BA Is Shite

BA Is Shite


The latest news and views on British Airways, the world's "favourite" airline.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Smelly Passengers

The Independent published this rather interesting item today:

"British Airways staff have criticised passengers as "smelly and annoying" and condemned the opening of Heathrow's Terminal 5 as a disaster.

According to comments on a Facebook page created by "London Gatwick Ground Staff", their biggest hate is travellers who put boarding passes in their mouths before handing them over at the departure gate.

One staff member criticises smelly passengers and celebrity fliers, while another vents his anger at Americans.

The postings on the social networking site, which is a closed group that only BA staff can join after being vetted by the organisers, include one by an apparent employee called "Deepa", who moans (complete with vernacular grammar and spellings): "They ask which gate with their stupid American accent – aaargggh!! Its soooo annoying!!!!" Another member of staff, named as "Suely", complains about "smelly passengers" and "snotty" celebrities.

The site also lampoons the chaotic opening of Terminal 5 (T5) in March.

It contains a link to a game in which Willie Walsh, BA's chief executive, is shown struggling with the baggage system at Terminal 5 and being hit by a succession of trolleys.

More than 36,000 passengers were hit by "multiple problems" on T5's day of opening. Flights were cancelled, massive queues built up and 23,000 bags had to be sorted by hand after the long-awaited opening of the £4.3bn terminal descended into chaos.

Disillusioned BA staff have also uploaded a video of a song containing the lyrics: "You can shove this terminal up your arse."

The revelations came two weeks after 13 Virgin Atlantic staff were sacked after describing their passengers as "Chavs" on their Facebook page. BA has launched an investigation into the postings. A spokesman refused to discuss whether disciplinary action would be taken. He said: "We will be talking to the individuals concerned about their disappointing and unwise comments, which are totally unrepresentative of the vast number of hard working ground staff we employ at Gatwick."

A scathing report by MPs today chimes with some of the BA employees' views, concluding that a catalogue of blunders turned T5's opening into a "national embarrassment".

The Commons transport select committee put the blame jointly on British Airways and on the airport operator BAA, which it said should be stripped of its monopoly over airports in the South of England.

It said: "What should have been an occasion of national pride was in fact an occasion of national embarrassment. When the baggage system failed, luggage piled up to such an extent that it was transported by road to be sorted off-site. According to BA, 23,205 bags required manual sorting before being returned to their owners."

The MPs blamed the shambles on inadequate communication between BA and BAA and poor staff training by BA. Louise Ellman, the committee's chairman, said: "We were struck by how much 'hoping for the best' BAA had engaged in prior to the opening of T5.

"We are glad BAA and BA have now taken measures to improve their communications but it is deeply regrettable these steps were not taken before the opening

Given the credit crunch, the lousy first few weeks of T5 and BA's ongoing issues wrt late/cancelled flights and lost bags I doubt that the staff will have too many passengers ("smelly" or otherwise) to worry about/be annoyed by in the future.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

BA Fined For Price Fixing

BA have been fined £2M by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for price fixing international air cargo fares between 2002 and 2006.

Source The Times.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Trouble With British Airways

It was once "the world's favourite airline", but Dispatches asks if the sun is setting on another great British institution.

Statistics volunteered by airlines reveal British Airways has mislaid more bags per passenger than any of its major European rivals since 2006. In the past 18 months BA has been caught price-fixing and suffered a disastrous opening to Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

The film features figures suggesting BA has cancelled more flights than any of its main European competitors so far this year. At the most challenging crossroads in aviation history, Dispatches assesses the reputation of our national flag carrier.

Watch it via this link

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Ongoing Problems?

Virgin claim that there are still ongoing problems at BA's T5, BA claim there aren't.

What's the real story?

Feel free to contact me privately if you have a recent story about BA.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Number 1

Congratulations to Willie Walsh (CEO of BA) for coming top in a survey of the most mentioned FTSE 100 bosses on the internet.

Pity it is for the wrong reasons!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Criminal Charges

Three former and one current British Airways executive will be taking the stand in the United Kingdom in September to face charges over their actions in a global price-fixing cartel.

Andrew Crawley current head of sales, Martin George former commercial director, Iain Burns former communications head, and Alan Burnett UK and Ireland sales head, are charged with Price-Fixing, which could see jail terms of up to five years and unlimited fines.

In Britain, the Office of Fair Trading made 'Price-Fixing' a specific criminal charge in 2002. This will be only the second such proceedings of its kind in London.

All four are charged for grievances which took place between 2004 and 2006. All three former execs resigned from the carrier in 2006.

"Four men have today been charged with cartel offences under the Enterprise Act in connection with the OFT's criminal investigation into price-fixing of fuel surcharges for long haul passenger flights," said the Office of Fair Trading in an official statement.

"[They] are charged with having dishonestly agreed with others to make or implement arrangements which directly or indirectly fixed the price for the supply in the United Kingdom of passenger air transport services by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways."

A plea agreement between British Airways and the US Department of Justice which saw the carrier being hit with a US$300 million fine, and immunity refused to ten former and current BA staff.

In this instance, Virgin Atlantic was granted immunity for its actions in the dealings as it was the whistle blower on the case.

The four in the current charge will face a judge on the 24th of September.

Source e-Travel Blackboard

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

BA Isn't Working

BA may try to have us believe, in their new advertising campaign, that Terminal 5 is working. However, the same seemingly cannot be said for the airline itself.

The Times reports that British Airways loses more bags and operates more delayed planes than any other major airline in Europe, according to a confidential report seen by The Times.

BA customers were 80% more likely to lose their luggage than average in the first half of 2008. Nine passengers travelling on a typical BA jumbo jet flight between January and June found that their bags were missing when they arrived at their destination.

The research also found that one third of BA's short-haul and medium-haul flights and roughly one third of its long-haul arrivals and departures were at least 15 minutes late this year, well below the European average.

