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Does HfP have an ‘anti-BA’ bias?

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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:

British Airways A350

“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.)

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 (178)

  • Neil says:

    To me, being one of those who has seen BA go through many changes in the last 20 years, the moans we have about BA are often justified on the basis of “I remember the good old days when x was great..” but the flip side is of course the whole industry has been cheapened by the new kids on the block and BA has had to respond.
    Despite living in the north of England though, I still refer to BA as our national airline.

    • Frankie says:

      It IS the national airline. Aer Lingus is Ireland’s. It’s low cost. AeroFlot is Russia’s.

    • Paul says:

      But it’s not a national airline anymore. Until recently there was not a single service in Scotland and indeed England that did not operate to or from London. There probably is not another single comparable sized nation in Europe that operates only from one city.

      • Barry cutters says:

        It’s the national airline but is still a business, do you really think if it was in their interest and profitable to open up tens of new routes from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle , Manchester, Cardiff, that they wouldn’t do it? You have indirect access to the whole of n.america and every other destination ba offers with many connections a day from all these places and that’s good enough.

        • Dan says:

          Sorry, that’s a ludicrous statement.

          It’s obviously fine for BA to take a business decision to offer those in the regions a service which relies on connecting through LHR – but I think the point here was that, as our national airline, it feels odd that Virgin, Emirates, Qatar etc can make direct traffic from the regions work – and suggests BA have taken an ideological position here – along the lines of your final sentence above!

  • Peaceful Waters says:

    When 90% of changes are detrimental it’s hard to report positively about them.

  • Globetrotter7 says:

    Well to be honest, I did also wonder why you had to compare the Eurostar lounge offerings to BA. Considering that you also focus heavily on Virgin, you could have used the Virgin Trains First Class lounge at Kings Cross as a reference point. That’d have been fairer. So I can understand the criticism from the FT reader

    • Susan says:

      Virgin trains C1 lounge is only a good comparator if the majority of the audience is likely to have used that service. The whole point of the site is to get enough airmiles to fly in a premium cabin and so have access to at least Galleries Club. And as flying is the only other quick route to Paris comparing with the flying option is also valid.

    • Ceri says:

      All very well globetrotter, but I suspect that many readers on HFP, like me, who are not south east based have no experience of the virgin first class lounge at kings cross. (living in the West, even when travelling by train, virgin is not an option). On this basis I think it’s likely that the comparison with the BA lounge will be familiar to more readers.

      That said, I suspect that most readers would also have other ideas about references that Raffles could have compared the Eurostar lounge to.

    • Genghis says:

      But then the previous or recently revamped lounge?

      • Raffles says:

        I haven’t been in since Virgin took it over, to be honest. I did review it before the switch.

  • Derek says:

    I think you have to look at it like this: if you want to ‘earn’ free flights or earn status privileges in the UK and you tend to fly to or redeem flights to both westward and eastward destinations then Avios is your easy answer.

    Unfortunately the easiest way to earn them is to fly BA – and personally I have found that as time goes by their product has become less and less desirable while airlines like QR have gone from strength to strength. (Also who cares about the interior of the 787 if you are sitting in the most uncomfortable seat ever imagined by an airline!)

    So, at the end of the day, your journalism reflects this – you are chronicalling what is happening – and it is negative.

  • SouthernEM says:

    Good that people can express their point of view, but can this person now accept that we, who read HFP don’t share it? BTW, reading HFP has helped me make an informed decision to book BA last week so in fact, it encouraged me to travel and book a Business class flight which I am very much looking forward to. I left reading the rest of the details because frankly, I do not want to wonder if the person serving me is this guy. Keep going HFP, don’t mind these comments- use them as food for thought.

  • Ian H says:

    No bias IMO. The BA offering is simply not very good anymore compared to other airlines.

    In terms of the magazine comment – that is absolutely fair.

    Maybe this employee needs to remove his BA blinkers and see what the competition is offering.

  • OttoMH says:

    Dear Raffles,

    I fly ba (GCH) because it offers a good FFP and the fringe benefits like the 2-4-1 and the GUFx vouchers are good. I also think I am pro-BA biased, to the detriment of my travel experience, due to the ‘aspirational’ nature of their product and marketing during my formative years in the late 90’s and early 00’s. I kind of like the feeling of the ‘exclusive British club’ – maybe because I’m an expat these days?

    However, if i take the rose tinted specs off for a second… These days I tend to only fly them when they are price competitive though, so maybe I am part of the problem?! However, that said, I an happy to pay a significant premium relative to budget airlines on short haul (£50-60) and a modest (10-15%) long haul. I just feel that the product and service isn’t worth a significant premium or worth flying out of the way for.

    I am irritated by cost cutting measures. They need to keep the cost base down but I feel this has been to the detriment of passenger experience, in the majority of cases. This positioning is at odds with why I fly them. Maybe this is just too far at odds with what I, and many others I guess, are actually willing (or able, work travel for example) to pay. The hot food example is another irritation, as it can’t cost more than £5-6pp to do a decent inflight meal, surely? Surely BA’s customer base is willing to pay more for improved product and service? If they continue to imitate U2 they can only lose as then there’s no differentiation and U2 have the upper hand on routes for 85% of the country.

    Most staff are exceptional, but there can be some real CBA crews too.

    BA needs to differentiate itself, it can never be successful with a cost leadership strategy. You can’t cut yourself to success.

    OttoMH

  • Peter Bambridge says:

    HFP is not biased IMHO !
    I find much of the constructive criticism helpful, and BA could do well to listen and act more on such feedback.
    Having spent many years as an IT industry analyst, I know how frustrating it is when someone throws a ‘bias’ accusation. Very hard to handle effectively.
    Healthy discussion needs to be open to all to comment, so any feedback and interaction is to be welcomed.
    The world would be a poorer place if we all agreed on everything,
    Please keep doing what you do best !

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