Bits: The Sunday Times on British Airways, £45 flight simulator experience

News in brief:

The Sunday Times Magazine on the state of British Airways

The Sunday Times Magazine ran a very critical piece on British Airways yesterday, which appears to have been triggered by the investing4u press day.

The article is behind a paywall, unfortunately, and I don’t want to incur Rupert’s wrath by running it in full.  Here are a few choice quotes – if you find a copy of the whole thing knocking around then it is very interesting reading.

“The strikes and the IT fiasco, which will cost the airline some £80m in compensation — about 5% of annual operating profit — could not have come at a worse time for BA and its long-suffering passengers. Travellers are already furious at the airline’s decision to scrap free food and drink on short-haul flights in favour of paid-for offerings from Marks & Spencer.

Critics say that under its latest CEO, Alex Cruz, who arrived last year from the Spanish budget airline Vueling, BA has deteriorated so much it is as unappealing as it was when it was a state-owned company nicknamed Bloody Awful. This year “has been a tipping point”, says Rita Clifton, a former Saatchi & Saatchi director of strategy who helped create BA’s iconic World’s Favourite Airline campaign. “Most staff and passengers used to love the brand. For too many, that has turned to hate.” “

“But what sent BA into a nosedive in the first place? Independent analysts, BA staff and executives to whom I have spoken say the airline has cut costs too aggressively, eroding what was once its greatest strength: its status as a premium brand. One senior executive said: “We just don’t know when to stop cutting costs. There’s no calibration.”

…… BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), said in 2015 that it aimed to save £78m in IT expenditure over three years “as a result of synergies, simplification and shared solutions”. Did they cut too much? Yes, says Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research, a leading travel industry research firm. “On average, a network airline like BA spends less than 3% of its revenue on IT when the average for other industries is 4%-6%,” he says. BA insists the computer fiasco had “absolutely nothing to do with the way we resource our IT systems”. But it has not explained what happened.”

“The effects of BA’s parsimony are obvious, just looking out of the window at Terminal 5. The airline is too reliant on ageing Boeing 747 double-deckers and 777 single-deckers, even if it does have a few shiny new Dreamliners like the one Cruz wanted to show off. Breakdowns and glitches on its aircraft have left many cabin service directors joking darkly that they are “cabin ‘sorry’ directors” because they spend so much time apologising for blank TV screens, dilapidated lavatories and wonky seats.”

“BA’s service, once feted, also lags behind its competitors. Many staff are so worn down by cost-cutting and disputes with management that they’ve long forgotten BA’s “To Fly. To Serve” motto. “They give United a run for their money,” complains one traveller. Privately, BA executives admit service can vary from best-in-class to what one calls “chicken or beef bog-standard awful”.”

“Cruz has pledged not to “Ryanair-ise” short-haul economy, but his words ring hollow for many regular travellers. They moan that the payment system for the new buy-onboard (Bob) food is too slow. “If you’re not sitting in the front half of the cabin, you don’t get anything,” is a frequent complaint. Worse, many flights run out of food, especially on return legs, earning Bob the nickname Nob — “Nothing onboard”. Cruz has admitted “we had a rough start” and has pledged to speed up service and load more food, including his favourite Percy Pig sweets.”

Boeing 737 flight simulator

Flight simulator experience just £45

On Sunday we wrote about the new Boeing 737 Flight Simulator Experience now available in Putney, London.

Roberto pointed out in the comments yesterday that it is currently on Groupon at a substantial discount – click here.

At weekends, the £140 fee for a 30-minute session is reduced to £52 (£85 for an hour).  If you can go midweek, it drops to £45, or £75 for an hour.  Not bad value at all, given that these simulators are very expensive pieces of equipment.

You save a further 15% if you are creating a new Groupon account by using code NEW15.

(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.)

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  1. James A says:

    Is it a full motion simulator like the ones used for crew training? (As you can have a play on at BA HQ for a few hundred).

    • Clive says:

      I wondered this too. If it isn’t (and most aren’t), the photo they use above (taken at an angle to imply tilting) is pretty misleading.

