Does HFP have an ‘anti-BA’ bias?!

I received a private message via Flyertalk yesterday from a British Airways employee who said, to paraphrase, that he was fed up with the anti-BA bias that he felt runs through the site.

(In my experience most BA employees are not hugely enamoured by everything done by their employer, so I wouldn’t want to dismiss his complaint on that basis.  In some ways, I am tempted to take it more seriously!)

What pushed him over the edge was this line in my review of the Eurostar lounge at St Pancras yesterday:

“There is also no shortage of reading material, which always wins brownie points with me, [and] which makes the weak British Airways Galleries selection look pitiful.”

Ironically, I received this message whilst sitting in a two hour meeting with a senior IAG employee who at no time expressed any issues with my content!

My response was this:

I need to use a common frame of reference for comparison purposes in reviews.  The logical comparison point is with British Airways because that is an airline that most HFP readers fly.  If I had compared the Eurostar magazine selection to the typical Singapore Airlines lounge magazine selection, it wouldn’t have meant much to 95% of the readers.

(I could, I admit, have pointed out that the breakfast on offer in the Eurostar lounge is far worse than the breakfast offered by British Airways – and I didn’t.  Magazines in lounges are a personal bug-bear of mine, however, as long-term readers will know.)

British Airways A350

It makes no sense for me to run down British Airways.   Avios, and the fact that you can use Avios to redeem for aspirational flying experiences, is a key driver of this site.  If I was permanently criticising BA it would not be great for business!

I don’t think there is a single frequent flyer in the country who genuinely believes that British Airways is offering the market leading product compared to Qatar, Etihad, Emirates etc.  Even American Airlines, unbelievably (given its history), is now offering a business class product on most London flights which beats the BA seat on most criteria.  I would lose all of my credibility if my writing implied that BA could do no wrong.

I have 13 BA flights in my diary between now and mid-September …..

It is also true, to be honest, that criticism is easier to write, and more interesting to read, than praise.  However, for the record, here are a few things I honestly believe even though the general opinion out there is often the opposite:

Heathrow Terminal 5 is a fantastic facility

British Airways afternoon tea in Club Europe is OK and I’m not sure what would be a better option

The British Airways lounges at Heathrow are generally very good and are worth spending time in

The Club World cabin – irrespective of how you find the seats – on the new 787 aircraft is a very classy piece of work

The Avios booking system at ba.com is, in terms of ease of use and the number of partner airlines which can  be booked with it, almost best in class

Reward Flight Saver – and the BA short haul reward pricing structure in general – is a good idea and puts other frequent flyer programmes short haul pricing to shame

The guaranteed ‘4 + 2’ reward availability for Avios seats on BA is a genuine improvement (although 4 + 4 would be even better)

The British Airways Premium Plus American Express ‘2 for 1’ voucher is the most attractive credit card reward in the UK

I obviously need to have a lie down now after such a rare burst of BA enthusiasm :-)

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Comments

  1. Senior staff at BA have been reading HfP for years, occasionally they actually find the writing to be quite entertaining, a previous comment about getting ‘tangled in economy’ was quoted to me once as raising much amusement!

    • They do. And you’d be shocked by how many @avios.com email addresses are in the database!

      However, for clarity, I have ZERO formal relationship with BA. I do not even get press releases, except via a back door. I do not have a phone number or name for anyone in the press office (although the press office has my mobile number somehow!). I do not get invited to BA events. I do not get invited on press trips.

      Whilst I know a lot of BA people it is, in the main via Flyertalk meet-ups or from emails via readers.

      • Peter Taysum says:

        Silly BA, I’d have thought giving it to you should be their strategy…?

  2. Danksy says:

    I have to say BA have slipped when compared to others therefore it is their own undoing. The staff member was probably crabby since they are reliant on BA making a decent contribution to top the pension scheme deficit.

