29 August 2009

BA – How Not To Respond To A Customer

I am a premium (currently Silver) member of BA’s frequent flyer program.

I tend to read a lot of the email that comes from the hacks at the airlines whose programs I am enrolled in. What never ceases to amaze me is how disconnected the airlines are from their actual customers. This is not a new phenomenon – it has been this way since the year dot. The problem is of a one to many relationship.

So in this case I responded to a solicitation by BA which asked me to tell them what I thought of their program. My response and then their response is provided in its entirety below (Bottom to top). This is definitely NOT the way to communicate with your customer in my opinion on just so many levels. I have only modified my name and the account number. Everything else is real – up to and including the person in India who dealt with the request according to the BA formula.

You can draw your own conclusions. Personally I feel that if this is customer service – then give me self service.



Recently you requested personal assistance from British Airways. Below is a summary of your request and our response.

Silver Executive Club programme feedback

Response (Abhishek) 24/08/2009 11.31 AM
Dear Professor Sabena

Thank you for taking the time to tell us what you think about the Executive Club.

It’s important to us that you have an opportunity to let us know what you like or think needs to be improved and we have opened this feedback channel so that you can do just that.

Unfortunately we cannot respond personally to every piece of feedback we receive but we will collect this information with a view to making improvements that are important to you.

If you have any membership queries in the meantime please feel free to contact your dedicated service centre:


Once again, thank you for letting us know how you feel.

British Airways Executive Club

Next time you have a question about travelling with British Airways, simply go to:
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If you have received it in error please inform the sender as soon as possible.

This email message has been swept by McAfee virus protection for the presence of computer viruses however we cannot guarantee that it is virus-free and you should scan this mail and, prior to opening them or saving them, any attachments for viruses.

This email was sent to you by British Airways Plc - to find out more about the company please visit:

Customer (Professor Sabena) 23/08/2009 10.13 PM
Silver Executive Club programme feedback

Name: Mr Professor Sabena
Email address: ProfessorSabena@gmail.com
Executive Club number: XXX0000
Comments: The biggest problem I have with BA miles is that I cannot use them efficiently. The fees and costs associated with the miles on BA is currently so onerous that I can easily buy a ticket on the open market and pay less than the BA fees for the whole ticket and not pay any miles.

BA's fees are frankly outrageous.

28 August 2009

Seat Review - New United Business Class

Like many airlines United has tried to upgrade its product to be competitive with the best of the rest of the world particularly the Asian and the Middle East carriers.

Almost all of the US carriers have in the main have tried but not necessarily succeeded in this regard.

United is no different. So far I have been able to sample the old and new offerings of UA, AA, CO, NW - the new DL service is not really available except on the 777 LRs. So US is the one carrier I want to still try.

The US airlines are really not as good as they could be. However the current crop of products is better. UA's seat is as good as most.

So here is the review using the BOOT's standard of comfort.

For Tim Hughes's standard go here:


So plagiarizing him mercilessly - here is my review

So just for the sake of clarity - this was a long and oft delayed frequent flyer ticket.

I want to applaud United's customer service people for helping me to secure the seat.

United has had to struggle in recent years and probably more than anyone else they have a legacy environment. Again plaudits to them for trying.

The Professor's rating for United Transatlantic Business Class is a 3.5 stars out of 6 or Great Seat". Here is the detailed review

Getting on Board Score 1.0
For London United has the old now radically reconfigured BA lounges in Terminal one. They are quite nice. In my opinion as good as BA was. The choice is not as great but it wasnt as crowded as the old place was. When the full compliment of carriers is in the terminal then it may not be quite as nice.

Does it compare with the Asian Carriers - not really. But does it compare to the other carriers - yes! Its a pretty good experience, they have some things that need to be handled. The Wifi could be a bit better for example. Frankly I think the Star group have really been better at getting their alliance on the road. It really is the best alliance. (And I am not even a gold member these days).

The Seat Score 0.5
UA's product is pretty good. Interesting forward and backward rows is a little weird but it kinda works.

The seat is correctly padded and the controls work. Not too fancy - Utilitarian I would say. The screens are great. The Movies just fine. Its Panasonic's current generation IFE. Of course in flight wifi would be a big help.

