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BA: Loaded down

Robert Peston | 09:16 UK time, Friday, 22 May 2009

The most striking number in British Airways results for the past year was the £3bn it spent on fuel, which was 44.5% higher than in the previous year.

So for all the talk from Willie Walsh, BA's chief executive, that "the global downturn makes this the harshest trading environment we have ever faced", without the £900m jump in fuel costs the airline would have been very comfortably in profit: operating profits would have been around £700m.

British Airways planes

In fact the evidence of BA's revenues is not of a cataclysmic global recession. Passenger revenues rose 3.1% to £7.8bn and cargo revenues were 9.4% higher at £673m. Which is not boom boom, but nor is it financial disaster at 30,000 feet.

What actually caused BA's worst ever loss of £401m before tax and the suspension of the dividend was a lamentable rise in costs: engineering and "other" aircraft costs increased by £59m or 13.1%; landing fees were 14.2% or £75m higher. Even staff costs rose a bit.

So it's difficult to avoid the impression that at least part of BA's agony, its descent in just 12 months from record profits to record losses, was of its own making - though plainly there's a limit to what it can do to hedge itself against the near-collapse in the value of sterling (which pushes up the cost of fuel) and against the volatility in the dollar oil price.

The better news is that BA expects to pay rather less for fuel this year.

Also it's cutting costs: staff are being offered the option of temporary or permanent part-time working and unpaid leave; the company is negotiating "productivity changes" with trade unions; there'll be no management bonuses (surely BA didn't contemplate paying bonuses in this climate?).

Walsh sees no end in sight to the sharp decline in demand for air travel. At the end of the year, therefore, BA moved to cutting prices rather than squeezing more revenue out of individual customers.

However it's the uncertainties that overwhelm and the company has decided not to issue any guidance on what its results might look like in the coming year.

And if you're looking for reasons to be fearful about the outlook for BA, there's this resonant statement pertaining to the hole in its pension funds: "if the financial markets deteriorate further, our pension deficit may increase, impacting balance sheet liabilities, which may in turn affect our ability to raise additional funds".

It's not clear how big the hole in this pension fund is right now. The analyst John Ralfe thinks it could be around £3bn.

What is clear is that the quantum of BA's debt and the value of its net assets are moving in opposite directions at a worryingly fast rate.

Net borrowings rose by more than £1bn last year, to £2.4bn, dwarfing shareholders' equity of £1.6bn (which fell by an alarming 46%).

At a time when - as Walsh says - the economic flying conditions are as bad as they've ever been, those liabilities are a heavy burden to be carrying in the hold.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Personally I haven't flown anywhere for over a year. I refuse now to fly from Scotland to London for meetings that last an hour or so and have taken up using a well known (and free) VOIP programme for making conference calls including video.

    In face, if this pathetic govt of ours had an iota of vision it would be providing funds to develop 100Mb broadband technology that could be rolled out right across the country.

  • Comment number 2.

    HI Robert, thanks again for the blog.

    You say that the increased revenues are a positive sign, but does this reflect that, as a result of rising fuel prices, the cost of tickets would have undoubtedly risen? A better indicator would surely be the number of passengers.

  • Comment number 3.

    Part of BAs problems are of their own making so I have little sympathy. As an Executive Club member and therefore extremely frequent traveller Mr Walsh should make sure his staff everywhere are made aware of the importance of looking after frequent travellers, which is often far from the case and which drives us elsewhere. A recent example of the jobsworth attitude occurred recent on a flight back from Europe. I was on a fixed priced Club Europe business class ticket, which is already very expensive but as my appointment finished early I noticed there was a flight before my booked flight. At the gate I was told "yes there are seats in Club free". There was a change of flight crew and I spoke to the Captain who was boarding to fly the plane to London and who would have been happy to take me. Unfortunately a phone call was required to some anonymous jobsworth who advised that because I did not have the right ticket that I could not catch the flight and would have to wait two hours. So BA would rather fly an empty seat rather than accommodate a frequent traveller who usually travels in a premium cabin and who is now so fed up with the arrogance of BA that he would choose almost any other airline if there is a choice. Mr Walsh look to your internal rules, regulations and staff attitudes before moaning about outside adverse factors.

  • Comment number 4.

    Personally I believe that our children's generation will not travel anything like as far or as frequently as we have done. I'm 37 and grew up as part of a generation that thought nothing of jumping on a plane and visiting far flung parts of the world at very little cost. My daughter is 2, and I cannot currently envisage her being able to do this in the future to the same extent that we did. I believe that financial and environmental concerns are going to make international travel prohibitively expensive again, and unless there are technological advances of an incredible extent in the next few years, more and more of us will be staying in the UK for our holidays - but is that such a bad thing? To listen to the government, one would think that not building a third runway will instantly lead to financial disaster and utter ruin for everyone.

  • Comment number 5.

    It strikes me the company remains wildly over-manned with a truly awful and unchangeable trade union strangle hold leading to some truly crazy front-line salaries. A culture of endless meetings appears to continue with a fear of any decision making and responsibility. Lord King (the firms last real Leader) must be turning in his grave. I fly with when I have no choice and the avoidance of service (imitation BR sandwiches served on EU services) and the endless "Joyce Grenfall" p.a. announcements simply drive me to distraction. Sadly, the far superior bmi appears in even worse trouble.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think the BA results also reflect the fact that in recent years BA has sold off various assets, mortgaged the fleet, sold off Speedbird House and leased 'Waterworld' as its HQ etc. In effect it has nothing now left to sell off to boost its balance sheet as it has in recent years.

    Hence its cost v assets base has shifted South at an alarming rate, just like its profits.

    The way forward?. Well speaking as a small BA shareholder, curbing some of the execs pay (I know only chickenfeed in the overall picture) would be a start. Then putting the service back into customer service (the anti of Lo-Co carriers) and urging the public to 'fly the flag' by offering competitive pricing would be a start.

    Just don't get me started on the cost of 'Waterworld'!


  • Comment number 7.

    Robert Pestons comments on BA reveal the massive gap in understanding there is now between the public and private sector

    On the one hand public servants (including Peston at the BBC, who recieve £3 billion of our money rain or shine) who's wages are paid come what may who live in an environment where there to all intents and purposes there are no constraints on spending as income is guaranteed and private industry that is facing incredible pressures and where survival is now the name of the game

    They live in a competitive world Peston, if they dont perform they dont get paid they go out of business

  • Comment number 8.

