03 June 2007

BA not for sale... probably with good reason.

Service deteriorates at World's Favourite Airline

BA's Willie Walsh has put the NOT FOR SALE sign up outside Waterside. Despite his buddies over at Goldman Sachs wanting to make another packet now is probably not quite the right time. There just isn’t enough support although there are (as we have noted before) some great numbers to look at - not least of which is the free cash flow.

Now the reason for the run up in stock (for those talking it up) was the great numbers in the front cabin. well so far so good but that is not a long term thing. Having just experienced again the airline's less than stellar service I hope you will indulge my rant here.

BA's premium traffic has increased but not the staff to handle them. As a result LHR is a giant mess - both in and out bound. This week inbound traffic to Terminal 4 suffered yet another baggage meltdown due to "...Insufficient Allocation of Resources", and no I am not making this stuff up. this was the official reason given by BA over the Tannoy (they don’t use a more modern PA system trust me on this) why bags were "15 mins later than normal baggage wait times". I checked with several other passengers especially Flight BA 288 (from PHX) and BA242 (from MEX) both of whom endured waits for over 2 hours. My flight BA52 from Seattle had bags show up 90 minutes late.

Leaving on Sunday to go from Terminal 1 to Moscow I witnessed yet another example of how bad things are: the Zone R (premium travellers) area took over 40 minutes to go through to "Bag Drop". Zone R vs Qatar Airways Premium Terminal in Doha. No contest. I do hope someone from BA has actually TAKEN one of these flights.

Couple this significant fall off in service with BAA/UK government's crippled one on board bag policy and you get a recipe for meltdown's like this. But BA must shoulder the lion's share of the blame. For some time I have been hyper-critical of their baggage policy and handling at LHR. This is a management problem caused by the ill-fated decision to outsource baggage management to a thoroughly incompetent group.

BA may be taking advantage of an increase in premium traffic but it will be short lived. When the US airlines start arriving at LHR in greater numbers expect to see real competition. With significantly better service from the GCC based airlines allowing you to bypass LHR AND with easier connection services in AMS, CDG even MAD you can easily see that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Having flown BA's new Club Class service, I can attest to its improvement over the existing 1st generation service. But VS has nothing to fear and the plans by AA and in particular DL to offer premium C/J services will be a real fight. BA could easily lose its self adopted crown.

Are you listening Mr Walsh?

I hope so...



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