British Airways has gone from a world-class carrier and even a leading carrier in Europe at one time to truly just short of a low-cost carrier. BA, or Bloody Awful, has stripped away service, inflight offerings and other amenities making them among the worst “full service” legacy carriers in Europe. Flying with BA for the first time since spring of 2016, I witnessed just how horrible British Airways has become. Not to mention, my flights with British Airways was just one day after the major IT meltdown which grounded nearly all operations.
Pre-flight and Lounge
Berlin Tegel airport is dated and is in badly needed of being replaced. Although the airports is convenient for origin and destin travelers, it is also horrible for connections and during delays. Lounges are landside and each gate has its own security and passport control. It was built before modern day security was required for flying. The airport has a very similar design to Kansas City International. Convenient, but also a pain!
Check-in and dropping my luggage was easy as there was no line at 11:15, 1 hour and 5 minutes before my departure. The security line was long so I went to the lounge for a snack for 30 minutes before attempting to board the plane. After visiting the lackluster lounge, security still took nearly 30 minutes. No big deal, as it was evident my plane was delay.
Not until 12:45 did BA (Basic Airlines) decide to inform us that the plane was delayed. We had two pilots and a purser, but no cabin crew! Passengers were clearly upset and started chanting “Not Good Enough British Airways!” Several of the passengers had already been delayed for over 24 hours! It was not a good day to be flying BA!
Finally at 1:45 a crew from a local hotel arrived. Passengers sitting at the gate applauded and cheered their arrival. Meanwhile, while waiting for the crew, the purser did serve water to passengers in the gate area. Her service was fantastic, but did not make up for the delay. Passengers were angry as gate agents refused to rebook passengers who were missing connections.
Even when I asked for help, I was told “Oh yes, you’ll miss that flight. Go to London and they will short it out there.” When I even tried to object, the gate agents told me there was nothing they could or would do for me. Honestly, I’ve never seen such poor customer service! For reference I was flying business class and connecting to First. This made zero difference to the gate agents who refused to help.
British Airways Inflight Service
Once on the plane passengers hurriedly stored their luggage. It took less than 20 minutes for everyone to board. Everyone was in a hurry! I’ve never seen a A320 load so quickly!
My flight was in Business class, which in Europe is really Tommy Class. It is a standard economy class seat with the middle seat blocked or turned into oversize arm rest. This provides more personal space, but literal no additional width or pitch to the seat. Tommy class configuration allows for a more flexible business class cabin as airlines can add or reduce the number of rows in business for each flight. Before departure, a hot towel is available to each passenger in business class.
Service in the air was fantastic. Meaning the crews are very attentive! Drinks are always full and each flight attendant was very happy and all smiles. In business alcohol flows freely and a meal is available. Even during the final descent the flight attendant insisted that I have a refill before landing. She then placed the drink in a plastic cup, so I could continue to drink it during landing! Business class flyers do have the opportunity to buy speciality snacks and drinks.
Behind row five though it’s a completely different story. Economy class on British Airways is truly the worst in Europe! British Airways now charges for food and drinks in economy! Even a can of coke or a cup of coffee runs nearly $2.25! If I didn’t know any better, I would think I was flying Spirit or Ryan Air! After all, who charges for a can of soda? ONLY the ultra-low cost carriers!
Thoughts on British Airways
I honestly cannot say that I like British Airways. The airline has implemented several cost saving and cost reduction measures under their new CEO Alex Cruz. As he was the CEO of IAG’s Vueling, the low cost carrier that IAG owns, he has brought the practices of a low cost carrier to a full service legacy carrier.
There are some unbundling of fares I can understand, but charging for water, I do not! Some fees we have all grown accustomed to, such as luggage and meals on short flights. However, I cannot believe that British Airways now charges for soda, water, and coffee! No wonder people are revolting! BA is Bloody Awful! They are a Basic Airlines! BA is no longer the BA which many of us once loved!
— Rocky (@doublewidesfly) May 28, 2017
If British Airways goal is to become a low cost carrier, they are not far off. I believe under the leadership of Alex Cruz they will slowly transition into a LCC. Yet, if BA is going to operate as a LCC, their fares need to reflect exactly that! BA cannot charge legacy full service fares while offer a low cost carrier unbundled product!
Finally, during irregular operations, communication is key and I would only give British Airways a C at best. Several Airlines have suffered from major IT meltdowns in recent months and years. Thankfully BA was able to somewhat recover is less than 24 hours. Yet from my experience in Berlin and my friend who was stuck in Milan, British Airways irregular operation, communication, and rebooking process is bloody awful! Hope if you are flying British Airways that nothing goes wrong! Once onboard in business class everything is swell, but gate agents are helpless.
And think to yourself, if you’re flying economy, ask yourself why? You can probably save money by flying Ryanair or Easyjet and receive the same substandard service and upselling!