    Fuel hedging and fuel costs from last year's spike are the main factor in airline losses at the moment. Compared to the majority of US carriers BA is actually well placed, as their losses have racked up billions year after year.

    BA needs to do the Iberia deal, even if it means eating a slice of humble pie which is no mean feat for an airline still riddled with the BOAC superiority complex. New markets and economies of scale, together with the American Airlines joint venture to come, will mean better prospects and sound fundamentals going into the upturn.

  • Comment number 9.

    in the seventies, eighties and nineties i spent my life flying around the world on business, thinking nothing of flying to New York for a two hour meeting and flying back to London........At the turn of the century i cut down dramatically on flights, relying on the new technology to communicate.....The airlines have to recognise the trend and adapt...They have to learn the value of customer service, instead of treating their customers as cattle, herded from one place to another.As post #3 outlines, they have to cherish the hand that feeds.......I must add that BA used to be one of the best, but is now amongst the worse...

  • Comment number 10.

    Robert, you may be correct that these losses are mainly due to the rise in fuel costs, but a loss is a loss whatever the cause.

    Part of the reason that Stirling has been falling, thus raising the cost of fuel, is the lack of confidence in our economy. Whilst this government continues to borrow more than we can afford, and at the same time indulges in 'quantitative easing' (printing money we haven't got), I think we should be worried.

  • Comment number 11.

    After being treat like cattle at Heathrow, last year flying out to Shanghai, my family ( 5 of us all ) decided enough was enough.

    Now we use Humberside, fly out to Schipol and catch the Dutch airways... what a contrast in both airports and it turns out to be far handier travelling wise to the airport. No hours on the M1 etc.

    Price wise, very favourable. BA are extortionate at anytime.
    Waiting time in between flights to and from Schipol? Time is spent resting instead of driving down to/from the cattle market.

  • Comment number 12.

    BA seem to have an excuse for all seasons! How credible is their exposure to the weakness of the pound - a large number of their customers will be paying in foreign currency anyway. When the pound falls against the Euro BA's fares for European customers do not reduce = extra profit for BA. Yes fuel is priced in dollars but I image a significant numbers of customesr also pay in dollars.

  • Comment number 13.

    #3. I hope you copied your comments to Willie Walsh.

    I too am an Executive Club member but I often ask myself why I bother. There seems to be no advantage in belong to any kind of loyalty club, except for the privilege of being bombarded by additional emails.

    Loyalty counts for nothing these days. One day, maybe, everyone will look round at an organisation that makes its loyal long term customers feel valued and ask themselves why that organisation is still in business when others are failing.

    I changed my bank of 34 years recently since that did not matter one iota when they were charging me a huge amount for slipping into the red by £10 for two days, something that had previously never happened.

  • Comment number 14.

    It is easy to understand that increased fuel prices have caused some of BAs financial problems.
    Too many chiefs and not enough indians is another.
    Highly paid CEOs and managers are always the last to go when the "job cull" starts.
    I wonder if the "wille" Willie Walsh has shortlisted himself for the chop. I should imagine if he has there will be a fat cat payoff in the offing and a massive pension.
    The greed of oil barons, saudi princes, bankers, stock-brokers, CEOs, and MPs have all contributed to the global reccession.
    These people have caused all this suffering and are not suffering themselves.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    It's all about Peak Oil, Robert. I'm surprised (if not amazed) that you never refer to it. Check out the following websites: The Oil Drum; PowerSwitch; The Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas; The Wolf at the Door; Simmons & Company.

    As the world pulls of out of recession (one way or another), I'm sure you know as well as I do that the oil price will climb back to its pre-credit crunch high. The two (Peak Oil and the Credit Crunch) were/are intimately related. The oil price (already climbing) will climb to, and well beyond $100 per barrel.

    Not only are BA's days numbered, so too are the days of all the world's airlines. Flying asparagus in from South America to Tesco in Milton Keynes will very soon become a thing of the past. Just like stag parties in Prague and weekend shopping trips to Venice.

    So, Peak Oil is BA's fundamental problem.

  • Comment number 17.

    ianto54 - basically your complaint is that BA wouldn't let you change your flight even though you had purchased a cheaper ticket (than others in the same cabin) with restricted fare rules, i.e no change and no cancellation allowed, or a fee required. Many travellers pay a premium for flexible tickets so they can change flights when they wish. If BA were to start allowing anybody to change their flight no matter what ticket they had bought then they would soon find nobody would buy the high yield flexible tickets and revenue would collapse. Simply put you get what you pay for and the same is true for every airline in the world! BA is not perfect by any means but I don't see how sticking to the rules of the ticket bought makes them arrogant.

  • Comment number 18.

    I happened to fly BA back to the UK yesterday from Montreal into Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

    Return journey left Montreal 45 minutes late. Arrival at H/row was early by about 45 minutes so we had to circle for most of the time, then it was announced there was smoke coming out of the hydraulics. All this reported by the Captain which seemed pointless to me as our circling actually landed us on time anyway and the smoke wasn't a problem either. Having it announced just before landing seemed pointless to me when it turned out not to be a problem! Is this BA's idea of customer services? Frankly I would rather not know!

    It was my first visit to Terminal 5 since it opened and it seemed there were more ground staff and security than passengers. What a monolithic place too and presumably BA foot the bill for using it. It goes on for miles and frankly as an older person I didn't find it particularly user friendly with only about 2 lifts to the variable floors and one escalator in arrivals. No wonder they need 3 hours for check-in!

  • Comment number 19.

    The comment on arrogance is so true--as a very frequent flier I use bmi whenever I can--the Joyce Grenfell pa announcements are cringing [as mentioned] as are the assumptions by all BA staff that we,the fliers, are doing them a favour. When will they learn people like me [a suit]have flown before and tend to know row 10 is after row 9 and seat A is next to the window and don't need it to be pointed out as we board because we do read the boarding cards before we step on the plane!!

    As for not being able to book a seat until 24 hours before you fly [I'm not a silver card holder] --two years ago we and our then 15 year old daughter were seated in 3 different rows in traveller plus going to Boston [the section was full] and all the staff could do was blame Walsh for the new seating policy---I bet it doesn't happen to his family!Funny our flights abroad are with other airlines now.