The Service Score 0.5

Actually I would like to say this was good but it was - well just average and that is being generous. The flight attendants were very friendly but the product range is very shallow - so they try but they don't have a lot to work with. When times improve lets hope that they do better. Here UA us behind DL but about on par with CO and AA.

The Food Score 0.5
The menu is limited but reasonable quality. The food came at the right time and didn't have much choice. The Wine list interestingly had not a single French wine on it. Sacre Bleu! The service from London was clearly the regular flight kitchens. The Sandwiches are pretty much the same on every major long haul carrier out of LHR.

The Entertainment Score 0.5
UA has on par. It is full video on demand with a regular library of movies, TV and audio. Nice mix of recent releases and good older films. Again limited but quality. I tried it all. The one complaint I had it was the quality of the audio the noise canceling was ad hoc at best. For a new system - this should have been better.

The Professor's factor Score 0.5

I had a low expectation going into the service and was pleasantly surprised to find it was a pretty good - solid not flashy - implementation. There was no sleeper suit, no special amenity bag, nothing of any flash.

However for the Professor - these are not important to the service of a good system that works and lets me travel in peace and comfort.

27 August 2009

New NBTA Exec Director - Mike McCormick

Michael McCormick is to serve as new NBTA Executive Director relinquishing his current roles at Hudson Crossing and PCW. Full circle for Mike - he was formerly President of BizTravel.com

Congrats Mike!


Boeing: "WE PROMISE IT WILL FLY" in 2009

Boeing is now sticking its neck out (I count this as the 9th first flight date announcement - but I could be wrong) and saying the Dreamliner 787 will fly in 2009. Technically before the end of the year with deliveries now planned for "late 2010".

Frankly I had given up on Boeing being able to do this. I remain a little bit skeptical as having been the nay sayer for sometime - I have avoided commenting on the "Microscopic" skin wrinkles that have "no impact" on the safety or flight characteristics.

I will let others more qualified than I talk about the potential to get this right or wrong. Instead I will take the opinion that this has worked to Boeing's advantage and to the airlines also. In the mean time the wind down of the 767 line has kept lease prices high for an aircraft of the right size. It has keep the market from being flooded with a number of new planes in the mid size category, and it has kept the 757s and 767s flying when some could easily have found their way to the desert.

It has also fueled the demand for Airbus's product in the A330 line.

So winners all round?

Not quite sure. For one thing Boeing's credibility has been severely shot in the process. The idea of a Just In Time supply chain management driven production process has really taken a big bite. We can be assured that in future - Boeing wont be so trusting of its partners.


jetBlue Continues Migration to Full Service Carrier

Jetblue has finally conceded that actually it does need a way to pay for tickets sold via Travelagents on the GDSs.

So facing the inevitable - they have joined ARC. This makes jetBlue a true conventional carrier. The only think missing is (drumroll please) Interlining. Well it sort of already does that with virtual interlining to several airline partners.

Then in reality it is a regular Network carrier.

So let's review:

Participation in GDS - Check
Interlining - Check
Travel Agent sales - Check
ARC participant - Check
Sabre as PSS (coming soon) - Check
Regular fares and Services - Check

So what about this isn't a regular airline


IBM and Travelport Focus On Expenses

Travelport and IBM have signed a deal to focus on Expense Management. Clearly Concur is the issue here.

With Amex and Concur cozying up to each other even more than they have in the past and with the importance of expense control in the sights of the Corporate Financial Departments being acute - this is a timely announcement.

The issue will be how well they do.

The good news is that the technology will combine IBM’s Global Expense Reporting Solutions (GERS) with all Travelport GDS bookings. GERS is a mature product.

This could be a non-event as companies are already providing services just not actively together.

However the more interesting piece will be if other players focus on the space. I dont think this will move the dial that much. Still its good to see both companies focus on addressing the importance of EMS.


Got To Love The BA PR Hacks

I really enjoy reading the (sometimes) complete drivel that airlines put out in their PR to both their customers and the media.

I am sure that there are airline people (still) that believe what they write.