BA can't blame all of that on T5.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Terminal 5 Is Working

Following on from the disastrous and humiliating opening of Heathrow Terminal 5 earlier this year, BA have decided to try to rebuild its shattered brand by launching a campaign entitled "Terminal 5 Is Working".

BA will try to prove that the terminal is working, by collating daily information on baggage arrival times, flight punctuality and the time it takes incoming passengers to reach arrivals.

It will be very interesting to see these statistics.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Price Fixing Charges

The FT reports that four past and present British Airways executives will be charged with price fixing on transatlantic routes.

The FT reports that the charges will be brought by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), and be formally announced within the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Sahreholder Grilling

Shareholders finally have their chance today to quiz BA executives, including Willie Walsh, about the Heathrow Terminal 5 (T5) opening fiasco at BA's annual meeting in London.

Good luck to them (the shareholders)!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Warnings Not Heeded

The Telegraph reports that MPs were told that British Airways and airport operators were warned by staff about the impending chaos at Terminal 5, but did nothing to avert the crisis.

The Guardian reports that 900 bags a day, belonging to passengers transferring between planes at T5, are still being lost.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Refunds For Overcharging

Passengers who were overcharged during their flight from the United Kingdom to the United States, between 2004 to 2006, are entitled to claim refunds totaling to $139M.

The refunds are due to passengers who flew the Atlantic via BA or Virgin, between August 2004 and March 2006. Passengers were overcharged by the two airlines, when they conspired on fixing fuel surcharges on transatlantic flights.

The refunds range from $2 and $22.50 for each ticket bought in the UK or US. The deadline for submitting a claim is December 31 2012.

It is estimated that around 5.6 million people flew during this period.

Claims may be processed online at

Monday, 7 July 2008


British Airways is celebrating 100 days since it opened Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport.

Willie Walsh, CEO of BA, said that "every day I get emails, letters or comments from customers telling me how much they enjoy using the terminal".


Monday, 30 June 2008

BA's U Turn

BA has done a U turn, that has put it at odds with other airlines, and is now calling for BAA not to be broken up.

For why?

Seemingly BA's desire for expanded runway capacity at Heathrow outweighs its desire to improve customer service at Heathrow, by having BAA taken out of the equation.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Customer Care Issues

It would seem from this story in the Daily Echo about BA backtracking on a refund, that BA still don't get customer care.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Customer Care

This story, reproduced in full from the Jewish Chronicle, indicates that BA do seem to have trouble communicating effectively with their disgruntled customers.

It seems to me, if the article is accurate, that this row could have been defused if BA had dealt with it promptly and with sensitivity.

"British Airways this week apologised to a passenger whose luggage was daubed with Nazi graffiti apparently while in transit.

Emma Pelta, 29, a member of Loughton Synagogue in Essex, flew from London Gatwick to Orlando, Florida, last December.

But it was not until she arrived at her boyfriend's home in Florida, she says, that she realised her bags were marked with a large swastika and the initials NF (assumed to stand for National Front).

She has spent the past five months requesting an apology from the airline, calling them more than 20 times.

It was not until the JC contacted BA this week that a member of their customer-service team phoned Ms Pelta to apologise and offer a £150 flight voucher. BA also promised to send flowers and a letter of apology.

'It's been a long time coming,' said Ms Pelta, a medical representative who gave up her job to go to Florida.

'They should have apologised earlier. I don't think they necessarily understand the seriousness of seeing a swastika and NF initials on my bag.

'To me, it is a big deal, and I am completely offended beyond words with what I saw. I told them I still want to receive an actual letter of apology.

'On behalf of the Jewish community, I want to know that this is going to be investigated properly with steps being taken to ensure the safety of the community and that something like this does not happen again while bags are in their care.'

Ms Pelta first contacted the airline from Florida on the day she realised that her bags had been marked.

'I told them that I wanted a letter of apology and some sort of compensation for my bag.'

She received a $160 cheque (£80) to pay for the damage to her bag, but was told that the matter needed to be dealt with in the UK.

When she returned to London in March, she contacted BA again, only to receive a letter written on behalf of Heathrow Terminal 5 apologising for any baggage problems.

'I mean, I flew from Gatwick. Were they having a laugh?'

She said that, despite the vouchers, she would be reluctant to fly with BA again.

A BA spokesperson said: 'We have apologised profusely to Ms Pelta and offered her a discount on future travel. We are sorry that she did not get called earlier and are also very sorry for any distress that has been caused.'

Though the airline said it was 'concerned' about 'how this bag may have been damaged and drawn on', it refused to comment further on any internal inquiry as to the circumstances.

Ms Pelta is flying back to Florida next month. This time she is flying Virgin

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Ladbrokes Falls Out With BA

An interesting story in The Times today:

"Chris Bell, the chief executive of Ladbrokes, is refusing to allow any of his 14,000 staff to fly with British Airways after the airline tried to force his teenage daughter and her friend off a flight back from Barbados.

The private dispute, which has ratcheted up into a corporate row, could cost BA £2 million in business and has forced Willie Walsh, BA's chief executive, to intervene personally in an effort to defuse the situation

It is interesting because airlines (not just BA) regularly overbook their flights (see my own experience of flying to Stockholm). The difference being that if you are not big/strong enough to argue with them they will walk all over you.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Willie Walsh Forgoes Bonus

Willie Walsh, CEO of brand damaged BA, has announced that despite the fact that BA made record profits in the year ended March 2008 he will forgo his personal £700K bonus.

Walsh is quoted on Citywire as saying that the bonus would:

"inappropriate in the context of the very disappointing opening of Terminal 5 in March…despite the fact it was a record year in terms of our financial performance."

Credit where credit is due, this is a very clever PR move.

Now if he could only get his planes to run on time!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Walsh To Go - Eventually

Reuters report that British Airways (BA) is seeking to fill a new role of chief operations officer to replace two executives who "quit" in the wake of the Heathrow Terminal 5 fiasco.

