Text of a letter sent to Willie Walsh CEO of BA on 17 March 2007
"Dear Mr Walsh,
I would like to provide you with a few observations about my recent “first class” return trip (London-Beijing) on BA (8th March-12th March):
· The standard of the Heathrow lounge was not what I would expect for first class; it does not compare favourably wrt the facilities, or indeed size, of lounges offered by other airlines eg Virgin.
· There were only two Internet workstations in the London and Beijing lounge. In the Beijing lounge, one of the Internet workstations was out of order.
· The theory of the London lounge, as best as I can make out, is that customers sit down and are served by BA staff. Unfortunately, those customers who did not sit in the immediate vicinity of the bar were not able to attract the attention of staff for service, as there weren’t any staff in the non-bar area. I had to go to the bar to find anyone willing to serve me.
· The entertainment system on both flights did not work that well. The outgoing flight could not show the safety video, as the system had a malfunction. The quality of the picture on both flights was poor, and on some of the channels (outgoing and inbound) the video didn’t work at all.
· The remote control in the armrest on my outgoing flight was stuck, and had to be extracted by the cabin crew with a butter knife. Very high tech!
· In trying to manually extend the footrest on my seat, I managed to impale and cut my finger on a sharp piece of metal that was protruding from underneath the edge of the footrest.
· One member of staff, who was so ashamed by the quality, told me with head bowed in shame that the system was “out of the ark”. I would concur, as other airlines, such as Singapore and Virgin, used to have the same systems back in the early/mid nineties; they have long since upgraded them. I was advised that that the systems will be upgraded, but was also told that this same message has been repeated for quite some time. Having paid £6K for my ticket, hearing of future plans is of little interest to me.
· On both flights a curry was served, yet no chutneys were available. I improvised with marmalade. BA makes great efforts to tell me in the menu that the recipes are designed by world-class chefs. That being the case, why did I have to resort to using marmalade?
· The quality of the staff on both flights, and their customer care/attention, was good. They were all embarrassed by the poor state of the technology and equipment on board.
BA’s last remaining asset that has not been tarnished by strikes, security delays, delays in general and out of date entertainment systems, would appear to be its staff. However, if they are embarrased and ashamed of their company I wonder how long you will retain their loyalty?
Reputations are hard to earn, but easy to lose.
In brief, I do not think that the “first class” description equates to the price I paid, or the competition that BA faces. I will be travelling on a more regular basis to Beijing over the coming months/years, but will be (subject to schedules) looking to other airlines to get me there and back.
In my view, there are a number of issues that you need to address if BA is to retain the much tested “loyalty” of their customers, whether they travel economy, business or first.
I would be interested to hear you views on the above, and what steps BA will be taking in the short term to address these issues.
Thank you for your time.