Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 17 September 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.
Hurricane Florence and Super Typhoon Mangkhut
Hurricane Florence and Super Typhoon Mangkhut have dominated the news over the weekend. Both have caused considerable disruption at a substantial human and environmental cost.
In terms of disruption to flights, Hurricane Florence has now been downgraded to a Tropical Depression. There is still disruption to some coastal airports in the Carolinas due to flooding and infrastructure damage. Transatlantic flights from London seem to have largely escaped disruption.
For US domestic flights, American Airlines has largely resumed operations at its hub in Charlotte. However, some cancellations remain. Delta and United have been progressively resuming flights throughout the region.
BA, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic resumed flights from London Heathrow to Hong Kong on Sunday after widespread cancellations on Saturday. Cathay Pacific is now progressively resuming flight operations at Hong Kong. However, there are widespread cancellations today.
BA and catering have long had a troubled relationship.
In December 1997, the airline outsourced its catering operation to Gate Gourmet. Matters flared up in a quite spectacular fashion in the summer of 2005 when an industrial dispute at the company resulted in no catering on BA flights at Heathrow. To make matters worse, some BA ground staff at London Heathrow took wildcat industrial action in support of the workers resulting in days of disruption in the height of summer at a cost to the airline of £40m and negative publicity worldwide.
Given how much the UK’s reputation for food has improved over the past 20 years, for an airline keen to emphasis its Britishness, it has been a source of mystery why BA hasn’t made this more of a point of differentiation.
One answer is that as the catering budget is one of the airline’s few controllable costs, it is an easy target for a repeated cycle of investment and cutbacks.
However, with new Club Europe catering being, by all accounts, well received and Do&Co securing a new contract for the entire Heathrow operation there does seem a genuine desire to improve matters.
If we had one criticism there is still a little too much emphasis on serving what people think Britons eat (eg Full English breakfasts, Afternoon Tea) instead of what Britons actually eat.
Given BA is due to refurbish its London Heathrow lounges in the coming years, a logical progression would be to review catering and service provision in the lounges.
BaxterStorey has been responsible for catering provision in BA’s UK lounges since May 2013. Unlike Qantas, for example, where Sofitel run its international lounges, BA not opted to appoint a premium hospitality brand to run the food and beverage service in its lounges. I would not be surprised to see this reviewed.
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