Reuters note that the BA spokeswoman "declined to confirm reports in the Observer and Independent newspaper that a headhunter instructed by BA had been told to find a recruit who could be groomed to take over from BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh.

'It would be premature to say that,' the spokeswoman said

In other news, to cheer up the long suffering passengers waiting at departure gates for their delayed BA flights, asap reports that according to the Association of European Airlines, British Airways has accumulated a record 43% of all its short and medium haul flights as delayed.

In 2007, the percentage of delayed BA flights was 29%.

This year's results place BA bottom in comparison with the 29 European carriers which have submitted statistics. As you can see from this site, I have certainly experienced quite a number of delays myself with BA.

BA's long haul flights were also showing the same level of delay, a decrease in efficiency from the same period last year.

Allitalia, Air France and Iberia manage to maintain 80% efficiency.

Why such a lousy performance by BA?

Seemingly T5 Heathrow has had a lot to do with it!

Given that Mark Bullock (Managing Director of BAA Heathrow) is leaving, following the T5 shambles (last week, MPs said the T5 fiasco had "made a fool out of the country" and called for an explanation), why does Willie Walsh still remain in his post?

Monday, 12 May 2008

The "Customer Experience"

BA wrote to myself and other executive club members on Friday to tell us that they they will be phasing the move of long haul flights to T5.

"The decision to move the remaining long haul flights into Terminal 5, in a phased approach, has been taken to ensure we can deliver the high standards of customer experience we promised our customers."

If only they had thought of the "customer experience" before they opened T5!

Friday, 9 May 2008

BA Compromised

Willie Walsh admitted to the Transport Committee on Wednesday that BA had compromised on testing the baggage system.

He is quoted in the Times as saying:

"We believed that, while there were known risks, the opening would be successful.

We didn't supply staff with sufficient training and familiarisation. If we did it again, we would do things differently

BA chose to open T5 then, knowing the risks, because the cost of delay would have far exceeded any costs involved in compensating passengers for a screw up. The negative impact on the reputation of BA, and indeed of the country, was ignored by BA.

It seems to me that, at the very least, BA should remove the word "British" from its name/logo; so as to reduce the damaging impact that its poor reputation has on our country.

BAA, during the same hearing, managed to show the world that they are truly useless as well.

BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said:

"I have not yet made the time available to find out who knew what when."

With Walsh and Matthews left to run the show, as demonstrated by their attitude, it is hardly surprising that T5 is a shambles.

It should be noted that BA still do not have the confidence in T5 to move their long haul flights there yet.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

BA Loses 220,000 Passengers

The Times reports that on top of losing 20,000-28,000 bags, BA has now lost 220,000 passengers.

How very careless of BA!

Much of the blame for this is being laid at the door of the T5 fiasco.

Fair enough.

However, I would cite my own recent experience of flying BA as another reason for the decline in passenger numbers; namely, late takeoffs!

Until BA improve their time keeping, people are simply going to find other airlines that are more reliabe.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

BA Truly is Shite

Welcome to customer care, BA style!

Here I am at Arlanda airport, Stockholm, allegedly waiting for my 18:40 flight to London Thiefrow T5.

I have arrived and checked in, at the correct time, yet there is one small fly in my oinkment...BA (the alleged "world's favourite airline") is not ready for me.

Seemingly, for reasons that I am not privileged to learn, the plane is not ready for the departure (to remind you, this departure is scheduled for 18:40).

What time will it depart?

A mere 1 hours 20 minutes 20:00, or there they say!

You will of course recall that my flight to Stockholm was late as a mere 70 minutes!

Does this represent quality service?


No, it does not!

Do I recommend that people fly BA?

Of course I don't!

As I have said before:

For all the good that Walsh and his failed sycophantic board have done for "customer care", it is better that they have done nothing at all.

My advice to Walsh, and the board, is simple:

In the name of God...go now!

The board is not fit to run a whore house, let alone an airline.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Live From Five Epilogue

I see my little journey is featured in The Times.

I am pleased to say that BA managed to get both myself and my baggage to my destination at the same time. I am thankful for small mercies.

However, the plane took off 70 minutes late.

The hapless passengers had to stand in the enclosed "gang plank" waiting to board the plane for around 7 minutes. Quite why we were checked through the gate, if the plane wasn't ready for boarding, is not clear.

On taking a walk around T5, and waiting at the gate to board, two thoughts occured to me about the design of T5:

1 The acoustics are lousy, the announcements made by our "gatekeepers" were inaudible, even though I was only a few feet away.

2 The lack of passengers in T5, that I commented on yesterday, is not just due to people taking their business elsewhere but the fact that long haul flights are currently not using T5. When they are phased in, I doubt that the T5 "shopping mall" (it isn't really an airport) will be a very pleasant place to use.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Live From Five

Here I am "live" at Heathrow T5.

Heathrow was today dubbed as the worst airport in Europe by American Airlines.

Surprisingly my check in was cock up free (touch wood my bag emerges at my destination airport), security was queue free and the BA lounge is an improvement on their old lounge in terminal 3.

There is one issue, that is great for me, but not so great for BA.

There are very few passengers here; none at check in, two at security and very few in the lounge.

It would seem that the recent problems with T5, and BA's handling of them, have driven BA's passengers away.


My mistake for being too upbeat, I see that my flight has now been delayed by 50 minutes!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Don't Fly BA if You Don't Speak English

I received a copy of this letter today, sent to BA, about the very shoddy level of customer service experienced by an elderly disabled lady flying BA.

This is not the way to treat customers:

"British Airways – Don't Travel with us if you don’t speak English!

A disabled British airways passenger on an emergency flight home to Thailand to see her critically ill son was told that she should not have travelled alone with British Airways if she didn't speak English.

