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

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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.

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Comments (60)

  • ZeroHedge says:

    Anyone else having trouble booking with the flight sim people ?

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

  • Anna says:

    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!

  • Jeff says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • JOHN MUNN says:

    OT: Can BAEC book Aerlingus European flights on the phone? Avios.com 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. Avios.com 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 Avios.com.

  • 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.