    Willie Walsh is just too inexperienced to run a global company and it's heading downhill fast.

  • Comment number 20.

    BA's problems seem to me to stem from their institutionalised thinking and poor treatment of customers, particularly frequent flyers in premium cabins in long haul. I find other airlines offer better services for less than BA (eg KLM) or much better service for about the same price (eg Emirates) - the result being that I am in the ABBA club (AnyairlineButBA). A great shame as if they smartened up their service and tired looking planes and cabin staff they would be a fairly good airline.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    What about passenger loadings - are they flying 25% empty. Anyone who attempts to book their flights soon learns they are still in the last century with their pricing policies. I do not even bother to look now.

    On the other hand how do they avoid big increases in landing fees - emulate Ryanair and take you to the middle of nowhere in some cases?

  • Comment number 23.

    To comment about post # 17 seems perhaps a waste of time as they seem to have completely missed the point I was making about BA's inflexibility. I can assume the person who posted that is either a BA stooge or perhaps someone who never travels regularly.I think others who have posted comments and suffered at the hands of BA's lack of customer service amply re-inforce my argument. Willie Walsh is also someone who hid behind his own staff's failings over the T5 fiasco and should have been fired at the time ---and yes I tried to fly out of there on business just after it opened and was refused the pleasure because BA could not manage to rustle up a plane and could not even re-book me. By the way I was on a flexible Business Class ticket so even for this kind of expense their customer service falls apart.

  • Comment number 24.

    So BA have lost the connection between cost and profit despite rising revenues. This is the difficulty when you have to carry over substantial equipment costs from year to year and the economy then collapses. Furthermore Terminal 5 came on stream at the wrong time and was a disaster. The prospect of using increased efficiencies to square the circle are about zero.

    Looks like the unemployment figures are going to take another bashing.

    This demonstrates the degree that the supposed economic expansion of recent years was an unsustainable bubble that has now burst.

    I trust the Daily Mail readers on this thread do not feel that I am being sensationalist if I say there will be a lot more of this sort of thing before it gets better.

  • Comment number 25.

    Kevster77: so you feel it is ok to sit around the airport for 2 hours while an earlier flight has empty seats? I have had it happen to me several times, and believe me it does not endear me to the flexi ticket at all. BA has still a long way to go to impress me with their customer service!

  • Comment number 26.

    21. At 11:12am on 22 May 2009, sterling63

    That is one of the best descriptions of the 'velocity of money' that I have ever read.

    Actually, we don't need a 700BN prostitute. The Bank Of Englad through a sophisticated smoke and mirrors scam involving Quantative Easing coupled with Gilt Auctions and future Base-Rate rises is going to play the part of the Russian Buisnessman at both ends.

    If only it were that simple.

  • Comment number 27.

    Perhaps they might call any new Anglo-Spanish-US airline British-Espana-America airlines, or BEA for short. Where have I heard that before?
    I doubt if the government will step in to save the company if it ever hits hard times, not unless each plane has got a bank on board.

  • Comment number 28.

    Robert wrote in the article:

    without the £900m jump in fuel costs the airline would have been very comfortably in profit

    Seems a bit simplistic in these days of fuel surcharges on ticket prices.


  • Comment number 29.

    Re: Post 23 - Ok I'll bite. Nope, not a BA stooge (just because I disagree with you doesn't make me a stooge of the company you're criticsing), just an Exec club member who does fly for business and works in the travel industry and understands the processes Airlines follow as a result.

    I hold no truck with Willie Walsh and agree he should have gone after the T5 debacle, even though BAA was in my view primarily to blame for it not being ready to open, the decision to open on time was his and he should have carried the can. Sadly that doesn't seem the done thing in either business or public life these days.

    Nonwithstanding this I fail to see how I have missed the point of your first post? Yes they could have changed your ticket (which you admit was not the right type of ticket) and been flexible as you put it - but I stil stand by my comment that if they regularly do this and allow passengers to change no matter what their ticket this will dilute their revenue in the long run. As Tom Symonds points out passengers, will just buy cheap tickets and expect upgrades or 'flexibility' which to some posters seems to be code for 'do what I want no matter what the rules are'.

    As I say BA aren't perfect - Customer Service can be variable and apart from a couple of airports they often outsource their ground handling which can be VERY poor, and the seating policy is a joke. But compared to a lot of carriers around the world they're pretty good.

  • Comment number 30.

    DaggaRooker - you don't state whether you were on a flexible ticket or not but if you were'nt then as I see it you are getting what you paid for. Look at it the other way. If you'd bought a flexible ticket would you be happy to find out somebody who hadn't, and therefore had paid a lot loss than you, was getting the same amount of flexibility as you for a lower fare?

  • Comment number 31.

    I'd rather chew my legs off than fly with BA these days. They've managed to reduce the whole pleasure of flying to a long wait here, a long wait there, followed by a few hours of 'your lucky to be flying with us' attitude and then more waits, lost baggage which turns out to be my fault for trying to take it with me in the first place.
    And they seem to be adopting the same stupid approach pubs are - not selling enough? Put the prices up!
    With BAA having to sell off an airport or two and the internet opening peoples eyes they should be out of business in a few years and thats a good thing for flyers.

  • Comment number 32.

    #15. Red Lenin wrote:

    "Read alexandercurzon's regular posts. He knows what's coming. Canny man our Alexander."

    The only Alexander Curzon I know of is the one who repeatedly posts barely comprehensible sound-bites in BLOCK CAPITALS. Please point me in the direction of this other Alexander, for he sounds interesting.

  • Comment number 33.

    #17 you missed the point...they would rather fly an empty seat and upset a long standing customer than bend the rules....customer service is about flexibility and above all about the customer...just for the sake of the rules they have upset a good customer and probably lost him to another airline.... defend that kind of corporate behaviour and what do you get....another bust airline!

  • Comment number 34.

    15 Red Lenin
    16 moraymint

    Spot on guys.

    Red, I'm not sure about the logic behind the rush to gold, though. IMHO we are heading for a place where hard shiny stuff has very litle value if you cant stack it easily to shelter behind. Cerianly can't beat it into swords or ploughshares (or hoes or spades). Its possible that chewed up banknotes might make excellent mortar or briquettes for burning.........