My mother-in-law had visited the UK to see her daughter who had a new a baby in November, but was forced to travel back early on 20/02/08 as her son had been taken into hospital in a critical condition in Thailand. British airways agreed to switch her flight to an earlier flight after we explained her son is critically ill in hospital, as a good will gesture, at a cost of £114. This lead to a nightmare sequence of events.

In Manchester she was forced to leave her baggage due to the failure of the baggage system at Heathrow. She reluctantly agreed to take the flight after S** and her family were reassured by staff that that she would be collected at Heathrow.

Despite this reassurance that she would be collected by their wheel chair meet and greet service, she was only collected from her plane and left on the transfer bus and was not provided with a wheel chair and was not met by staff. Hence she missed her connection. When I communicated with S** at about 10.30 I was put on to a member of BA staff on her mobile.

When we asked what could be done, they said all of their hotels were full and therefore she would have to pay for her hotel herself. When I told them that this was not possible as she did not speak English. I was told that really she should not be flying alone if he does not speak English. She was forced to sleep on the bench in a room.

Despite telling the manager M, that S*** required a wheel chair, this was not provided. She only got a wheel chair the following morning. Being forced to walk, throughout out the night. She did not receive any food from staff or any vouchers until 24 hours later on Thursday. When talking to M for a second time, he apologised about his earlier remarks.

S*** has mobility problems and requires wheel chair use when walking or standing for long periods, due to an injury she suffered from a dog attack some years ago.

Her flight from Manchester, arrived late in at 9.24, and her connection to Bangkok was still boarding 1 hour later at 10.30, yet nobody collected her, forcing her to walk.

She was finally placed in the serenity lounge were she waited for 12 hours. Her only contact with us was by mobile phone. M had promised us that she could charge it. When she approached a male staff member at 14.30 on the 21/02/08, he could be heard by myself saying that he 'does not talk on mobile phones', once again she was left without any support, and her mobile phone went dead shortly after when her battery went dead.

We chose British Airways over other airlines because of their customer service, we were let down on this occasion. We paid an extra £114 to change our ticket to get her home on this date on top of the original ticket price of almost £600. Not to get the plane is bad enough, but for her to be treated the way is humiliating. I feel a sense of shame that our flagship airline would treat a person in this way

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

New York Times Advises "Avoid T5"

Wise words from The New York Times, in an article entitled "Heathrow's Terminal 5: How to Avoid It":

"It is hard to imagine that the airport experience, especially at London's dreaded Heathrow, could get any worse. But the opening of Terminal 5 on March 27 was a fiasco of epic proportions.

British Airways, sole occupiers of the "state-of-the-art" terminal, canceled hundreds of flights; some 20,000 bags were parted from their owners — many are still lost.

Despite reassurances from the airline that things will get better soon, travelers would be wise to avoid Terminal 5 over the next few weeks

Monday, 21 April 2008

Free Airmiles

BA have launched a great new airmiles giveaway programme, where lucky travellers have the chance to win thousands of free airmiles.

Is there a catch?


You have to have flown with BA via Terminal 5, not exactly a pleasant prospect in itself, and have suffered some form of inconvenience (eg loss of baggage).

The Daily Mail reports that some customers have been given an extra 10,000 BA Miles for relatively minor complaints, such as being denied an aisle seat.

The Daily Mail quotes an email from BA Customer Relations:

"We have had a high number of letters from our customers recently and we are concerned that we are keeping our customers waiting for a response."

It is reported that even Willie Walsh, who never responds personally to customer complaints, has set aside time to "personally review a significant number of customer letters and emails. Improvements happen as a result".

Needless to say, no matter how many millions of miles BA giveaway, if they can't sort out T5 they will have no customers left.

The good news for BA is that I will be testing out T5 next week, and look forward to blogging live from the terminal.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

You're Fired

My commiserations to the two senior managers of BA, Gareth Kirkwood, director of operations at BA, and David Noyes, head of customer relations, who were fired yesterday by BA.

Their crime?

Seemingly they are being blamed for the T5 fiasco.

This is somewhat ironic given that Willie Walsh publicly said that he took full responsibility for the worst corporate pr, customer relations and logistics disaster in living memory.

What is particularly disturbing is that both men had each spent over 20 years in BA. Long service does not in itself mean that someone is particularly skilled at their job. However, it indicates that they should at least be reasonably competent at the internal politics.

Given this, is it really the case that they could have been solely responsible for this cock up of gargantuan proportions?

Surely other members of the board had some "mild interest" in the plans for the opening of T5?

Wouldn't Walsh, and the other members of the board, have gone through the plans with them?

Does BA, by sacking these two men, mean to imply that they formulated the T5 plans alone, off their own bat without any form of discussion or scrutiny from the board?

What an unusual way to run a company!

The other interesting point to emerge from the sacking is that their two roles will be merged into one "Chief Operating Officer". Customer Relations and Operations are normally two entirely separate functions in large organisations, is this combining of roles entirely wise?

Whilst the new incumbent is head hunted, Willie Walsh will take on the role.

Does this mean that everything is now fine at T5?

The reaction from the insurance companies would indicate not, they are refusing to insure baggage passing through T5.

BA are staring into the abyss, one more foul up and others will go.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Standard Life Demands Answers

Standard Life Investments (SLI), one of BA's largest shareholders, met with BA chairman Martin Broughton yesterday to discuss the fiasco of Terminal 5 Heathrow.

Standard Life Investments, which owns 9.2% of BA, asked for the meeting with Broughton in order to raise its concerns about the shambles.

Neither Standard Life Investments nor British Airways would answer questions, last night, about their meeting.

David Cummings, SLI's head of UK equities, and Guy Jubb, the head of corporate governance, will meet BA's CEO Willie Walsh today.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Some Are More Equal Than Others

Those of us who have to endure flying BA know that when things go wrong, BA tends to treat all of its customers in pretty much the same way:


However, I am pleased to report that at least one person, who suffered baggage loss at T5 the other week was treated rather well.

Kate Moss received an instant compensation payment of £10K, after BA lost eight of her suitcases at T5.