So for your personal edification – I present the Customer email from British Airways announcing “Seating in Club Europe is Changing”

Rather than publishing the whole letter – I will just pull out two sections:

In the body of the email:

We have taken this feedback on board and will be making further enhancements to our Club Europe cabin by widening the seats and reintroducing the original configuration*, as of 2 September 2009. And to ensure you always sit in an aisle or a window seat we won’t book customers into the middle seat.

So I will be very interested to see how they intend widening the seats and re-introducing the original configuration!!

Now for the good part

Here is the confidentiality statement in the email….

This email is intended solely for the addressee(s) and the information it contains is confidential. If you are not the intended recipient, (a) please delete this email and inform the sender as soon as possible, and (b) any copying distribution or other action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance upon it is prohibited and may be unlawful.

So I think it will be interesting to see how BA enforces confidentiality when it sends its emails out so a squillion people!

You be the judge


AA Jetstreams Over Sabre

In the next weeks and months a lot of digital ink will be spilled on the new HP-AMR deal for “Jetstream” PSS for the AA group of airlines and in the process dump SABRE as the core system.

What are these implications?

Here is my little list:
*The big nail in the coffin of the TPF based inventory and PSS systems.
*The final separation of SABRE and AA
*The big win for Microsoft and its push to be at the core of the enterprise
*HP’s vindication of its purchase of EDS
*The emergence of HP as (second time around) a contender with Amadeus for PSS
*Amadeus still has some pretty serious issues with its ALTEA roll out, and clearly now some competition.

All of these will be important over time. One thing is sure – the landscape for PSS has been redrawn in a relatively short period of time.

So who are the losers in this - actually a lot of people:
1. ITA software - bravely putting on a face for the product that now has no customer
2. Sabre - losing its anchor PSS tenant and a vote of disfavour for the current generation SabreSonic product
3. Amadeus who thought they would win the contract (what were they thinking!!!!)
4. IBM who have now effectively exited the PSS business
5. IBS who have failed to get a major US or European airline as customer.
6. Travelport who also are a no show in the frame
7. SITA - who had an outside chance at the PSS contract.

Oh yes and me... I can't make any more jokes about Sabre being AA's SEMI-AUTOMATED Res system.

Winners? HP of course. Not sure about anyone else in there. Although the other Shares subscribers are probably very happy that they have a big fish in their midst. At least today. Tomorrow they are going to wake up and see what a big animal AA really is and just how much resource it will be consuming over the next 4 years.

There is one clear winner however. That is the determination that PSS systems are really complex and that the intermediate systems around distribution and merchandising are now more important than the core Inventory system.

So the focus of PSS salesmen is now on the AC/CO group. This will be an interesting battle as there will be a lot riding on the newest best friends decisions on how they link their systems. Amadeus can console themselves with a TAM win. Sabre is still resting on its Jetblue and Westjet recent wins.

Its going to be an interesting period of time.


25 August 2009

For Sale: BA Silver for 200 quid!

No this is not a misprint... This is what BA's new deal for low cost fares being eligible for entry into the BA FF high clouds of Silver. The new arrangement allows the user to collect either 600 points or 50 flights on BA.

So being the person that I am, I went and looked at what that could mean. With a little help from Professor Mike (who alerted me to this deal) we went and found the current cheapest fare on BA. It is 8 pounds for a roundtrip ticket LGW-MAN-LGW. The taxes and fees however raise the price to 77 pounds. This if you take the cheapest option and the most effective version you can fly 25 times from LGW to Manchester roundtrip and walk away having snagged a Silver card from BA. Total cost 1925 pounds

HOWEVER imagine if you are a higher premium traveller who flies occasionally on BA but pays full wack for his tickets. He will have paid for a roundtrip LON-NYC - 2017 pounds and would have snagged merely a few miles and a measly 50 tier points.

Thus the new program definitely favors cheap short haul day trips on lower yields that the chap who has actually provided the bread and butter of the long haul premium cabins.

For those of us who are filling BA's coffers with cash - we find that this is an unfair situation.

I raise this for another reason - the ugly side of airline ancillary revenue comes forward. I wont comment on exactly how the split of those fees are actually real taxes or fake charges that can work out for BA - but suffice to say BA is doing nicely thank you and that its net on such a ticket is way north of the headline 8 pounds.

So here is a little view of the relevant page on BA.

Cheers and have a good time with this