  • Comment number 35.

    Yet more evidence if any is needed, that final salary pensions should be scrapped with immediate effect. Why should employers be saddled with endless, ongoing commitments which then prevent them investing in their current business. Employers should pay something into employees' pension schemes and then leave it at that.

  • Comment number 36.

    32. At 12:35pm on 22 May 2009, rbs_temp wrote

    If you knew who he was, then you would know. Try Google.

  • Comment number 37.

    The news of BA's losses is sad news for our national carrier. I fly with British Airways on a regular basis and am continuously impressed with their service. Since T5 was opened, and its initial problems overcome, I have found BA's service to have improved exponentially. Anyone who has not flown from T5 should give it a try - the days of crowded air terminals, delays, and poor service are a thing of the past now that BA operate out of T5. I hope BA can make it through the downturn as they have clearly demonstrated when it comes to service, passenger care, an value they are second to none. I will always choose to fly BA over others airlines.

  • Comment number 38.

    #3 I understand the point - my argument is that if they were to do this on a regular basis then regular travllers would get to know this though sites such as Flyertalk and would stop buying the highly flexible expensive tickets which is where Airlines make most money.

  • Comment number 39.

    In line with many other comments, as a frequent traveller and also prepared to pay premium prices for long haul, I also avoid BA wherever possible. Whilst by no means the worst airline, as a 'premium service and premium fare' airline, there are many better options.

    Willie Walsh said opn R4 this AM that he would be focusing on cost cutting (something he knows how to do), but perhaps the other side of the coin is improving service so that premium paying passengers will come back (does he know how to improve service?).

    BA has a challenging legacy, not least cultural and union issues, many of which have been overcome with the move to T5, but the days of premium passengers being prepared to travel with BA and put up with the instutional arrogance are over.

  • Comment number 40.

    Kevster 77
    Thought you had some connecion with the travel industry. You have missed my point because I was not asking for a cabin upgrade as I had a Club Europe ticket anyway,just for a specific flight. My whole point was that they said there was a spare seat so why not let me have it, motivate a frequent traveller and coming out of it smelling of roses instead of appearing like a monolythithic inflexible obstacle with no reward otehr than by aleientaing a frequent traveller unecessarily. I would not even have expected the usual cold chicken salad as I know they only upload enough food for the return jounry back to Heathrow based on confirmed numbers on the return sector.
    Like I said---inflexibility in the extreme for no gain.

  • Comment number 41.

    All you people whinging about BA should try some proper airlines - TAME, Air Algerie and Air Guinea Bassau are amongst some of my all time favourites. If fear is your thing then they provide it!!

  • Comment number 42.

    RAC21ers, its a shame that you think crew politely telling you where your seat is, is arrogance? Crew are required by CAA LAW to check the date and flight number on your boarding card, when you board. It looks like we're doing it to tell you where your seat is, but we really are checking the date/flight number. There are also many different configurations around, I have seen many a frequent flier huffily ignore my directions and end up lost!

    As for BA's problems, they have been caused by management cock ups including the opening of T5, lost baggage, fines incurred by price fixing and hedging fuel far too high. But our flights are far from empty, and T5 is proving a huge success. Despite the doom and gloom portrayed by BA as a way of staging a smash and grab on front line staff salaries..things will improve.

    We're not perfect. Is YOUR company?

  • Comment number 43.

    BA's European flights are not that expensive ins standard. The problem is though that the staff have an attitude problem and are clearly uninformed. I booked an Iberia flight to Madrid last October and to my dismay I found out it was really a BA flight. Cue going to the gate and the BA woman claiming that it wasn't the plane because she ddin't recognise the Iberia flight code....

    I find unless you travel first class/ business which is madly expensive, they don't care and service and food on other airlines is much better.

  • Comment number 44.

    I would be interested to know if smilingDragon70 is long or shorthaul cabin crew. I find a huge quality difference between long and shorthaul.On shorthaul I see many inconsistencies in quality and service which usually varies btween being excellent or absolutely dreadful. Much of the overall service on any flight whether short or longhaul can depend on the quality of the Cabin Service Director and the way he or she manages the crew.

  • Comment number 45.

    #37 mahogany3

    c''re kidding no one.


  • Comment number 46.

    #40 ianto54

    Are you sure that spare seat wasn't next to the pilot???

  • Comment number 47.

    I've worked in the travel industry all my life and BA remains the most arrogant and difficult organisation to deal with. They have never shrugged off their "civil service with wings" tag from the 70's. Endless layers of management none of whom seem to do anything other than worry about their bonuses and pensions scheme (on the latter they're right to worry)and who would rather poke their own eyes out than take a decision. The management remain scared of the unions who still keep a strangelehold on the company - none more so than BALPA. As for travelling with them, you must be joking. Old planes, scruffy seats, lousy entertainment systems (try Emirates or Etihad for comparison) and stroppy crew who treat passengers as retards to be barely tolerated. I have vowed never to fly BA long-haul again and given the better and often cheaper alternatives have no reason to have to. The full-price/full "service" airline model has been under attack for years and from BA's point of view too many others do it better without the BA cost base. It's radical surgery or a death by a thousand cuts for BA. But how many times has that been said before?

  • Comment number 48.

    Only ever get the bog standard ticket, but still an exec member etc, my point is that I don't think it is right that I should have to pay for this 'flexibility', when there is no benefit to anybody, sure if there was only one seat left and they were holding that for a flexi ticket, maybe but is that reality? I would rather this flexibility was standard with all tickets, naive sure but what I expect! Dont get me started on access to the lounge!

  • Comment number 49.

    ianto54 - frequent travellers are often upgraded if seats have been oversold. If there's no reason then you won't get an upgrade simply because there was an empty seat! Do you think that is fair on the people that have PAID to sit in that cabin? Its not about inflexibility, I think you are expecting too much. Perhaps I should try going into my local car dealer and asking for a Focus Ghia, but only pay for the basic model? How far would I get do you think?

  • Comment number 50.


    Totally agree with your comments on flights - I had a similar experience in Munich recently. No real cost to pull me forward at checkin, I ended up sitting in the business lounge enjoying the German beers, variety of wines & food on great cost to BA if multiplied by the amount of times this situation undoubtedly occurs. BA to need to llok at thier processes & systems & make sounder decisions as I now look for Star Alliance flights in preference.

