Bits: BA losing all US ground staff, United drops three UK/IE routes, 40% bonus buying Hyatt points

News in brief:

British Airways to make remaining US ground staff redundant

According to reports from BA sources on Flyertalk, it was announced internally on Friday that remaining British Airways ground staff in the US are to lose their jobs.  A private contractor will be taking over the handling of British Airways flights.  It is likely that the current staff will be given the chance to transfer, although I don’t know if there are similar rules to the UK on protecting existing pay and conditions.

This follows the recent decision to transfer the Manchester and Newcastle call centre staff to Capita.

Even New York JFK is included in this move.  You would have expected British Airways to want to keep direct control of its staff at such a key gateway, but it seems not.  The airports affected are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Washington, Philadelphia, New York Newark, New York JFK and Boston.  All of the other BA US bases are already outsourced, I understand.

In case you’re wondering, this is not the normal way that long-haul airlines operate.  Most of the major foreign long haul carriers at Heathrow use their own dedicated staff and it is generally seen as a better way of keeping control of the situation on the ground when things go wrong – which, in the airline business, they often do.


United Airlines drops three UK and Irish routes to New York

United has announced that it is ending services between New York and three UK and Irish destinations:

Birmingham to Newark will close on 5th October

Glasgow to Newark will move from year-round to Summer-only, with no flights between 28th October and 4th May 2018

Shannon to Newark will move from year-round to a 75% service, with no flights between 25th November and 9th March 2018

Aer Lingus will continue to fly from Shannon to New York, and Norwegian is likely to pick up the slack elsewhere over time.

Hyatt Regency Churchill

Up to 40% bonus when you buy World of Hyatt points

Until 9th August, Hyatt is offering a 30% – 40% bonus when you buy World of Hyatt points.

You get a 30% bonus when you buy 5,000 to 9,000 points and 40% on any larger purchase.  This is a better deal than those we have seen recently from Hyatt which have tended to cap out at 30%.

This is obviously worth a look if you need to top up your account.  It may also be worthwhile if considering a stay in a top tier Park Hyatt such as the ones in Paris or Sydney, where buying the points may be cheaper than paying cash.

The new Park Hyatt resort in Mallorca is another location where buying points may make sense.   Prices for cash are still a little scary – rooms from Euro 545 in August, or Euro 680 if you want a cancellable one – despite being about 25% lower than they were in 2016.  A redemption at 20,000 points per night ($336 / £256) would be a good deal.

The Hyatt ‘buy points’ site is here.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

REMINDER: earn up to 10,000 Avios with your household, business or landlord insurance
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  1. Most if not all US states lack anything similar to our TUPE legislation, which isn’t surprising given the general state of worker’s rights over there. Paid sick leave, holidays, and health insurance are luxury benefits provided by only the most generous employers, at least when it comes to low-level front-line jobs such as the BA airport workers.

    It’s commonplace for US-based ground staff of international carriers to be outsourced to companies like Swissport, Menzies, et al. They directly employ a station manager to oversee the contract staff, but the inevitable reduction in wages and benefits impacts the level of talent they can recruit.

    The current staff will probably be able to transfer to the new operator, but they may not want to.

  2. Andrew says:

    Oh goodie. – Capita seem just fabulous at managing things for transport companies…

  3. Network-wide, BA service is so consistently inconsistent that most customers won’t notice a difference after outsourcing.

    Perhaps BA should outsource cabin and flight crew, too? Sell the aircraft and lease them back?

    • Most of the newer aircraft are leased anyway, and the older ones that are not are worthless to buyers (or at least, are still worth more to BA than the price they’d get for them).

    • Fenny says:

      Do they go “ping”?

    • Lostantipod says:

      BA may be consistently inconsistent, but you would think they would at least protect their level of service on their cash-cow TATL routes. After all, it’s not about checking in and tagging my luggage. – what I value when I travel for business is how I am handled when there is a disruption, be that minor or major. Just another sign of the race to the bottom….and managers trying to protect this year’s bonus….

      • No idea what level of service you mean.

        My worst-ever BA flight was LHR-JFK. My best-ever BA flight was JFK-LHR, the inbound of the same booking.