  3. Quoting raffles “Heathrow Terminal 5 is a fantastic facility” Its ok but lacks provision for the economy traveller.
    The restaurants are truly over rated and expensive. Time they let in KFC or a Burger chain.
    Boots meal deal is the best food value for those on a budget…
    I’m flying BA on Sunday MAN to SEA via T5 but back to Manchester on AA via PHL.
    Eco all the way but i do have Silver status so i will spoil myself with the slop in the T5 lounge pre flight 😉

    • I think that lowers the tone HAL wants! There is a ludicrously huge Starbucks opening next to Vuitton I saw this week.

      I want HAL to cater for the male traveller! Harrods has lost most of its menswear. Paul Smith has shrunk and put in a lot of womenswear. Vuitton has NO menswear at all. Botega Venetta has one corner. The new Hugo Boss is the only consolation.

    • Lady London says:

      Pret a Manger in T5 isn’t bad especially given they are at one of the most busy locations. Not too expensive and staff are always slick cheerful and helpful. Seating is not bad either given how crowded it gets.

      Corporate bigwigs who fly lots commercially and aren’t even impressed by the Concorde Room tell me Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food is the best place in the Terminal to get breakfast. They sometimes have reasonable menu bundle options for later in the day too.

      I don’t mind Pret Coffee when I’m in an airport. Sorry I don’t call Starbucks ‘coffee’ at all.

      And I’m always pleased to find any lounge run by Plaza Premium and will pay for lounges even though I’m reluctant to pay for extra services generally unless they’re great value… and the Plaza Premiums generally are.

      • ISTR Plaza Premium T5 opens this year, anybody know when?

        Accessible by Priority Pass I think.

        • No news. There is a Plaza Premium press party in the T4 lounge today to celebrate its 1st birthday but I couldn’t face a 4th visit to Heathrow within 6 days – would have been good for gossip on this though.

  4. theres no point in fawning on BA. HFP has no obligation in promoting or advertising BA. All the comments about BA are accurate in my opinion

  5. Rachel says:

    It was your honesty with BA and other airlines that made me look into the Qatar deals you posted and ended up booking one. The fact you don’t endlessly praise any airline and point out the flaws as you see it makes your blog worth reading! I’ve only flown BA CE, not CW but it was entirely underwhelming and now I just fly Economy with them as I find if I book a seat at the back it’s often likely you get no one sitting next to you anyway and flight attendants are friendly and helpful.

    To me personally the value of BA is Heathrow (closer to where I live) and the fact that when you get on the plane it’s usual to hear a chipper pilot with a nice reassuring middle/upper middle class accent. Especially when getting on the plane somewhere entirely awful, it’s a welcome sound!

  6. George says:

    It is clear to me that the individual complaining saw only that one article. Over the last couple of years since I started to read HfP I have found it to be largely complimentary about BA.
    The comments you made about the reading selection were entirely justifiable, the selection in BA lounges is often rather poor. I’d sooner head off to WHSimths, Hudson News or any other magazine outlet depending on my location.

    The main thing is this site has enabled me to travel in ways that normally wouldn’t have been possible. It also has resulted in an increased spend with BA along with other carriers and long may that continue.

  7. BIG TED says:

    Having just retired as an Air Traffic Controller with NATS ( after nearly 46 years ), my wife and I have spent the last year travelling. We have managed to achieve SILVER status with BA and have travelled Business class with Qatar , BA , Royal Thai and Icelandair. ALL of your comments re lounges and seating within the BA world are, in my opinion, 100% accurate. The seating in the Qatar 787 compared with the old BA 777 is night and day. I know it is a new aircraft but it does not stop refurbishment. The BA lounge in LGW is pathetic. I know it is only for a few months but it is not worthy of a comment. Very bad planning on BAs part
    As far as lounges is concerned, my favourite is Reykyavik with Icelandair Business Class.The variety of food and especially wine was absolutely superb.
    And to comment on the level of service when you compare BA with Qatar would be a total disaster….as far as BA would be concerned.
    HFP……….keep up the good work.