      • Not sure … we’re only working off the press releases we were sent.

      • Genghis says:

        I doubt it very much. Tony posted yesterday of a place in Coventry doing A320 and 737 full motion sims but at £499/h they’re more pricy than the BA ones (744 at £449/h). BA had an offer on last year so I think I’ll wait to see if that offer is repeated.

      • JayZio says:

        It’s on a fixed base, from the FAQ:

        Does the simulator have motion?
        Our simulator is a fixed base device. However the immersion experience combined with the fidelity of visuals, sound and vibration give you an amazing sensory experience.

      • Craig Strickland says:

        I very much doubt it too, the insurance and maintenance costs of running a full motion simulator would make the price much higher. I’ve been in one when the motion failed, it wasn’t pleasant.

      • It’s a fixed base simulator, but incredibly realistic. Have been on it myself. Great bunch of folks that operate it as well.

  2. Stu R says:

    Boarding a BA flight at LHR a couple of weeks back, we were informed that our ATC slot was delayed hence there’d be a delay in boarding. 30 minutes had passed when the captain emerged up the escalator to ask why the passengers hadn’t been boarded as he’d asked for them to be sent 20 minutes previously. As a result, we missed our revised slot, got delayed by another hour, missed our connection in Madrid (by 10 minutes) and arrived at our destination 4 hours late. Is incompetence classed as an extraordinary circumstance I wonder, or is it worth a punt on an EU261?

    • HiDeHi says:

      BA will blame ATC, so extraordinary circumstances outside their control. Might be hard to prove what actually happened, BA will certainly not own up to it. Worth a punt though.

      • the real harry1 says:

        not worth a punt under EU261 unless you’re feeling lucky

        first flight was not over 3hrs late

        missing a tight connection = user error

        • James says:

          Missing a connection on a booked through ticket as a result of flight delay is not user error.

        • They’ll soon pay up when you issue a court summons for the captain to testify in your case 😉

        • the real harry1 says:

          of course it CAN be user error

          doing the math on the comment from StuR, it seems they’d allowed 70 mins to disembark & make the connection

          so whilst BA systems allowed the booking to be made – implying that in most cases you’d be safe to make the connection – in reality giving yourself 70 mins to transfer from plane #1 to gate #2 before the gate closes is always going to be touch & go

          = user error

          you’d be crazy to do this unless the flights were on the same PNR

        • JamesB says:

          I am comfused about this issue of compensation on connecting flights. Surely it is arrival time at the 9final destination that counts? If we arrive at our destination more than three hours late because we missed a connection due to a late arriving flight which was the fault of the airline then are we not still entitled to compensation?

        • the real harry1 says:

          if StuR had a single PNR, they are entitled to compo as arrived late by more than 3hrs

          if they made up he itinerary themselves (ie 2x PNRs), they ae not

        • Stu R says:

          It was the same PNR so I’m going to give it a go – nothing to lose!

  3. HiDeHi says:

    When is Alex Cruz going to be fired. Basically it seems a certainty by now.

    I have lost interest flying BA in Club World after my last long haul flight to Vancouver. FAs did not serve the last four rows wine or drinks with dinner and then when I used the call bell, they ignored it. And 5 mins later I turned it off and on again and they still ignored it. I could hear them nattering away in the galley either oblivious to the call bell or deliberately ignoring it. Either way they just didn’t care.

    There is now absolutely nothing exciting about flying BA in CW. It’s a good seat, nothing more.

    • the real harry1 says:

      why didn’t you get up & go to the galley?

      • HiDeHi says:

        Well normally I would be happy to do outside of meals but it is a) not the easiest to get up from the seat when the tray is out and you are in the middle of a main course but mostly b) it would feel a bit weird to bring my wine glass to the galley to ask for some wine with my meal.

        Also, I don’t think wine should be on request in the galley only during mealtime. It’s not like I had had some and wanted a top up, they just never offered any to start with. But obviously you disagree.

        • HiDeHi says:

          Anyway doesn’t matter. The point is that the service in CW these days is not a selling point. It feels bare minimum and I do not see Club World in any way an aspirational product. Aer Lingus business class is much much better and the crew actually seem to enjoy their job.

