Safety is not ‘Customer Experience’.

I’m a little annoyed with British Airways’ Twitter team.  I think they’ve missed the point big time with a important message that I had for them.  However let me rewind a little and explain the context.

On Friday I flew over to Belfast with British Airways.  This was a perfectly normal domestic flight on an A320 in many respects.  It was pretty busy being almost completely full and the service was average in pretty much every respect.

I had booked to sit in an exit row, aisle seat; one of the best seats on the aircraft.

British Airways have recently run a densification programme on their aircraft, installing new slimline seats across their entire fleet.  That’s had the side effect of meaning that nearly all seats have only 29″ to 30″ of legroom, or ‘pitch’ as the industry calls it.  The ones with most legroom are now the exit row seats, which have substantially more than any of the Club Europe seats will have.

As I’m sure many of you know when you sit in an exit row, the crew have to point this out to you and explain that you need to open the door in the event of an emergency.

From what I understand of the safety procedures, the European safety regulator, EASA, doesn’t require as in-depth a briefing as the American carriers do.  The Americans require you to verbally confirm to the cabin crew that you understand the spiel that they give to you.

Well on my flight, nothing.  No explanation that I was sat in the exit row, that I might have to do something, that I might have to look at the placard on the seat in front of me.  That I might have to put all of my hand luggage up in the locker.  Nada.

So I tweeted British Airways, wondering if things had changed?

After a few hours, they replied:

So I gave them the flight details which I already had done in the first tweet anyway.

So they replied with this:

That tweet really annoyed me.  Safety is NOT customer experience.  In fact, safety should be as divorced from customer experience as possible.

British Airways are doing everything they can to cut costs and reduce the customer experience as much as they can do at the moment, especially for economy class passengers.  So to link that with safety I think is pretty atrocious.

I responded asking them to clarify a bit more.

They did reply again when I pointed this out.

The flight from London to Belfast is also crewed by Mixed Fleet (I covered the various British Airways ‘fleets’ in this article) and they’re on strike at the moment.  Clearly these four crew members weren’t striking so perhaps the fact they were at work meant the in-charge crew member didn’t have time to do the appropriate pre-flight briefing?

I am starting to become quite concerned about British Airways that items like this safety failing in the first place, the on-going industrial action, and their very poor response on Twitter to this occurrence are part of a wider lowering of critical standards.  History has shown that major incidents are caused by lots of little things being missed that have a cumulative effect.  Thankfully my flight landed safely.

One comment

  1. I have provided BA with quite a few safety comments to CSD or via feedback forms or email over the years. On not one single occasion have I had feedback.

    The exit row briefing is particularly important to me. I can still remember the smell of the passengers who burnt in their 737 fire at Manchester in 1985.

    Another of the lessons that has been forgotten. I also noticed that the brief was not given on my last BA short haul.

    I believe every passenger interaction has to be through the experience management team and not real staff

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