BA Is Shite

BA Is Shite


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