Will BA be paying the same amount to all the other passengers whose baggage they have lost?

Answers on a postcard to Mr W Walsh!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

From The Horse's Mouth

The BA Executive Club Newsletter received on 10th April.

"I recognise that we have let customers down."


"Dear Mr Frost,

I was looking forward to telling you about the success of Terminal 5 this month, however, as you will be aware, we have experienced operational challenges since the opening of the terminal. I have spoken to a number of members personally and I recognise that we have let customers down. I, along with the rest of the team at British Airways are dedicated to meeting your expectations for Terminal 5 and offering you an improved experience.

If you are flying with us in the next few days, can I recommend that you check for the latest update or call us on 0800 727 800.

Our member offers this month include savings on Taste of London Festival tickets and bonus BA Miles with High Life Shop.

Warm regards,

Sarah Keyes
Executive Club Manager

Friday, 11 April 2008

BA Postpones Full Roll Out To T5

BA's ongoing PR, customer relations and logistics catastrophe wrt Terminal 5 Heathrow continues apace.

British Airways has scrapped plans to move its long-haul operations to Terminal 5 at the end of this month.

BA say that they want to "iron out" the problems at T5, before completing the transfer of flights. They expect to move their long-haul flights in June 2008.

Given the shambles so far, this decision is probably very wise.

However, other airlines are fuming.

Nigel Turner, chief executive of bmi, said that bmi was given only 30 minutes' notice of the decision.

"It is an absolutely outrageous announcement and done with no thought, consideration or consultation of any other airline other than BA.

The sequence of moves affects over 50 airlines, including bmi, at Heathrow. The programme and timescale of changes was agreed in joint consultation with all airlines that are now geared up to undertake the moves as agreed

BA may well face legal action over this last minute decision, which shows that they have no confidence in the new terminal.

A complete mess from start to finish.

How is it that the board of BA continues to remain in place?

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Traveller's Tale

My thanks to CH, who sent me this tale of woe relating to his experience of flying BA via Terminal 5.

Based on this, and the countless other tales in the media, my personal advice to Walsh:

"For all the good that you have done, it would have been better that you had done nothing at all.

In the name of God,


CH's tale:

"Just another story about BA and lost luggage.

We were at a 5 day conference in Miami last week and many of the participants had their luggage mislaid by BA in the T5 disaster. Some people were on transfer flights from Africa so they had no chance of luggage.

Despite assurances that they could 'buy what they needed' some of the people on the conference have now been told that they can only claim £35 for essentials!

They had resorted to having their clothes, the only sets they had, cleaned by the hotel overnight, sometimes they were reduced to drying things with a hairdryer in the morning. I wonder if they will get the cost of the cleaning back?

They had telephone calls to say the luggage had arrived in Miami and two of the girls were so desperate that they even took a trip out to Miami airport, of course they didn't find any luggage. The tracking system was a joke, even with a tracking number they had no chance of finding where their luggage was. Having returned home they still don't know where, or when, they might see their luggage.

These were at least 30 business class customers, with a large multinational company which has BA as it's preferred supplier. I wonder how long this arrangement will last for.

PS I elected to fly with Virgin.... like you I think BA is shite


The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) has waded in to the chaos at Heathrow Terminal 5, and has used an open letter to the City to air its grievances against BA senior management.

"BA management has taken its eye off the ball and it is time UK plc held them to account.

This airline can and should make Britain proud but a fundamental change of attitude is required from the very highest levels of BA management

This sounds very much like we can expect further disruption, this time from strikes, if flying BA.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Cardboard City

The Mail reports that Heathrow Terminal 5 has become cardboard city:

"Heathrow's Terminal Five was a cardboard city today after hundreds of passengers were stranded overnight at the airport.

Travellers were forced to sleep on the floor on mats handed out by airport staff after snow led to more than 140 flights cancelled to and from the £4.3billion terminal.

Passengers grabbed the boxes the bedrolls that had been packed in to shut out the light and noise and try to keep warm during the night

BA just don't get "customer care".

Who in their right mind will fly BA via Heathrow ever again?

Sunday, 6 April 2008

"Normal" Service II

I see that "normal" service at Heathrow Terminal 5 in fact means further lost baggage and cancelled flights.

Will this terminal ever work as we were told it would?

Willie Walsh has said "Blame me"; fair enough, but as yet he refuses to resign.

Given that the problems are persisting and that the fault for this lies full square at the feet of BA, which tried to save money by not training enough baggage operatives, why has Walsh not been forced to resign?

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), is quoted in The Times:

"Banks, institutional investors and analysts need to wake up to the fact that there is something very wrong right at the heart of this company that is making our great brand a laughing stock . . . we want confidence in our leadership, not arrogance."

Balpa will urge top shareholders this week to force a change in management, in the wake of the Terminal Five fiasco.

Were that to succeed, we can be sure that Walsh et al will receive some very handsome payoffs.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

"Normal" Service

Allegedly Heathrow Terminal 5 will be offering "normal" service today.

Whatever that means!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways, came under mounting pressure from staff and the City yesterday as he tries to extricate the airline from the chaos surrounding the botched opening of Heathrow's Terminal 5.

The union representing 3,000 British Airways pilots is seeking to oust Mr Walsh, the public face of BA, by blaming him directly for mismanaging the opening of the terminal.

The British Air Line Pilots' Association (Balpa) is preparing a statement condemning Mr Walsh and calling for better leadership of BA as it faces the twin challenges of moving to a new terminal and greater competition on its lucrative transatlantic routes.

Source The Times

The staff that I have spoken to when I have flown BA long haul have not had a good word to say for the management of BA, and were ashamed of the decline of the airline. The most notable criticism being that Walsh rarely, if at all, flies BA to talk to passengers and crew; ie management live in an ivory tower.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Milan Bound

I see 15,000 of BA's backlogged bags are on their way to Milan

Seemingly it is easier to use Milan than Terminal 5 Heathrow to sort out this mess.