    That said this is not a reflection of the frontline staff whom I have nearly always found to be excellent (even on a longhaul flight back from Aus at X'mas when the staff's traditional in flight Tureky & Plum pudding had been dropped...bah humbug). 99.5% of stewards/esses & pilots I find humourous, attnetive & professional.

    My other bugbear is longhaul aircraft quality - very disappointed with facilities compared to Singapore, QANTAS, Virgin, QATAR & Emirates all of whom I have travelled with in a variety of classes recently. I'd rate them Sing, Qatar, QANTAS, Virgin, Emirates & then BA on aircraft comfort, facilities, entertainment, etc.

    Come on Willie - better statements of what you plan to do in the future are needed rather than blame the current climate. What is your vision?

  • Comment number 51.

    PS BA have lost my bags more often than other airlines (beating Sabena (SN Brussels)) into second.

  • Comment number 52.

    BA (Bloody Awful) still hasn't learned about customer service after all these years. As they have focussed on the premium market, they need to provide a premium service.

    As a veteran flyer (passenger) of some 3 million plus miles flown, I went away from BA in the early 1990's due to their poor service toward Club class customers. I was persuaded to return for my daughters first flight to meet family in the US. Aged 3 months BA lost our baggage, refused to reimburse us for costs of essential warm clothing for a 3 month old that they lost.

    Don't fly BA or any alliance partner in case we get a code share and end up on a BA flight.

    This years holiday is 4 Business Class fares covering 8 long haul flights to/from New Zealand, but not with BA, purely due to their arrogant attitude towards their customers.

    The crews are great, just the bosses attitudes are not conducive to good business practice.

    Have never understood how BA is seen as 'the worlds favourite airline'.

    Bring back the days of Wardair, say I.

  • Comment number 53.

    PPS (I know rubbish lap top management). Why can't we have better / cheaper regional services? Not from every tiny airport in the UK but definitley from Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh to major continental hubs...all done & enjoy the weekend (if you're not flying)!

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    Re 42 I know ALL uk flights check boarding passes because the CAA tell them to as you enter the plane but its the way ba staff shout out your seat number--give flyers a bit of credit--there are not many configurations on domstic routes!! Judging by the number of angry frequent flyers on here BA and its staff have a big problem with customer service which they refuse to recognise. It seems to the last bastion where customers are at the complete mercy of the employees despite contributing massively to their wages.

  • Comment number 56.

    Mr Peston - as the son of a Labour peer,and educated at Balliol,perhaps u will tell everyone EXACTLY whre u stand on ALL matters involving private enterprise and this Clown`s Govt - in the interests of democracy and transparency of course!!!!!!!!!!! - oh forgot Browns Bias Corp does neither.

  • Comment number 57.

    To post# 46. No it was genuinely spare because I just asked if there was anyroom in Club to which they said "yes". The anonymous groundstaff remote jobsworth then refused to allow the gate agent to allow me to board. I have to say the Captain was very sympathetic and somewhat embarassed by this and we had a cordial exchange.

  • Comment number 58.

    #40 - Where do I state that you were asking for a cabin upgrade? I understand perfectly well that what you were asking for was a change from flight to another in the selling class i.e same seat same cabin same fare rules. Some selling classes allow this, some don't which is why seats in Club Europe (to use your example) can sell for dfiierent prices. Your ticket obviously did not hence no change. You have to see this from BA's side and the side of passengers who HAVE paid for a flexible ticket in that cabin. Why should they risk alienating these people by letting them feel that they hav paid dop dollar for a privelege (the flexibility to change in the SAME cabin) that you are now getting for free?

  • Comment number 59.

    BA seem to have no recognition that the price point for any flight that is less than long haul is dropping like a stone.
    How can Walsh et al see the trading position of BA moving in any direction apart from negatively, when it is top heavy with management, its incremental operating costs are too high and the fact that its heady days of brand superiority are actually OVER.
    He should move the job cull focus away from customer facing staff and cut head office overheads.
    This is not happening and as a consequence the shareholders are without ANY dividend and no guidance for 2010 - truly appalling management.
    The fuel and dollar issues explain todays results, not the medium term performance and long term strategy.

  • Comment number 60.

    ianto54 - I am longhaul crew. I always try my hardest, unfortunatley with a crew of 14,000 you will get a few bad apples. Our inflight surveys show 85% passenger/crew approval rate currently. But yes, we don't always get it right. Who does?

  • Comment number 61.

    smilingdragon 70 misses my point. This all happened at the gate and the seat was not going to be sold--period. I wasn't even after a class upgrade but merely to use a seat which was going back empty. Yet again demonstration of the "rules is rules" mentality even if it makes no sense. No response about whether short or longhaul :-)

  • Comment number 62.

    As a frequent flyer, I couldn't give a monkey's chuff about BA since they pulled out of Manchester & Birmingham.

    I usually hop on the flight to Schipol and connect from there. Much better experience and service.

  • Comment number 63.

    Well rac21, I had no idea saying something like "hello, seat 15A please turn right" could make someone so angry. I have learned something today. It upsets me to learn about poor customer service, like I've said we don't always get it right. Usually I find when one looks into the matter a little deeper there's a reason for the alleged "poor service", such as someone on here complaining about not getting a free upgrade etc. If I can offend someone like rac21 for telling him where his seat is, then I wonder what else I do wrong...are you offended rac21 by having to watch the safety briefing again and again?

