Ok the background to this is going up to Edinburgh on British Airways to play an annual golf event that has been running for some 27 years now!!
Booked the flight some time ago using Expedia (£215.17) chose BA as it is a full service carrier and and I prefer that to the low cost alternatives, my expectation was better from a safety point of view relatively new and well maintained aircraft, sensible seating with a bit of leg room, perhaps some food and luggage allowance. This expectation was based on previous experiences and the advertising of BA.
How did they do?
First thing was checking in on-line and thankfully I did that as I had a rather nasty surprise – when I clicked 2 bags to check it advised me that my ticket was hand baggage only – even thought the Expedia confirmation had a footnote that “The airline may charge additional fees for checked baggage” my simple assumption borne of all previous experiences was that BA is full service I would get my 2 bags and that was more than enough…but no!
So I clicked on the extra baggage to discover that they wanted to charge me another £170 to check in two bags and if I had done it at at the airport £260!!!! So the cost of taking two bags weighing less than 40Kg was more than my entire journey as a fully grown adult weighing somewhat more than that – unbelievable and totally unjustified. Ok I had no choice so did the deed and then went to the seating – ok it offered me a middle seat at the back of the plane, not ideal so I moved my seat only to discover that to do that they then wanted to charge me another £11 for one option or £9 for another, what? I am now getting more than disappointed with my experience. Having seen this I decided that the middle seat would do they were all reasonable leg room it was a short flight…how wrong I was!!
Get to the airport and check-in unlike my previous experience a month earlier (see my earlier blog post) was smooth and I was airside in under 20 minutes. Now onto the plane oh no what is this, they have contracted out my flight to a Danish low cost airline Jettime complete with Danish crew. The plane was old, the seating was so cramped that I had to adopt a very awkward elbows tucked in position for the entire flight to avoid my fellow passengers. So now I am paying a premium price and flying on a low cost carrier – I think that has to be close to illegal and certainly an awful brand experience. Rather bizarrely amidst the Danish airline branded crew and aircraft the BA High Life magazine was in the seat pocket – trying to suggest that this was a BA flight and only serving to emphasise what you were missing. To reinforce the point further that this was not BA flight the crew continuously referred to our destination as EdinBERG mmmm :((
On to the return leg, this was delayed by over an hour but was a big BA jet 7 seats across so a busy flight for such a short journey – about 20 minutes before we landed the crew read out a long list of flight numbers then say “all those passengers on those inter-connecting flights should go to the International Transfer Desk as they had all been booked on later flights”, arghh poor people. As we approached the Gate the Captain comes on the intercom explaining the delay was having to take bags off when passengers on the inbound flight had not shown up – this can happen – but then he blithely trotted out the script he has been given for just such occasions “sorry I hope you have not been inconvenienced by the delay” now hold on he knows that a significant number of passengers have just been hugely inconvenienced and faced I don’t know how many hours delay connecting and probably other impacts at their destinations!!
After the flight I get the how was it for you survey and give the not good feedback, then I complete the yes they can contact me to discuss this feedback – I hold out no hope that they will or that they will compensate me for the sub standard experience. Of course the impact in the mid term is less business from me and the knock on impact of me relaying this story that undermines the tens of millions spent on brand advertising.
So what can we learn from this?
Firstly someone in BA no doubt distant for the actual flying experience took a commercial decision to outsource the BA brand to a low cost Danish provider, I wonder if they have ever actually sat on the plane that is supposed to represent BA and justify its premium price position, I think not and if the answer was yes and they then thought that was acceptable then that is even worse – outsourcing is a huge risk for businesses because in reality you outsource the experience and in this case it palpably does not work. As I noted there must also be a case for fraud through misrepresenting the experience/cost equation.
Second if BA want to maintain the premium brand position they need to reconsider adopting the commercial practices of low cost carriers – I don’t mind that Ryanair charges for hold luggage or assigned seating you are paying a very low base fare and then choosing to bolt on costs and you are in control you know what you get. BA shouldn’t be expecting passengers to pay for moving seat, for putting some bags in the hold, they are a full service airline with high entry cost of a ticket that now wants the pricing structures of a low cost provider. That is a commercial decision and yes it might generate a few more pounds but that is BAD PROFIT and will cost the business in the long run.
Finally it is good to give your crew particularly Captains and flight crew the words to use when things go wrong but they also need to be smart enough to adapt what they say when they know that in this case passengers are going to suffer major consequences as a result of a delay, platitudes/insincerity only serve to inflame the situation – it was interesting to see that the Captain did not manage to stand by the door saying goodbye to the unhappy passengers he remained firmly locked away in his cockpit!
The British Airway Expectation versus actual Customer Experience score 2/10