Well done lads!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

28,000 Bags Lost

28,000 bags are now stuck at Heathrow Terminal 5 without their owners.

It will take at least a week to clear this backlog.

BA had been "proudly" claiming that "only" 15,000 bags had been lost, this number the yre vised upwards to 20,000; it now turns out that even this estimate was wrong.

Well done lads!

Willie Walsh, CEO of BA, has said he takes full blame for the ongoing fiasco.

That being the case, why hasn't he resigned?

Monday, 31 March 2008

The Terminal 5 Farce

When asked

"Why can't you give out some proper information?"

A BA manager replied:

"We can't.

We don't have any - and anyway, they haven't given us a Tannoy

Source The Guardian

One day someone will write a play about this farce.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

BA Faces Fines

British Airways is facing fines of up to £5,000 per passenger for breaking European rules by misleading the hundreds of travellers stranded at Heathrow about their compensation rights. Chaos at Terminal 5, which forced the cancellation of 72 flights yesterday, will cause further disruption for thousands more passengers throughout the weekend.

Last night BA confirmed that a further 54 incoming and outgoing flights will be cancelled today, blighting the holidays of thousands of families. The Times has learnt that managers at the airline were warned by unions a fortnight ago that baggage staff had not been properly trained to handle its new system.

The Air Transport Users Council (AUC) said that a letter issued by BA to passengers on Thursday night breached the European regulation setting out the minimum rights for travellers whose flights are delayed or cancelled. The letter said:

"Regrettably, we are unable to provide you with a hotel room during this disruption. If you make your own arrangements, we will be happy to consider reimbursement of some of your out-of-pocket expenses."

Source The Times

BA have managed to make a terrible situation worse by mismanaging the pr fallout from this fiasco.

It seems that for BA, the customer is not part of the equation.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Terminal 5 Fiasco

Stephen Nelson and Willie Walsh
Hearty congratulations to British Airways (BA) and British Airports Authority (BAA) for thoroughly screwing up the first day of operations of Terminal 5 Thiefrow (sorry I mean Heathrow).

Yesterday BA sent me the following message:

"Five and a half years ago the building of our new home began in our most visionary project to date. Today we opened the doors. There is no more waiting... Terminal 5 welcomes you.

At Terminal 5 everything has been streamlined and designed to make your journey through the terminal calm and relaxed. And this morning we saw all the planning fall into place.

Check-in and Security have been designed to speed you through to Departures in just 10 minutes*. And with a shopping concourse to rival London's West End, our premium flagship lounge complex, Galleries, and the state-of-the-art baggage system, you'll discover nothing has been overlooked to ensure your time at Terminal 5 is spent in a most relaxing and enjoyable way

Reality was of course somewhat different from the PR department's view of things. Chaos reigned supreme yesterday as check ins, baggage belts and lifts failed and flights were cancelled.

I understand that today is pretty shambolic too.

"Piss up", "brewery", "couldn't organise" somehow spring to mind.

Well done lads!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

BA's Ghost Flights

British Airways has been flying empty planes (ghost flights) again. This time it flew three ghost flights at total distance of 15,000 miles, with no passengers on board, in little over a week.

The Telegraph reports that it flew empty 747-400s to Hong Kong and Bombay, with no one but the crews on board.

"Last Sunday, it flew one of the 300-plus seater jets 6,000 miles to Hong Kong, burning around 140 tons of fuel and emitting 329 tons of carbon dioxide. Passengers hoping to board the plane at Heathrow were told there were not enough crew available and took a later flight.

Yesterday, the airline continued with a flight to Bombay - and the return leg - despite there being no passengers on either sector.

The two flights clocked up 9,000 miles, burnt 200 tons of fuel and released 486 tons of carbon dioxide

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Frustrated and Irritated

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways, has publicly acknowledged that BA's customers are "frustrated and irritated".

BA are pinning their hopes on the opening of Terminal 5 at London Heathrow, to kickstart the improvement in BA's tarnished image.

Walsh is quoted in the FT:

"This year we are determined to deliver an improved customer experience. Terminal 5 is a significant step, it is a fantastic piece of infrastructure. It will allow us to transform the customer experience, especially for premium customers."

Admitting to a problem is the first step on the road to recovery!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

BA Pilots' Strike Update

Good news for those of you flying with BA this Easter. The threatened pilots' strike has been called off, for Easter at any rate.

However, the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said that it was still in dispute over employment plans for a newly-formed transatlantic subsidiary.

Source BBC

Monday, 10 March 2008

BA Pilots' Strike Update

Talks to avert a strike by pilots, angered by British Airways' employment plans for a newly-formed transatlantic subsidiary, have broken down.

Source BBC

BA will apply for a High Court injunction to stop the strike, which may well begin this week.

Friday, 29 February 2008


I have always said that Virgin's lounges are better than BA's, it would seem that judging from this story BA executives agree with me:

"Virgin Atlantic opened its new clubhouse at Boston Airport at the weekend. To ensure the launch went off without a hitch, the airline held a dress rehearsal the day before. Representatives of other airlines were invited to sample the posh grub and comfy chairs.

The ploy seems to have worked well. My mole tells me two British Airways airport managers stayed a touch too long: they turned up late to the opening of their own lounge, to be met by a group of angry customers

Source The Telegraph.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Pilots' Strike

The latest news on the possible BA pilots' strike over Easter, 86% of pilots voted in favour, is that both BA and the pilots have agreed to take their respective cases to mediation.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Customer Isn't King

The Independent reports that the long suffering passengers of BA had to endure more misery, aside from the twelfth hike in its fuel surcharge, BA forbade its economy class passengers from checking in luggage Heathrow Terminal 4 owing to a breakdown in the baggage check in system.

Other airlines manually dealt with it, BA chose not to.

BA really needs to understand that its passengers (customers) are going to get fed up with being taken for granted and treated like this.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Britain's Worst

Well Done lads!