  8. Rob,
    You can’t keep all the people happy. Keep up your honest good reporting about BA and others. As many have said, most of your readers have experienced BA in all its glory, so we can and do give honest feedback. If people don’t like it, tough but it is the truth.
    I do fly BA (gold) when I can and my current Amex 241 is sitting waiting to be used but I am finding less and less to do with it particularly with ex-EU deals with QR etc.
    Time will tell if all the cost cutting and ‘improvements’ are going to hurt BA.

  9. steveh says:

    Another plus for BA is that they fly direct to places like Tokyo, where I travel regularly for work reasons. Yes I know JAL are great, and fly at better hours, but their WTP or Bus Class prices are much higher! And I can’t use an Amex 241 with JAL.

  10. Hi, I would like to ask some BA advice. I recently held a hold fare for ba where one pays 5 pounds to hold the seat but I realized that I had put the basic fare on hold (the hand baggage) fare rather than the plus which is just 20 pounds more per sector. Ticket was held but not issued. I called them and ask them to change it to a plus fare and then could issue it but they refused to help me do that, even though the ticket was not issued. (fares had gone up so could not just get another seat) Only way now if for me to purchase an extra bag each way at the cost of 40 pounds per sector rather than 40 in total. I am a ba silver card holder but had no joy when speaking to them over the phone. Any tips for how to be able to get the bags for cheaper?

  11. There used to be a time when BA was indeed my preferred airline, that is no longer the case, in my book they are getting worse by the day, they are mimicking the likes of ryanair and easyjet when it comes to services offered and when it comes to prices they are far worse. I lost count how many times I tried to book a flight with BA and the difference to other airlines was so grand that I lost interest and moved on.
    Another issue with most airlines these days is the extortionate charges when you try to pay with a credit card, BA currently charges £10 for making a credit card payment, seriously? they claim is admin costs, no payment provider charges that much for a credit card transaction, in reality it costs pennies, and they want us to believe they are not using it as just another cash cow, what next? charge for oxygen in the cabin?
    BA is far less attractive that it once was, I have lost the love for them a very long time ago, and that is no other reason but they own fault.

    • I’m not going to debate with you over BA, but I would share my knowledge on credit card fees.
      1. Each business have specific deals with banks who provide the facility to the business to use a credit card so it is not easy to compare large companies.
      2. Debit card fees are set fees. i.e. each transaction is let say 10p, 20p, 50p, etc. each different debit card will be different fee i.e. visa debit, mc debit, visa business debit, foreign issues debit, etc. The only common will be that it’s a set fee.
      3. Credit card fees are always % of the transaction value. Ie Visa Credit card will be 2% MC credit card will be 2.1% Amex will be 3.4%. (these are just examples in reality they can be anything but usually around 2-3% Amex can be higher but nowadays you can make a deal with them as well)

      So based on this you can see that BA will prefer a debit card over a credit card as it would cost more. (and that is why a small local store on a 5 pounds transaction would prefer a credit card then a debit card and that is why they sometime set a minimum spend.) If you think that customers should be always charged by the actual cost I think it would be a nightmare as you wold never buy anything on credit card and you would never use AMEX 241 vouchers. A typical long haul business seat will cost let say 2000 pounds will have a 40 pounds credit card fee if we use a 2% example.

      I think what we have at the moment to pay 5-10 pounds for a credit card transaction fee and nothing to pay for a debit card is much better than paying actual costs.

  12. Adam W says:

    It’s far more the pro-QR bias that concerns me.

    • If you can find someone who has flown the A380, A350 or B787 in Business and didn’t like it, I will reconsider. The fact that you can get it for £800 to Asia is laughable, especially as you get BA Silver afterwards. What’s not to like? (Apart from the 20 meter high giant teddy bear at Hamad …..!)