    • Clive says:

      I think people are being a bit naive to continually vent at Cruz personally. Do we really not expect he gets pretty clear direction from WW and the IAG board?

  4. Quite frankly any mention of BA nowadays reminds me of British Leyland back in the 1970’s. An unreliable, unpredictable, non-customer oriented product & service, and strikes.

    • +1. I didn’t realise Cruz came from Vueling and explains a lot and looking at reviews of Vueling could be an indicator of where BA’s reputation will be at.

      • Remember that as soon as he left Vueling, it went into operational meltdown because the schedule had been done too tightly. Cruz lost his bonus last year because of this, even though he’d left Vueling by then.

        • Hence one of the biggest complaints of very late departures or cancellations.

        • And that is the reason I would not use Vueling or BA because of the possibility of the lack of certainty of getting to where you want to go, as well as the F&B changes.

  5. Laura says:

    I read the article yesterday in the Times, the point I picked up was the deliberate mission by Alex Cruz to turn BA into two airlines, budget at the back and more luxury at the front. I tweeted them, but to date have had no reply.

    Separately, on a recent flight I got talking to some cabin crew about the BoB, it seems they the crew loathe it as much as the passengers do, crew morale is low, nobody is staying long, hence lack of experience in premium cabins amongst FAs. And as mixed flight FAs they apparently earn 5 times less than the legacy crew members. Have yet to challenge BA on this, but expect a similar nil response.

    • Did you read my FT thread on “Bob £2.30 for hot water” on my recent Malaga – Gatwick flight.

    • the real harry1 says:

      ‘nobody is staying long’

      BA would love to get rid of the long-serving cabin crew on big money/ big pensions – I doubt they’re jumping ship

    • I interpreted Cruz’s “radical plan” to split the airline into two – a budget and a posh one – to have two separate types of aircrafts flying: an all posh one and all low cost one ! And was wondering how this would work in reality

      • That seems like a good idea except ….. it is stupid. My wife’s bank won’t let her fly Business in Europe, so when she has to pop over to HQ in Frankfurt for a short notice meeting it is a £850 flexible return economy ticket. And treating people on £850 economy tickets like dirt is not good business strategy.

        Remember that, under the revised 2015 tier point structure, you could be flying to Frankfurt on a £850 economy ticket once a month and STILL not get anywhere near enough tier points for lounge access via a Silver card.

        • David Murray says:

          2015 wouldn’t have changed anything. Flex economy was 20 TP each way before – and stlil is. You’d get 80% of the way to silver on that alone. One premium economy long haul in addition and you’d be over the threshold.

          What did change just before then is the ability to earn fewer points and still make silver by having a European address – I think it was 400 then. So if her avios went to her desk in Frankfurt, she’d have been silver, but it’s nothing to do with the earning.

        • Yes, good point.

        • Roger I* says:

          I missed that European address benefit. I thought all Eurobenefits had been enhanced away.

          Is it still valid? We can have a legitimate Euroaddress. Thanks.

        • Not any longer

      • roberto says:

        They tried that with GO back in the late 90’s and all the succeeded in doing was to embolden their now biggest competition when they sold it off to easyjet a few years in.

  6. JamesB says:

    It seems the Sunday Times Magazine article was a bit of a yawn to be honest, they would have been better running a random selection of comments/threads from HFP to illustrate the experience of real customers.

  7. Simon says:

    Read that article from seat 1C on a flight back from Ibiza to LHR yesterday, during which I had the best meal I can remember eating in the air, on any airline. Great starter, and a main course of Miso cod and wasabi mash that would not have been out of place at Nobu. Cabin crew were superb, we landed 4 minutes early. I think the fact some of the crew were more “mature” might have helped. But it was a faultless journey. All for 35k avios and 50 quid return…… When they get it right………..

    • Gavin says:

      Think I had something similar in WTP last year and yes it was very good!

    • Andrew says:

      We had that meal last year on the way to VIE I think and, yes, very good indeed.