"British Airways was once again named Britain's worst airline for mishandling baggage, and the second worst in Europe.

The airline mishandled 1.14 million bags in 2007, an average 26.5 bags per 1,000 passengers

Source The Times

Monday, 18 February 2008

Late Again! II

Late Again! II
Congratulations to British Airways (BA) for ensuring that my return flight from Stockholm to London last night was only 30 minutes late.

Needless to say, no explanation was provided.

I guess that counts as an improvement in customer service?

Friday, 15 February 2008

£10 Refunds

Here's an interesting story on the BBC site:

People who flew with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic between 11 August 2004 and 23March 2006 may be entitled to a refund of £10 per flight.

The law firm Cohen Milstein expects to sign an agreement later on Friday in a class action suit with BA and Virgin.

BA was fined by US and UK authorities for price-fixing on fuel surcharges while Virgin also admitted breaching US and UK law but escaped the fines.

BA declined to comment while Virgin could not immediately be reached.

The settlement would cover customers in the UK and the US.

Cohen Milstein estimates that the settlement will be worth about $200m (£100m), £73.5m of which will be set aside to pay claims by passengers who bought tickets in the UK in pounds sterling.

Passengers and businesses that bought tickets would be eligible for refunds of up to £10 for each leg of a journey.

BA was fined £121.5m by the Office of Fair Trading and $300m (£150m) by the US Department of Justice for colluding with Virgin on the level of fuel surcharges that would be added to their ticket prices.

Virgin escaped the fines because it had informed the authorities that the breaches had happened.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Those of you who, like me, thought that when I was called to board the 16:30 flight to Stockholm yesterday that my troubles were over could not have been more wrong.

My, and my fellow travellers', troubles were only just beginning.

We duly assembled at gate 43, on time and ready to board the plane. Unfortunately, BA was not quite so ready for the passengers.

After some delay, passengers sitting in the back of the plane were called to board first. Having gotten them on board, there was a further delay.

I and my fellow passengers, yet to board, knew the problem.

BA had of course oversold the flight.

Well done BA!

The harassed looking "gatekeepers" asked if anyone was prepared to give up their seat for a paltry 150 Euros, they needed two people to volunteer.

No one seemed very keen, and a further delay occurred as BA played its version of a "Columbian stand off".

I entertained myself by discussing this latest cock up with my fellow passengers, they now all know about this site and will be visiting it; they all had been booked on the cancelled 14:15, and were not best pleased to be still standing at the boarding gate at 16:55.

As we all agreed, if there was going to be this sort of delay why did the flight status board not show it?

Another rather obvious question is why did BA oversell the flight, and put their customers to such inconvenience?

BA Customer RelationsGiven that I had nothing better to do, I rang BA Customer Relations at 17:00.

Guess what?

They close at 17:00; there was no one there to talk to.

Great customer care BA, well done!

After further delays, and appeals for people not to board, we finally took our seats at 17:20.

Now here's the rather odd thing, guess who was sitting in the seat directly in front of me?

Yes, that's right, a BA employee.

Why was BA looking to find two paying passengers to give up their seats, when there was at least one BA employee on board taking up much needed room?

Do you think that our troubles were over?

Don't be ridiculous!

BA, through their own fault, having delayed the boarding of the 16:30 to 17:20 had of course lost their take off slot.

We finally took off at 18:30, two hours late! This of course ignores the fact that I was meant to have taken off at 14:15!

Doubtless BA will try to blame BAA. However, a large part of this is clearly down to BA.

I will of course be writing to Willie Walsh about this, he is already well aware of this site. However, unlike other CEOs of major plcs, he does not answer customer letters. Therefore I do not expect any response.

Customer care the BA way!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The VIPs - BA Style III

Four hours in the BA lounge later, and I am advised that my 16:30 flight will be called for boarding at still my beating heart!

The VIPs - BA Style II

Further to my earlier post about being stranded at Heathrow because of "fog", I took the opportunity to check out the BAA site for Heathrow.

Guess what?

No mention of it there.

Why not?

Neither does the BA site!


The VIPs - BA Style

Those of you with a penchant for classic films may well recall that fine film from the early 1960's starring Richard Burton, Liz Taylor, Margaret Rutherford etc.

It followed the lives, over a period of 24 hours, of a group of disparate travellers stranded at Heathrow in the fog.

Forty years on, here I am stranded at Heathrow in the BA lounge.

I was planning to catch the 14:15 to Stockholm, but was helpfully texted by BA at 11:45 this morning telling me that my flight was cancelled.

Pity I was en route at the time!

I duly called BA, and some 15 mins later (having listened to countless adverts for online check in, carbon offset and other assorted junk) I was finally able to speak to a human being.

Seemingly fog, of which there is very little, has caused disruption to my flight and the flights of a few others.

I rebooked myself onto the 16:30, and duly checked in at the airport.

Check in went without incident, aside from the fact that I was told that I was 2 hours too early to check in my bag. Given that this was not down to any fault on my part, it was agreed that a special dispensation would be granted and that the check in guy would do all he could to get my bag checked in.

On arrival at the lounge, the BA check in lady told me that I could come in but that I should keep my eye on the announcements.

It seems that they are not confident that they will launch the 16:30 either.

I still remain bemused, as the weather is clear and bright.

Where the fark is the fog?

I will post updates during the day.

Flying The Flag

BA will have the pleasure of my company today.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Size Matters

When you are the size, and importance, of BA you know that you can use your muscle to your advantage.

There is something of a row brewing between the non BA airlines using Heathrow and BAA (the owners of Heathrow), over the alleged competitive disadvantage they are facing when British Airways moves into Terminal 5 in March.

When BA moves in, other airlines will be forced to move to older terminals; these will resemble a building site.

As if to add insult to injury the other airlines are not being offered a discount for their trouble. British Airways is also not being asked to pay a premium for its facilities. Landing fees are based on weight of aircraft and passenger numbers, not the quality of the terminal.