  • Comment number 64.

    well obviously I prefer to sail, and the wind and sun not only feel good on your face but are free

    BA, RyanAir and their ilk, Heathrow, additional runways etc are all 'dead men walking', depending on the economics of the past: ie CHEAP OIL

    so I must say #16 Moraymint is dead right

    there is an interesting book, just published this week, called 'Why Your World is about to get a Whole Lot Smaller' by a Jeff Rubin who is a former oil analyst

    here's the link:

    he points out some obvious things and I would agree that if the price of oil doesn't drop below $40-60 in the worse economic slump in decades then it will surely go back up to $150-200 in a proper recovery, thereby snuffing said recovery out; we need a fundamental rethink and a new definition of what might be considered 'economic health'; most of the world's easily accessible oil has been found and we increasingly depend on hard to get-at stuff or horribly dirty stuff like the Alberta Tar Sands; enough is enough and we must stop this

    speculation and short-term investment decisions make all the price instability worse, so a wildly yo-yoing oil price is my prediction; up to $100+ next year, then another wild swoop down, then up to $200+ sometime in the mid 2010s


    if our global economy was built on the back of $20 oil, exporting jobs to the Far East and importing vast amounts of plastic crap as well as flowers from Kenya and baby sweet corn from Thailand and countless other madnesses, then high prices will point to a move (painful admittedly) to a more sustainable economy which could also be the salvation of hollowed-out economies like the UK, as local production will HAVE TO BE REBUILT if we put a price on carbon and oil that reflects its true cost

    so on this one I'm with the speculators who are going to drive the oil price back up to $100+

    oh and what a shame BA hedged the price of oil for a year just before it declined; LOL; but it is now going back up fast, they better get another hedge in there quick

  • Comment number 65.

    To post #58.
    I was not going to shout it throught the cabin intercom---probably against the rules anyway. Most people who travel in C Class would have understood my position. Do we wear a price label when we enter the aircraft? Sounds like you are quoting me the small print on the contract and SO emphasises my point. Trying to penetrate officialese and associated mentalities is why so many people on here are criticing BA. As a representative of the travel industry I think you are far too close to the supplier than the customer by the tone of your comments.

  • Comment number 66.

    Smilingdragon 70. Sorry our posts crossed. I must agree that Longhaul crews are normally far superior to the short haul and usually do get it right. Best recent Long haul was in feb to Miami upstairs in the Bubble with a wonderful crew member who made us all think he was related to Gok Wan---did the best Kir Royales in the World!
    Equally agree no one is perfect.

  • Comment number 67.

    BA are in the same spot that BT are in. The Government and the BBC are not far behind. They have all got away with too much for far too long. They have all survived and made money on the back of the public subscribing to their overblown authority and monopoly. They have been ripping us off and now people are realising. The days of British this or British that company are well and truely over. (I know the Government isnt a company as such, but it's the same principle).

    Funny we don't have 'British Easyjet'!

  • Comment number 68.

    ianto54 - believe me what happens on the ground is often a mystery to we flying crew as well! Ticketing is hideously complex...I know that much. If you had paid for a flexible ticket then you should have been able to change it. If you had paid for a cheaper non flexible ticket then you cannot make changes, its the same with all airlines and trains i believe? Ticket fliexibility is part of the product and you choose whether or not to pay for that.

  • Comment number 69.

    ianto54 - I think me and Kevster were merely trying to explain things. Its not small print - the ability to change flights quickly is an important part of the product. You either choose to pay for it or you don't. To use my car analogy again, you are choosing NOT to pay for full fare flexibility and THEN complaining you are too hot. Its nothing to do with being on anyones "side"..believe me most crew are on your side, not the BA managers! :)

  • Comment number 70.

    Post 68.
    I see I am bashing my head against a brick wall trying to explain common sense over "rules".
    Here goes:
    Fly empty seat to London---- no gain and
    Fly seat with passenger ---maybe paying £20 less than he "should" === customer satisfaction and warm feeling about the customer relations extended and therefore more willing to book with same carrier again and tell other people about how good they were in doing this.
    End result== negative for airline as I am using forums like this to give adverse publicity.

  • Comment number 71.

    Interesting reading..... in particular Mr Ianto54! He's not a happy man about not getting that spare seat!

    Oh how the British love to moan!! If you think BA are bad try flying with one of the US main carriers, or the Russians! Wow they really are bad!

    BA have had their fair share of problems and made their fair share of mistakes....and if they continue to eat away at their cash reserves at the rate they currently are, then it will mean bad news. There credit rating will be affected and their ability to raise funds through the markets will be severely impacted all of which could have disastrous consequences.

    We cannot afford for our main carrier to go under. However bad people think they are, they are responsible for bringing millions of business and leisure passengers into the UK each year. We need BA. Simple as that. Nobody else could take them over and maintain the same routes, service, and frequency that they do. If it comes to the crunch I wouldnt be surprised they get a government bailout. Wrongly or rightly.

    My point is stop moaning and think yourselves lucky you dont live in the States or Russia. Oh and give T5 a chance - my experience of it was very positive. I've had some shocking BA flights in the past but I've also had some very good ones. Nobody is perfect.

  • Comment number 72.

    If London Airways resumed flying from elsewhere in the UK to Europe and North America they might just stop putting all their eggs in one basket of London, and it's shaky economy.

    For anyone in Scotland to fly to short-haul European destinations, who really wants to fly through Heathrow or Gatwick?

    I'm not suggesting that there should be thrice daily 747s from Aberdeen to Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, etc., however.

  • Comment number 73.

    Giles09 I wouldn't put a foot inside a Russian aircraft for a start and as for US carriers especially on domestic routes they are execrable in the extreme. I am only angry because the refusal seemed so pointless and highlighted a mentality thing far in excess of the actual worth of the seat cost.

  • Comment number 74.

    Well whatever else, well done Messrs Walsh & Williams in 'giving up' their July wage packets.

    It's refreshing to see a bit of that type of management from a company that is in any way connected with Britain. It's just so much nicer than the Anglo-American 'grab-and-run' style.

    O.K. in many respects it's not that great a deal and some would say it' merely a gesture but, nonetheless, many other British Chief Execs and Finance Directors - especially in the financial industries - would not have been 'up for it'.

  • Comment number 75.

    re post #66 of course you had good service sitting in the 'bubble' as you call it drinking your Kir Royales and larking around with a Gok Wan wannabee. The crew who work there are usually very senior and opt to work up there all of the time. That is their little world and the new and junior crew who have to deal with the hoardes downstairs in Economy are working their socks off. Unfortunately passengers sitting in the 'bubble' or the 'nose' have proven that their revenues aren't doing the trick for BA. Therefore providing a better experience for the Economy passenger, ie the majority, to get bums on seats is where the future lies for BA. Of course the old time crew (school maams and duchesses) will all jump for their pensions at the thought of having to work in Economy, which for us passengers is probably a good thing. And a good thing for BA too.

  • Comment number 76.

    #71. At 3:51pm on 22 May 2009, Giles09 wrote:

    Oh heavens, that almost sounded like B.A. is 'too big to fail'.