  4. Will there still be any U.K. call centres though (not that I ever manage to get through to them!) First Direct bank has a long standing commitment to maintaining all of its call centres within the U.K. which speaks volumes about how important this actually is to customers. BA should take note (they won’t though).

    • The Original Nick. says:

      Amex is fine.

    • Callum says:

      I’d argue the exact opposite… The fact virtually no companies make such a commitment shows most customers don’t really care where the call centre is.

      • I disagree. First Direct did a lot of customer consultation and decided to retain UK call centres despite the higher cost, because feedback indicated that this was actually very important.

        • ankomonkey says:

          Could this partly be as First Direct don’t have their own branches, so the call centres are a more important facet of their business (although FD customers can do a fair amount in HSBC branches)?

      • Fenny says:

        BT’s consistently awful non-UK call centres are the reason none of my family use BT, including my SiL, who used to work for BT!

  5. Another nail idriven in the coffin by Alex Cruz. I wonder if he is working for a rival airline trying to completely destroy British Airways.

  6. Tom Murray says:

    We were in NY in December 2015 and on standby at JFK. Finally got on but ‘no food’ in J as it was an ‘eat in the lounge’ red-eye. The BA check in girl phoned a friend to get us in so we could grab a decent snack before boarding. Unusual, and on thanking her discretely she said it was her last day as a BA employee there – along with many others as from the new year most of BA check in was being handled by a US agent. The writing was on the wall then?

    • Tom Murray says:

      p.s. You wouldn’t want to be on standby in the US now. I can’t see that an agency employee will tip you the wink that the flight’s looking ok or that there may be the chance of a jump seat. Even T5’s ‘automated standby’ system gives you a BA employee at check in and at the gate. Will US contract employees really care about Exec Club members either? Yes they’ll be trained to but they won’t have that ‘same company’ identity. We’ll all still fly BA though…..

  7. Warkman says:

    Yet another blow to those in the midlands wanting to get to the USA.
    Flights constantly more expensive than even Heathrow, so choice becomes indirect or 2~3 hours driving after a TATL flight.
    BHX needs to decide if it’s just a Indian continent flyer or wants to be bigger .

    • Catalan says:

      Maybe because BHX has discovered more people fly to the Indian sub continent from the Midlands than do trans-Atlantic? Supply and demand.

      • Even as someone who lives in Birmingham I go out of my way, literally, to avoid United’s old 757-200 on the route to NYC. It’s a truly horrible experience.

  8. “British Airways to make remaining US ground staff redundant”

    As any frequent flyer knows too well, when you have contracted out staff replacing company staff at airports you lose yet another ‘direct’ customer connection level. There is little, if any, such connection then, until you cross the threshold onto the plane.

    BA should play “Down down deeper and down” on their U.S. flights now, as boarding takes place. With apologies to Status Quo!

    • Callum says:

      You do lose it, but whether that matters or not depends purely on how the staff are contracted.

      My experiences with contract staff on other airlines has only been positive. They had the same powers, cared the same (the number of low wage employees who love their company and so will go above and beyond can’t possibly be as high as many on here think!) and were actually more convenient given they were floating around doing flights for multiple airlines whereas normally in the outstation (1 or 2 flights a day), dedicated airline staff would only be around during the flight preparation window.

  9. the real harry1 says:

    O/T looks like I could be flying on Qatar metal on Friday

    According to this, I might get free F&B

    Can anybody confirm that economy fares get free F&B on the Qatari planes?

    • Catalan says:

      Yes. Apparently as Qatar crew are not trained to use the BoB machines BA are supplying the F&B free of charge. Happy days

  10. Chris says:

    OT recently discovered that my dad has amassed 500+k avios just from all the money he spends for his business. This has taken him years, right back from when it was Air Miles. Doesn’t have a clue about air miles and has never even made a redemption so I’ve been trying to put that straight recently. Have churned the gold and spg cards for him.

