon for adding more seats) of its Airbus short-haul fleet of aircraft the leg room in Club Europe is no different to EuroTraveller economy. More seats on aircraft also means more competition for space for hand baggage in the overhead lockers. 

On the ground, BA has closed some business class lounges in Europe in locations such as Dusseldorf. Fast track ground facilities such as access to priority security lanes are not guaranteed for BA passengers at many European airports.

Over the past fifteen years or so, the catering offer has also been steadily reduced. One of the most notable changes was the replacement of hot meals with a cold breakfast plate on mid-morning flights and the introduction of Afternoon Tea. (Although Afternoon Tea has some fans, we think BA has a frankly absurd obsession with serving it on the ground and in the air, not least because nobody in the UK actually eats Afternoon Tea.)

By its own admission, BA has looked at withdrawing Club Europe altogether, at least at London Gatwick. However, the cabin has soldiered on. Indeed, BA is adding Club Europe to its UK domestic routes from 1 April 2017.

In one of the most significant changes we can recall in recent years, BA has now substantially redesigned the catering routines for all Club Europe flights to and from London Gatwick and Heathrow.
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You can now fly on a Boeing 777 from London Heathrow to Madrid

BA is now operating a long-haul Boeing 777 daily between London Heathrow and Madrid.

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British Airways Boeing 777 at London Heathrow
British Airways Boeing 777 at London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)

This weekend sees the start of the new summer timetable at London Heathrow. There are a few changes including the launch of scheduled services by BA to New Orleans, Virgin Atlantic taking over Seattle from Delta, Flybe launching Aberdeen and Edinburgh and BA launching summer seasonal routes to Murcia, Nantes and Tallin with many more routes to follow later in the summer.

One other change is that BA is now flying a Boeing 777 daily between London Heathrow and Madrid, a route exclusively operated by BA and Iberia.

Shortly after the merger of BA and Iberia under the umbrella of International Airlines Group in 2011 the two airlines put wide body aircraft on the route. BA operates a Boeing 767 on flights BA456 and BA457. Iberia operates its Airbus A340 on flights BA522 and IB3166/BA7058. The principal reason for this is not necessarily passenger demand, but the cargo capacity in the belly of the aircraft.

From today, Sunday 26 March 2017, BA will also operate a Boeing 777 on this route. Flight BA458 which departs London Heathrow at 07:20 and flight BA459 which departs Madrid at 12:20 will be operated by a Boeing 777.

Update January 2018: It is now the early afternoon departure from London Heathrow BA460 and early evening return from Madrid BA461 that is operated by either a Boeing 777 or Boeing 787.
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BA suspends London Gatwick – Lima from Sunday 29 October 2017

BA has suspended its direct route to Lima from Sunday 29 October 2017. It resumes on Sunday 25 March 2018.

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London Gatwick Airfield (Image Credit: London Gatwick Airport)
London Gatwick Airfield (Image Credit: London Gatwick Airport)

British Airways is to suspend its London Gatwick – Lima route for the winter season from Sunday 29 October 2017. The route is expected to resume from late March 2018.

BA launched its route from London Gatwick to Lima in May 2016. No specific reason has been given for the seasonal cancellation. However, it is assumed the cause of cancellation is unsatisfactory commercial performance. The affected BA flight numbers are BA2239 and BA2238.

If your flight is cancelled you will be reaccommodated on Iberia’s daily service to Lima via Madrid from either London Gatwick or London Heathrow. However, do note that Iberia does not always operate its premium economy cabin between Madrid and Lima. Therefore, if you have booked to fly in World Traveller Plus on BA you may be downgraded to economy on Iberia. Iberia’s daily flight from Madrid to Lima (Flight IB6651 departs Madrid at 12:50pm and arrives in Lima at 17:35. Therefore, connections at Madrid should not be onerous.

Alternatively, you can be accommodated on American Airlines’ services to Lima via either Dallas Fort Worth or Miami.

Further options with partner airlines may become available in the coming weeks.

If you prefer you should be able to move your flight to a date when BA is operating the route. Alternatively, you are entitled to a refund.

Affected passengers should contact either BA or their travel agent.

Update: The route is scheduled to resume on Sunday 25 March 2018, operating three times weekly on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

BA cabin crew strike schedules Friday 3 March – Thursday 9 March 2017

Here are BA’s schedules for the planned seven days of industrial action from Friday 3 March to Thursday 10 March 2017.

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British Airways Tailfin (Image Credit: Nick Morrish/British Airways)
British Airways Tailfin (Image Credit: Nick Morrish/British Airways)

British Airways “Mixed Fleet” cabin crew at London Heathrow plan to take industrial action over seven consecutive days from Friday 3 March to Thursday 9 March 2017.

BA has reviewed its schedules for all seven days of industrial action and has confirmed that:

  • All flights from London City, London Gatwick and London Stansted will operate as normal.
  • The majority of flights from London Heathrow will operate as normal with some flights merged and short-haul flights most at risk of cancellation.
  • However, there will also be a very large number of additional cancellations to short-haul services from London Heathrow to France, Spain and surrounding regions due to industrial action by Air Traffic Controllers in France

BA has not and will not publish a list of cancelled flights as it evidently keen to play down the impact of the industrial action.