    • I had that Cod and wasabi mash meal last week coming back from Rome (Qatar operated the flight due to strikes, BA food still). Was very nice. As was the starter of beetroot and goats cheese on the outbound flight.

      However, this alone doesn’t make up for the rest of the shambles that are BA flights nowadays.

    • Sheldon says:

      Simon I was also on that flight back from Ibiza yesterday (using Avios points myself – true value and showing the benefit of the BA Amex). I could not agree with you more about the food and service. The main dish cod and wasabi mash was delicious! Only slight complaint would be the starter could have done with more than the one prawn on the bed of melon.

  8. xcalx says:

    “And treating people on £850 economy tickets like dirt is not good business strategy.”

    Surely treating anybody like dirt regardless of cost or cabin class is not a good strategy!

  9. ZeroHedge says:

    Anyone else having trouble booking with the flight sim people ?

    I have called 4 times today and it always goes to answerphone…

  10. OT – BA strikes. OH has just come home with a tale of a colleague who tried to check in online last night for her BA Newcastle-Heathrow-New York flight this morning only to get a message saying that the connecting flight was cancelled, with no alternative offered. She and her travel companions had to take a mini bus through the night to Heathrow. This makes me glad I always insist on doing connecting flights the day before a long haul and booking a hotel for the night. I shudder to think what the Heathrow hotels will be charging, last minute, at this time of year.

    • Nick M says:

      We managed to get a family room at the new T4 Premier Inn for under £30 mid Aug – worth having a look!

  11. Finally followed Rob’s advice and flew QR to Sydney yesterday in business. Almost everything about it was superior to BA First which I do twice a year with two BA Amex 2 for 1 vouchers. Business even has the flowers in the loo and (hot) amuse bouche that BA abandoned in First and has now brought back. The modern aircraft, fantastic service, great seat with space and storage space, better lounges in LHR and DOH etc. etc. Quite an eye opener. The only thing on BA which is better is the First wine list which is really good with some genuinely great finds as well as more classic French wines. What amazed me on QR was that the food seems fresh and more like restaurant food. BA First menu usually sounds good but the reality is almost invariably disappointing – rather like a supermarket ready meal. QR demonstrated that it is poor quality chosen by BA rather than the limitations of food in the air. BA really is on a downward spiral and BoB is a fiasco in its delivery and for PR. My student son came back from Barcelona this week and they wouldn’t give out water; that’s a disgrace. IAG shareholders may be happy now, but ultimately the BA passenger experience will be reflected in the share price; neither is a pretty sight.

    • Talay says:

      Jeff, care to share your strategy for obtaining the LHR-SYD availability via Amex 241 ?

      I rarely see a seat and even watching T355 like a hawk, I wonder whether something isn’t amiss with the procedure ?

      • Polly says:

        Talay, l think Jeff is comparing it another F he took, not ness to SYD. Agree, l have never seen a complete trip in F to SYD, for a 241 opp, also hawkishly watching. Think l would et such a shock if l saw one available! We won’t waste our time trying to find one, so we are planning also to go via a QR sale to SYD. Def think the space in QR is much better than in BA F for sure.

  12. Polly says:

    Jeff, good to hear it was such a success. It’s the way we plan to do our Oz, NZ trip in a couple of years time, hopefully.

  13. JOHN MUNN says:

    OT: Can BAEC book Aerlingus European flights on the phone? is quoting huge taxes and charges for Dublin – Lisbon , I know you can book Transatlantic EI flights with BA Executive Club over the phone, not sure about European ones though.

    • JOHN MUNN says:

      in case anyone else come across this. You can buy European Aerlingus flights with Avios via BAEC call centre. was quoting £212 in taxes and charges (for 2 people). BAEC phone booking was £159, which included the booking fee for booking over the phone.
      Strange that there’s a discrepancy in pricing here – probably won’t be long until the BAEC price goes up to match

  14. Tony Burns says:

    As somebody who takes 30ish flights a year on Easyjet or Ryanair I really look forward to the odd BA flight which is always far superior. I do not understand the constant anti BA commentry.

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