Last night I received an email from British Airways. My upcoming flight to Italy, it said, would no longer be operated by BA but instead by Finnair owing to a new wet-lease deal. “They will operate your flight on our behalf so you can fly to your destination as planned”, it read, “there should be no change to the service you receive onboard”.
The change of carrier makes little material difference to me. As long as I get lifted out of Heathrow and plonked down somewhere in the Emilia-Romagna region I don’t care how they get me there. But the thing is, I’d been expecting this email.
Over the past few years (Covid excluded) I had experienced some sort of disruption on every BA flight I had taken. The three that spring to mind went thus:
- A flight to Edinburgh: Cancelled, had to depart from a different airport
- A flight to Madrid: Cancelled, had to change airline
- A flight to Toronto: Cancelled, had to change airline and go via New York and Charlotte, North Carolina.
So a small change to the livery was, needless to say, a stroll in the park.
But as well as being a semi-frequent flyer on BA I am also a journalist, and as of late, there doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by without hearing about some sort of a BA calamity.
It was announced today that the airline had cut the equivalent of 8,000 round trips up to October, three-quarters on short-haul routes, as it struggles to rehire staff quickly enough to meet renewed demand. BA had culled nearly 10,000 jobs during the pandemic. Now people are ready to travel again, they simply can’t meet the demand.
To add insult to injury, BA check-in staff based at Heathrow Airport, where the carrier mostly operates from, are also voting on whether to strike.
GMB trade union representative Nadine Houghton said it is “no wonder” workers are considering taking a stand.
With heavy losses incurred by its owner International Airlines Group (IAG) over the first quarter, it looks like the worst is still to come for a company that used to describe itself as the “world’s favourite airline”.
British Airways was once a trailblazer in its industry, building an image that stood apart from the crowd for its renowned customer experience, something that was bolstered by the launch of the Concorde and its supersonic, super service passage to New York.
Today you’ll be lucky if they can get you to Malaga without wanting to tear your hair out. They might have survived the pandemic, but can they be saved from themselves?