    I just don't know why but that phrase rings alarm bells for me.

  • Comment number 77.

    ianto54 - yes I sort of see what you mean. Sometimes you might find a nice person who MAY have done this for you. BUT more and more we find ourselves in a position where we are told by management NOT to bend the rules. Problem is if they had got you into the empty seat next time you would have not bought a flexible ticket knowing we would bend the rules! other passengers are PAYING for the flexibility - so is it fair on them? Its not about being "jobsworth." Ground staff are doing what they have been told to do, that is, protect the product on offer. They get shouted at all day, for not very much money either. Please - give them a break!

    Out of interest, if you checked into a hotel and paid £60 for a room but knew the Presidential Suite was empty that night - would you expect the hotel to give it you?

  • Comment number 78.

    Logging off now . thanks everyone for an interesting exchange. Will check posts over next few days.

  • Comment number 79.

    I used to think BA were pretty poor until I flew to Bangkok with Air Uzbekistan, complete with a 4 hour stopover in Tashkent...

    Having said that there are much better carriers available too, as someone else mentioned, Emirates are very good.

    BA do need to modernise their structure and get back to a proper service-led long-haul model, combined with a price-led short-haul model. Lease some new craft and compete with the top brands in both markets. The great advantage they have is that they already have the routes and infrastructure.

  • Comment number 80.

    I am not at all surprised by this huge loss which I see is partly attributed to falling passenger numbers. BA has lost my business through its arrogant attitude to Club Class customers and their refusal to accomadate my reasonable requests for seat allocation at time of booking and refusal to allow date changes. These are not allowed when booking 'lowest price' long haul tickets despite them costing around £2000.00 which is why they are losing business customers such as myself and will continue to do so until they re-think their policy and attitude. I have switched to Virgin for all all my Far East trips as they are very happy to allocate seats and allow changes for a token £50.00 fee.
    Sorry Willie but you are not getting any more of my company's money anytime soon.

  • Comment number 81.

    ref 67

    BA and BT are certainly in a similar spot with regard to their huge pension liabilities, established over decades.

    The cheapo airlines don't have that, hence one source of their major competitive advantage, and it's one item of baggage that BA can't lose.

  • Comment number 82.

    ianto54 - I mucked up that car analogy ;) I meant to say "you are choosing NOT to pay for air conditioning and then complaining you are too hot.." My hotel analogy was better...bare with me ;)

  • Comment number 83.

    It amazes me in these days of easily accessible hedging instruments to protect your company from rising Oil costs, FX exchange, interest rates etc that companies such as BA, British Gas etc complain against rising costs when for a fraction of the possible losses they could protect themselves against future moves in the financial markets. It seems strange that when the prices come down they put their profits down to business acumen and pay themselves huge bonuses, and then blame extraordinary rises in commodities when it goes wrong when in fact it is all down to bad money management and a lack of foresight.

  • Comment number 84.

    You see ianto54, in customer service when you do a favour it sometimes comes back to bite you. If the check in staff had put you on that time you asked and they (correctly) refused, you would probably say "But you did it last time". Its impossible to please everyone. How would you feel if you had paid good money for ticket flexibility only to see the staff changing other peoples tickets for free? Can you see our side of things...just a bit... ;) Believe me, as staff we also have to endure rules and regulations when we travel too. For example, if we pay double bubble to stand by in a premium cabin, if we don't get Premium we don't get the money back! And its not cheap believe me. We are all people too, we are often passengers ourselves and well aware of the frustrations modern travel brings. Its nice to get a favour, or get an upgrade or something for free, we all love it. But if you don't get something you haven't paid for - well - you can't really complain can you?

  • Comment number 85.


    Had me going for a minute. But sadly not a solution as the hotelier lost 100 euros. Nice try though ;-)

  • Comment number 86.

    ianto54; daggarooker,

    Dudes, while I detest flying BA and avoid it like the plague, your comments are off-the-mark.

    Flying is the retail business and the number one rule of the industry is to make all your customers pay as much as they are prepared to pay for the same product on an individual basis.

    They do this by segregating ticket classes in order to give you as much flexibility in the payment amount as possible.

    Some people are simply prepared to pay more for their tickets than you two with your "bog standard tickets" and because of that they simply will not allow you to change flights if you havent paid for the right.
    Otherwise nobody would bother paying more for the flexible ticket and either they would make less money or the entry-level prices would increase for everyone.
    It's exactly the same reason that, no matter what, an air stewardess will not allow you to exit a plane before a first class passenger as they are simply protecting their brand. We all know a business class ticket is not worth three times more than an economy one. But some people are able and prepared to pay that price for it.

    It has nothing to do with customer service or inflexibility - it has everything to do with them enforcing their costings policy to ensure everyone gets a fair deal.
    That jobsworth you're criticising is simply under instructions not to allow it to happen and by doing that he is actually keeping your future fairs down. Yet you bemoan his lack of customer service without understanding the reasoning behind it.

    It's the same thing as the added extras you can buy on your car. Do you really think a GPS for BMW is worth the extra £3k? Of course not but some people are prepared to pay for it again making the pricing structures flexible and affordable for everyone.

    This does in no way exonerate BA who, it must be said, have a long way to go in customer service. It does help, however, to understand why they do it.

    So yes chaps, BA is actually incredibly flexible with their ticketing - only you two arent willing to pay for it and as such are not as much a valued customer as you might think.

  • Comment number 87.

    83 cdmk65

    Hedging is very rarely profitable as by the time you execute the hedge it is invariably already very expensive.

  • Comment number 88.

    I used to be a very frequent traveller and something strikes me about a lot of comments made above (#84 touches on it) BA or not BA, travelling these days IS frustrating with much of that frustration being brought on by additional security and increased air traffic NOT the airlines directly. To the point, because of the length of time it takes to get through the whole process end to end, I often noticed that many travellers, both business and economy, start treating the staff and aircrew as simple automata that are there to frustrate further their every move.

    It seems to me that many posters would be surprised at how much a genuine smile a little charm and recognition for the humanity of, and real challenges sometimes faced by the staff would ease your way through the whole process.

    It usually worked for me.... Changed tickets, different flights (sometimes even via different cities), upgrades and accepted downgrades just to get on and get home. I never once in four years raised my voice. Just an observation... :)

  • Comment number 89.