As one airline boss told The Telegraph:

"Because it is the UK flag carrier, BA does get things handed to it on a plate."

Let us hope that BA remembers that it is mortal.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Money Well Spent

Congratulations to British Airways for spending £40M, in order to secure the rights to use the much derided "Lisa Simpson Gives Head" London Olympics logo.

Lisa Simpson Gives Head

Money well spent!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Pensions Blackmail

The battle over Heathrow's new runway is becoming ugly.

Tory MP John Randall has accused British Airways of trying to blackmail retired staff into backing Heathrow expansion, by suggesting that their pensions may be at risk.

The Daily express reports that BA has sent a leaflet to former workers, urging them to write to Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly to back plans for a third runway.

The pamphlet warns that the security of pensions for retired staff depends directly on the success of BA and Heathrow.

Willie Walsh (CEO) says that former employees have an important role to play in Heathrow's future; he notes that the Liaison Council, which represents retired staff, has backed the plans.

Shadow transport secretary, Theresa Villiers, weighed in as well and is quoted in the Express:

"Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of Heathrow expansion, former employees of British Airways should not be subject to this sort of pressure and manipulation ... people should be able to make up their own minds.

I am very concerned that BA has chosen to exert this pressure on its former staff, which I believe is inappropriate and unhelpful to the debate

BA rejects the allegations:

"Any suggestion British Airways would bully any of its staff, retired or current, to support expansion is entirely without foundation. The Liaison Council operates independently of British Air-ways. It communicates with retired staff in the way it wishes."

This is not the first attempt by BA to encourage others to support its plans for a third runway. In November 2007 it wrote to all of its executive club members trying to drum up support.

In that letter Willie Walsh claimed that expansion would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 330,000 tonnes a year, because aircraft would no longer have to waste fuel queuing for take-off or circling while waiting to land.

It then transpired that, according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the claim was not quite correct. ASA wrote to BA ordering it to withdraw the claim.

Monday, 4 February 2008


Oh dear, last place!

"British Airways passengers suffered the worst flight delays and misplaced baggage problems among travellers on leading European airlines last year.

According to figures published yesterday by the Association of European Airlines, BA ranked 25th among the 26 airlines that disclosed statistics for the number of delayed bags per 1,000 passengers last year. Only TAP Air Portugal had a worse record. And between October and December of last year BA ranked last.

Source FT.

Let's see how they do when they move to Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Storm Clouds Ahead

Personnel Today reports that British Airways' (BA) new human resources director, Tony McCarthy, has been warned that he will face "long-term problems" if he cannot find a solution to the dispute over the airline's plans for a subsidiary, Open Skies, in mainland Europe.

The British Air Line Pilots Association (Balpa) are to ballot of its members this week, on whether to hold strikes over the plan.

The pilots do not like the BA proposal to have a separate pool of pilots for Open Skies.

A Balpa spokesman told Personnel Today:

"We very much hope we can get an agreement on this, but if we cannot then it is going to be a long-term problem for the company - in particular for its HR team."

The informal conversations that I held with various members of staff, on the long haul flights I took between London/Beijing this year (eg see letter sent to Willie Walsh), indicate that there is a very high degree of dissatisfaction amongst the staff with BA.

There are storm clouds ahead.

It will be in the interests of everyone (staff, customers and BA) that BA find a way to fly around them.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Michael Winner Loses His Card

Martin Waller of The Times reports today that Michael Winner and BA have fallen out with each other in a big way.

BA seemingly will not be renewing Mr Winner's gold card, when it expires in 2009, as a result of some rather acerbic comments he made about them in the Times recently.

Even this site would not use the phrase "toilet fodder".

I have always been of the view that Virgin is superior to BA wrt service and amenities, if only they flew to all the destinations that BA does!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Strike Vote

British Airways pilots are to be balloted on possible strike action, in a dispute over the airline's plans to launch a new transatlantic subsidiary.

Read the full story on the BBC.

Friday, 18 January 2008


Well deserved congratulations to the crew of Thursday's BA038 from Beijing, who managed to crash land the plane safely without any major injury to the passengers or crew.

Any landing that you can walk away from is a good landing!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Customer Manipulation

Back in November 2007 I, along with thousands of other BA Executive Club members, received an email from Willie Walsh (CEO of BA) asking me to support the creation of a third runway at Heathrow.

Walsh claimed that expansion would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 330,000 tonnes a year, because aircraft would no longer have to waste fuel queueing for take-off or circling while waiting to land.

It now transpires that, according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the claim is not quite correct. ASA has written to BA ordering it to withdraw the claim.

Walsh's e-mail implied that the claim about CO2 reduction had been endorsed by the Government. However, he did not make it clear that the new runway would raise overall CO2 emissions by 2.6 million tonnes a year by allowing an extra 220,000 flights.

ASA has asked BA to confirm by January 9 that it will not repeat the claim.

BA should not have tried to manipulate their customers in this manner in the first place.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Strikes Off

Strikes scheduled by airport workers in January have been scrapped, bringing relief to 1.3 million travellers.

The strikes were planned for January 14 and 17, for 24 and 48 hours respectively. The strikes would have crippled Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and brought knock-on effects of delays and cancellations for the days either side of the strike as aircraft and crew were realigned.

The decision to scrap the strikes follows agreement between airport workers and BAA management in a dispute over a final salary pension scheme.

Source The Times

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

BAA Strike Update

UNITE (the union behind the BAA strike threat) has called off the strike planned for the 7th of January that would have shut down Britain's main airports.

Unite said that an agreement had been reached in principle over the future of the BAA pension scheme. The agreement will be discussed by union representatives on Thursday.

If the deal is not accepted by union representatives, further 48 hour strikes on January 14 and January 18 are possible.

Maybe BA, by not warning passengers about the strike threat, knew something that BAA and UNITE didn't?