    I’m not sure where to go from here though, he’s definitely someone who would prefer not to be messing about signing up to cards all the time and cancelling. He puts through about 70-100k spend a year so there’s potential to earn a lot of points. He’s amassed all of his avios in recent years using the lloyds avios card they gave him when air miles switched to avios, and from what I can calculate from his statements it only gives him a paltry 0.2 avios per £ spent (so less than the 0.25 anybody can get nowadays?!).

    I think BAPP is a given so that he can shift 10k spend a year onto that and take advantage of the 241. But was thinking he should put the remainder on another card to build up a different airline balance and diversify. He also needs a visa/MasterCard for most of his spend anyway. AA would give the best rate but then it’s oneworld again. United looks like a good choice to gain access to star alliance but then the earnings rate is half that of AA, so he’d be missing out on half the miles every year for the privilege of opening up star alliance. Thoughts anyone? Him and my mum travel long haul maybe once a year, to destinations all over.

    • Sundar says:

      Sicne Churning is limited, I would suggest Amex MR and SPG for the flexibility they will give, after you have done the BAPP 241 for the year.

    • Best options for big spenders (if the airline route networks suit):

      Virgin Black – 2 miles per £1 on the Amex
      Emirates Elite – 2 miles per £1 on the Amex
      HSBC Premier World Elite – 1 miles per £1 (Avios, Asia Miles, Etihad, Singapore) on a MasterCard
      AA – 1.25 miles per £1 on a Visa

      None of these cards are free but at that level of spend the fee is a rounding error.

      • Chris says:

        Cheers Rob! I’ll discuss it with him, see if he has any preferences. I guess my original question was is the opportunity to diversify and get a decent number of miles in star alliance per year outweighed by the poorer earning rates of the Lufthansa/United cards. Now that I think about it, I’m guessing it is. 100k virgin (assuming MC spend) or 125k AA miles looks like a better deal than 62.5k united miles, even with the existing avios stash.

        • JamesB says:

          Forgot to mention, you could hedge on Etihad because it gives you the option of flights or cashing out with pointspay or via giftcards. Rob seems to rate their J and F on a380 best around at the moment. Another mbna sign up bonus will likely come around and you can get direct or indirect bonuses for MR transfers from time to time.

  11. Crafty says:

    OT: Stayed at Hilton Syon Park earlier this week as Gold. No acknowledgement of status let alone benefit. Didn’t want to press it then as with a work crowd, but shouldn’t they at the very least be throwing a few points my way in lieu of free breakfast (didn’t need one as included in rate)?

    • No, the point of your status is that you could have saved money by booking room only!

      If you were part of a block booking you would have had a very low rate and upgrades may have gone to bigger spenders. Upgrades as Gold are mainly ‘higher floor’, ‘better view’ etc anyway so if you weren’t facing the social housing behind the hotel then you probably were upgraded.

  12. Speaking of BA’s use of Capita, I had the misfortune of dealing with them yesterday. Perhaps this is old news, but is anyone else aware that calls to the BA Executive Club Silver contact centre are first routed through Capita’s ‘General Enquiries’ desk? I only found out about this after spending nearly 30-minutes to get a simple change made to my profile, which the website would not allow for some reason. Imagine asking the same question 6 times, politely explaining to the agent that they don’t understand the request, and then repeating it. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Finally we got to the point in the call where the agent figured out he couldn’t actually help me, and to my surprise, explained that I was being transferred to the BA Executive Club Silver contact centre. After getting connected to an agent in the Manchester centre, she fixed the issue in less than 60-seconds.

    This is worse than cost-cutting. Personally, I would love to see Alex Cruz have to deal with this level of uselessness on every future service interaction he makes.

    • the real harry1 says:

      Capita are generally fine in terms of professionalism, once they understand the remit. They are just bloody expensive. About twice or 2.5x the cost of employing somebody yourself.

      I guess once you factor in pensions & the ease of getting rid of people, it is worth it for the likes of BA.

    • Never one to let facts get in the way of good hyperbole, eh? Capita currently have no contract with BA and do not handle any calls for them. The discussion is a proposal to do this in the future. But not now.

  13. the real harry1 says:
  14. the real harry1 says:
    The secret system that prevents pilots who hate each other from sharing a cockpit