Why British Airways still don’t get it.

Regular readers may have noticed that I’ve somewhat fallen out of love with British Airways. I fly them now when there’s no real alternative.

Those that know me personally for a number of years will remember me as a staunch defender of their staff and their product. Unfortunately no more. Years of relentless cost-cutting and under-investment have come home to roost.

If you needed an example of this, let’s take this example of BA2036 from Orlando to London Gatwick on 1st November.

This was widely reported, by a number of news outlets, including the BBC, describing a three day “journey from hell“.

Aircraft have maintenance issues, unfortunately anyone who flies regularly will have experienced that. It’s how you deal with them that sets the good carriers apart from the bad ones.

A lot of the US airlines have invested in automated tools for rebooking passengers when things go wrong. I’ve been mid-way through a delayed flight, knowing I’ll miss my connection, and have refreshed the app (using the on board internet connection), and have seen my itinerary changed automatically. New boarding passes, new flight numbers, everything.

On a separate occasion, I was met at the gate on a late arriving aircraft by an agent with two boarding passes – one for a flight leaving “right now” and the second boarding pass for the next service in case I didn’t make it.

This is absolutely harder to do when an entire aircraft is sick and some 300 passengers need to be re-accommodated, but isn’t impossible.

British Airways is in a joint venture with American Airlines and thus could have re-accommodated passengers on alternative connecting services.

From looking at the schedules, American fly from Orlando to:

  • Chicago (5x)
  • Miami (7x)
  • Charlotte (9x)
  • Dallas Fort Worth (8x)
  • Philadelphia (5x)
  • New York JFK (2x)
  • Phoenix (2x)

Granted a trip via Phoenix would be several hours in the wrong direction. However the point is that with all those services, at least some of the passengers could have been booked on alternative flights. That’s a lot of flights there, to a lot of international gateways, to connect with a lot of trans-atlantic flights.

That’s not to mention the other airlines that operate services to Orlando which they could have been rebooked onto (at greater cost to BA) such as Virgin Atlantic or Lufthansa.

But they weren’t.

It’s therefore unfortunate that the aircraft had a second technical problem and had to divert to JFK. The New York marathon was on, meaning that hotels were very fully booked. However if half of the passengers had already been rebooked, it would have been an easier problem to solve.

Again, at JFK, some passengers were placed on other services from there, but according to Flyertalk, no passengers were booked on other airlines, not even Joint-Business partners American.

So this is why I won’t spend my money with British Airways any more.

  • They haven’t invested in automated rebooking tools as their competitors have
  • They won’t rebook passengers on partners, let alone competitor airlines, when they are clearly at fault

They do everything possible to minimise costs for themselves rather than transport paying passengers from A to B, as they have contracted to do so.

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