Cancelled flights due to industrial action include the following (but this is not intended to be a complete list and does not include cancellations caused by strike action by Air Traffic Controllers in France):
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BA now selling “Club Europe” on UK domestic flights from Friday 31 March 2017

BA will operate its “Club Europe” short-haul business class on all UK domestic routes from Friday 31 March 2017.

London Air Travel » British Airways » Page 44

British Airways Club Europe Cabin
British Airways Club Europe Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways is to introduce its “Club Europe” business class cabin on all of its UK domestic routes from Friday 31 March 2017.

Currently, all UK domestic routes operate with a single class configuration on board. From Friday 31 March 2017, all UK domestic flights will operate in a two class, Club Europe business class and EuroTraveller economy configuration.

(Note, BA’s official guidance says that Club Europe launches on Saturday 1 April, but ba.com is showing it as available from Friday 31 March.)

This means passengers in Club Europe will benefit from seating in 2-2, rather than 3-3 configuration on all Airbus aircraft from London Gatwick and Heathrow as well as complimentary food & drink (though this is likely to be limited given the relatively short flying times).
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BA cabin crew strike schedules Wednesday 22 – Saturday 25 February 2017

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British Airways has announced its schedules following planned industrial action by “Mixed Fleet” cabin crew at London Heathrow over four consecutive days on Wednesday 22, Thursday 23, Friday 24 and Saturday 25 February 2017.

BA has confirmed that it plans to operate a full schedule from all London airports on the first three days of industrial action on Wednesday 22, Thursday 23, and Friday 24 February 2017.

Update: Although BA had planned to operate a full schedule today (Thursday 23 March) there are a significant number of operational cancellations due to severe weather caused by Storm Doris in the U.K. and Northern Europe and industrial action in Italy. A lot of flights to the North of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern Europe are cancelled. Approximately 28 short-haul return flight cancellations are planned as at 10.30am. There may also be residual cancellations and delays on Friday 24 February 2017 as a consequence of the aftermath of Storm Doris.

BA has not announced any planned cancellations for Saturday 25 February 2017.
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BA launches Milan from London City & Stansted from late April 2017

British Airways will fly to Milan Linate from London City & Stansted from late April 2017.

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BA CityFlyer Embraer at London City Airport
BA CityFlyer Embraer at London City Airport

The merry go round of route changes at London City and BA’s gradual increase of weekend services at London Stansted continues with the launch of new year-round services to Milan, Italy from these two London airports in April.

The new routes to Milan’s Linate Airport will start from London City Airport on Monday 24 April 2017 and from Stansted Airport on Saturday 29 April 2017.

There will be two flights a day on week days and one a day at weekends from London City and two a week from Stansted.

Flights will be operated using Embraer aircraft in a two class Club Europe business class and EuroTraveller economy configuration. Note that at some point in the summer, BA will introduce its Buy On Board “M&S On Board” catering service on these flights.

BA also flies to Milan Linate (as well as Malpensa airport) from London Heathrow up to six times a day and it is possible to “mix and match” flights if convenient.

The addition of this route at London Stansted means BA now serves nine routes at this airport: Berlin, Faro, Florence, Geneva, Ibiza, Malaga, Nice, and Palma.

Flights are on sale now at ba.com

Here’s the initial timetable at launch:
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BA cabin crew strike cancellations Friday 17 – Monday 20 February 2017

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British Airways Cabin Crew (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Cabin Crew (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways has updated its schedules to account for its contingency plans following planned industrial action by “Mixed Fleet” cabin crew at London Heathrow on Friday 17, Saturday 18, Sunday 19 and Monday 20 February 2017.

Unite has also called for a further four days of industrial action Wednesday 22, Thursday 23, Friday 24 and Saturday 25 February 2017. BA will publish its flight schedules for these dates at the weekend.

There are no signs of any negotiations taking place between BA and Unite. Put simply, both sides seem determined to sit this out.

BA has confirmed that:

  • All flights from London City, London Gatwick and London Stansted will operate as normal.
  • The vast majority of flights from London Heathrow are scheduled to operate as normal.

BA has cancelled a select number of flights from London Heathrow. In the event that your flight is cancelled you should be offered an alternative flight on the same route, a rebooking to an alternative destination nearby, or a refund.

BA has not published a list of cancelled flights. However, we have scanned BA’s schedules and we have identified the following cancellations so far.

Please note this is not intended to be a definitive list and this may be subject to change. You should always check you booking directly at ba.com before finalising your travel plans.

Cancelled Flights – Friday 17 February 2017
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BA cancels Doha from Friday 17 – Monday 20 February 2017

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British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways has cancelled its daily flight from London Heathrow to Doha (and the return flight from Doha on the following day) for a period of four days from Friday 17 February to Monday 20 February 2017.

The affected flight numbers are BA123 and BA122.

The reason cited for the cancellation is “operational reasons”. It is highly likely that this is connected to planned strike action by “Mixed Fleet” London Heathrow cabin crew on these dates.

BA has a rebooking agreement with Qatar Airways (which is a fellow Oneworld alliance member and a 20% shareholder of BA’s parent company International Airlines Group).

If your flight is cancelled (at the time of writing the flight is not cancelled on all days on ba.com though it has notified the travel trade of the cancellations) you have the option of rebooking on to one of Qatar Airways’ five daily flights from London Heathrow to Doha.
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