Post written by Amir Noorbakhsh in collaboration with Rocky.
I remember when it was always so exciting to see the British Airways logo pass by outside of the terminal. As a kid, I recall wanting to always fly British Airways. British Airways had it all: traditional English breakfasts and exciting inflight services with a British touch They were even the first carrier to offer a fleet with lie-flat beds in Business Class. British Airways was a pioneer in inflight comfort and entertainment. But now, everything is different.
British Airways: From Queen to Penny-Pincher
British Airways has become a legacy carrier gone full-blown low-cost. What originally began as a way to compete with low cost carriers such as Ryan Air and Easyjet, has now dragged the airline into becoming one of them. Yes, British Airways still offers Business Class and other comforts common on full-service legacy carriers, but British Airways has also made several cuts in economy and business class. What’s the difference between a European low cost carrier and British Airways? The front cabin and all the gate slots at London Heathrow Airport….
In the last several years, we have seen several cuts at British Airways which makes the airline no better than the low cost carriers. British Airways crams more seats in Economy, resulting in less legroom. There has also been severe cuts to baggage allowances. In addition, food and drinks no longer free in Economy on intra-European flights. If you want water, you must pay for it, just as you would on Easyjet! These downgrades are just some of the components of British Airways’ cost cutting plan.
Even on North America-London flights shorter than eight hours, British Airways no longer serves a traditional English Breakfast. Instead a protein bar is available, making sure you arrive to your destination hungry. On European flights, you’re lucky if you can get a cup of tap water from the slow buy-on-board service that sometimes runs out snacks.
Related content: British Airways Economy Review, London to Berlin.
A family recently won a legal battle against the airline’s lack of meal service claiming fares were purchased on the basis of complimentary meal service. Since the law suite, British Airways offers free meal service for all its London City Airport flights until sometime in October.
Economy class passengers are not alone in the cuts. Even First Class passengers have seen downgrades in amenity kits and a lower quality meal service. British Airways First Class is truly no better than Business Class on other airlines these days. The only saving grace is the First Class lounge or better yet the Concord Room at Heathrow and the better wine offerings.
Reasoning For the Low Cost Transition
So you ask, why has all of this happened? Why has the former ‘Queen of the Skies’ become the new ‘Cheap of the Skies’ while still charging and acting like a legacy carrier?
The answer may lie with the CEO. Alex Cruz, previously was the CEO of low-cost Spanish carrier Veuling. He has been turning the UK’s legacy carrier into a low-cost nightmare. As British Airways faces tough competition in several markets from low cost carriers, both within Europe and on transatlantic flights, British Airways is looking for ways to save money. Alex Cruz, knows how to run a low cost airline, so he’s implementing change in London.
After the IT meltdown last summer, Mr. Cruz came under fire for not responding quickly enough and leaving stranded passengers and agents without any information. British Airways agents weren’t even allowed to book passengers to fly on other airlines, leaving agents with no options for frustrated passengers. This would be quite normal for a low cost carrier, which does not have interlined agreements with other airlines. But British Airways has several partners and agreements with other airlines and competitors. Yet each time British Airways places someone on another flight, the airline looses money. So instead of helping passengers get to their destination and pay other airlines to carry their passengers, Alex Cruz decided to strand millions of passengers around the globe.
Many questioned why the airline had moved more than 1,000 IT jobs from the UK to India, part of Mr. Cruz’s cost cutting efforts for cheaper labor – but were met with different responses and excuses from the airline. If the airline never moved the jobs to India days before the IT Meltdown, one must have to ask if it would have even happened.
The problems at British Airways are not going away. Destroying the flying experience while saving money is having negative effects for the airline. All of these cuts have led competitor Virgin Atlantic Airways to ramp up their rhetoric against British Airways. Promotions such as #ABBA (Anyone But British Airways) became quite popular on social media, British Airways sunk even further with several employee strikes in 2017.
In Final Thought
So, what does this all mean for British Airways passengers? Everyone should think twice about considering another airline for mid-haul and long haul flights. Paying a little more on a different airline will give you more. Such amenities such as baggage without fees, complimentary inflight meals, and enhanced premium services. If you want the truly unbundled service, consider a low cost carrier like Norwegian or Easyjet. If you want legacy service with added fees or your flight is less than 2 hours, fly British Airways.
Evaluate all options before choosing British Airways. Sometimes, British Airways may be the only good option for flights. Yet, if the flight is an intra-European flight, treat it like any other low-cost carrier. British Airways will nickel and dime you as bad as Ryan Air!
Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Cruz does not understand customer loyalty and the importance in living up to standards of a legacy carrier that has been in operation since 1974. If changes do not happen soon, Mr. Cruz’s cost cutting efforts may ultimately lead to the demise of one of the world’s most renowned international airlines.