    It is interesting to note that the comments from the BA cabin crew (in this blog) seem to emphasise the difference between 'staff' and 'management', and somehow that as a paying customer that that is of any issue to us.

    This attitude of 'them' and 'us' is exactly the cultural barrier and divide that needs to be overcome for BA to be able to address its perceived or real poor customer service - that is evidenced in many of the contributions in this blog.

    Perhaps if there were more of a collective view to be able to solve inconsistencies in staff behaviour and variable customer service, then perhaps I and other ex-customers of BA might think about returning.

    I have to say the cheeky chappie WW doesn't inspire much confidence that we have a real leader at BA able to solve these problems....he seems more in the Ryanair Michael O'Leary mould rather than a real Inspiring Visionary Leader who will be able to create the inspiration in a diverse workforce that is in desparate need of leadership and a sense of collective purpose.

    I hope to be proved wrong

  • Comment number 90.

    85. At 5:32pm on 22 May 2009, Beatsy wrote:

    Lol. Yes but in the analogu the hotelier is UK Plc which could conceivably, and is, simply printing another 100!

    Now the real question is - who is the prostitute and who is sleeping with her?

  • Comment number 91.

    #85 - Oh no he doesn't. He gets it back from the prostitute and he never actually lets a room, so no loss there. The money does a complete circle - it just needed the 100 cash to start it.

  • Comment number 92.

    Back in the late 1970's when I joined BA, if a passenger turned up really early for a frequent flight (e.g. his longhaul flight into London arrived at 7:00a.m. and his next flight London-Glasgow was booked for 11:00a.m.) the ground staff would put him on the earliest convenient flight (assuming there was space). This was nothing to do with customer service - it was just common sense. Don't let things pile up if you can clear them away early. In any case, the bags would have gone on the first flight to Glasgow in those days and would have clocked up a couple of hundred miles on the baggage belt by the time the passenger arrived!

    If you deliberately keep the passengers waiting until their booked flight, and that flight happens to be overbooked, or has to have a smaller plane substituted for engineering reasons, then you have just made a rod for your own backs.

    Personally I think it would be far better if they scrapped most of the different fares structures and went back to one price, like the public transport that they really are. (And before someone points out that I don't understand what I'm talking about, I was in BA Fares and Revenue Management for nearly 25 years....)

    Biggest rip-off I've encountered? 'Buying' a trip to Amsterdamn with BA frequent flyer miles and being charged over £90 in taxes and 'airport charges' on top. The true taxes are less than £40 and the 'airport charges' go into BA's pockets.
    Or try cancelling a cheap ticket. OK you don't get the ticket price back - but you should get the taxes back. But BA keep the first £25. Nice little earner. They've already kept your ticket price, why do they need to sting £25 off my tax refund as well??

  • Comment number 93.

    Vin would not disagree, we are not that important to BA, and yes you are probebly right about their pricing policy (I dont agree that it is the most effective but that is what the industry apply). I cant believe that flexible fares are in anyway cross subsidising bog fares, I believe a policy to maximse utilisation would be better (ala EasyJet)! The main point though is that a happy/satified customer will not moan and who knows might not look around that hard in the future!

  • Comment number 94.

    #85 You've found the flaw.

    So in our case change hotel for bank. Or should I say taxpayer!!

  • Comment number 95.

    BA need to learn to get the basics right. I don't expect much from an airline, just that they get me to my destination within an hour or two of the scheduled time, and that my luggage makes it to the same destination at the same time. I gave up on BA after they lost my luggage BOTH ways on a trip to Spain a couple of years ago. Shortly afterwards, a friend came to visit us, flying BA, and of course her luggage vanished as well. As her English was not very good, I had to make the series of telephone calls required to get her luggage back. I found the attitude of the staff I spoke to very poor; not even a pretence of interest. My impression of BA is that if you are an Economy passenger, they regard you as being somewhat less important than a crate of asparagus.

  • Comment number 96.

    Yes, I agree BA have declined over the last years; their service is a bit rough. They could and should improve. But, they still are better and more helpful than Air France-KLM and most of the other Eurpoean and American flag carriers. T5 isn't what it might be, but, compared with Schiphol and Charles de Gaulle, it's pleasant.

    Ryanair are a lot cheaper, but I want to arrive, arrive on time, and return, and not be abandoned. So I do not use their service, not matter how cheap it is, unless I have no other choice.

    BA is a bit sick. Since it's also Bitish, we all decide to kick it to death.

    Why not help? As well as complaining here, write a letter to their customer service or better still to W. Walsh.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ianto54 and smilingDragon70: you both make good points, and it's an unfortunate situation. Clearly the rules are what they are and didn't allow the switch, but that doesn't mean that the rules are the best for the company.

    Perhaps some sort of change fee could be applied, or frequent flyers given a couple of "bend the rules" cards per year which would allow such things, or maybe it's just a bad idea to make Business tickets inflexible as they're at variance with the expectations of the people buying them. There are definitely options, but it's out of our hands.

    And, as someone who's flown a hell of a lot over the years, I'll definitely agree about long-haul crews. Wonderful, professional service, at a consistently high standard. There are one or two who almost spoil it - usually those old enough to know better - but there are some real stars as well, doing everything they can to make your time in a tin box as enjoyable as possible. Some of us SLF really do appreciate it :)

  • Comment number 98.

    As this appears to be turning into a BA-bashing blog, perhaps I should restore some balance. I fly with BA approximately 15-20 times per year, both short-haul and long-haul, and generally find them excellent in all classes of travel. They are my airline of choice for almost every journey I make; if BA flies there, I will fly with BA.

    Obviously every passenger will have the occasional off-day with any airline, but the picture of BA painted in this blog is unrecognisable. But then, the hardcore contributors to this forum do little else but moan, about anything and everything. You must all be a delight to live with.

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 100.

    Thank you #97, #98, as a crewmember who tries their hardest, it makes it all worthwhile reading those kind remarks. I realised years ago in this business you can't please everyone, but most of us really do try. #89 - yes most front line staff DO differentiate themselves from our management - do you blame us? The frontline staff are simply ignored and undervalued. Eventually the beancounters will have their way, we'll be replaced by kids on the minimum wage the appropriate levels of service. Such a shame, BA is worth saving, it really is.


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