Sunday, January 21, 2007

It May Be the World's Favourite Airline But It's Not Mine

Can anyone think of another airline that inconveniences its passengers as often as British Airways? Every year they seem to have at least one strike. And that, ladies and gentleman, is why they can whistle for my custom. I'm going to Washington DC at the end of February for a week and it hasn't even crossed my mind to fly with them. When they finally get their act together I may change my mind.


Anonymous said...

I hear what you're saying- but tell you what- I'll take BA to Europe any day over Sleezy Jet or Ryan Air.

I feel bad for BA staff because Willie Bloody Walsh can't make up his mind whether he wants it to be a budget airline or a flag carrier.

I know what I want it to be. I happily pay extra to be treated with a bit of dignity.

verity said...

An airline the world loathes. The staff are chippy and bossy in the manner of New Labour. They are more like drill sergeants than flight attendants. They are heavy into control. They are never going to get their act together, Iain, because their attitude is part of their embedded corporate culture.

Quantas is a fabulous airline. Friendly, humourous flight attendants who are also chosen for their looks. Primarily male flight attendants and, my guess, most are gay, good looking and carry themselves well.

My very favourite airline in the world is Singapore Airlines. Simply beautiful Chinese, Indian and Malay women in sarong kebayas - probably the most graceful form of clothing the world has ever known - and nice handsome, attentive men. Excellent food. Efficiency with a warm smile. Of course, I am in love with all Singaporeans, but their airline is voted best in the world year after year. I don't know whether they have beyond traffic rights (freedom to pick up passengers outside their own zone unless flying back), though.

I've never flown Virgin that I can recall. I don't know what the best US airline is these days. Definitely not American. Gaaaah! Let us know what you're flying on and report back, please Iain. It's such a dog's dinner of choice these days, I'd like some tips.

Croydonian said...

'Can anyone think of another airline that inconveniences its passengers as often as British Airways?'

Yes, RyanAir - on EVERY single flight it ever makes.

(OK, I'm not exactly comparing like with like, but one should never turn an opportunity to bad mouth taht company)

David said...

I can't say I'm exactly a world traveller, but I've never had a problem with BA. I've actually found them rather impressive in areas where I've had problems with other airlines.

ed said...

Verity's dead right about Qantas - very impressive throughout. Perhaps Qantas might like to give their fellow One World alliance member some friendly advice on how to run an airline.

BA are dreadful. Terrible customer service, expensive tickets, decidedly average food and cabin crew who most of the time seem like they don't give a damn.

My experiences on Qantas and Virgin have been very different indeed.

And yet I keep flying with BA. Sadly I have several hundred thousand frequent flyer miles with them. Believe me, if Virgin approached me with an offer to swap my BA miles for Virgin miles, I would never fly with BA again.

verity said...

Yes, the cabin crew of Quantas are just so nice you forget they're not your new best friend. And even the announcements from the flight deck are friendly and often humourous. The airline is a great advertisement for Oz.

BA, by contrast reflects the bossiness and chippiness of today's Britain and has turned judgementalism into a fine art. I loathe them.

Hatfield Girl - Have you moved to Oz?

Anonymous said...

Iain, you are learning 'bad habits' from 'El Presidente'. Any moment now a top airline with a pressing need for some good publicity [Virgin?] will be on the blower to offer a business or even first class trip 'on the house'.

Come now, Mr Dale, just because Blair [or more accurately his wife] gets 'delusions of grandeur' is no reason to follow their example - look where it might lead...

Anonymous said...

We all have our cross to bear...

bt said...

Air Afrique used to be a horror story but BA runs it close, though in different ways.

Back when I travelled a lot, the general consensus among the frequent fliers were that the top three were:
Cathay Pacific.
Never had a complaint against any of them.

British Caledonia were a friendly bunch, too.
Those flights out of Benghazi.... oh my!
BA? Not if I could help it.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to provide the exact dates and which airport you would like to fly from, and where you would like the stretch limo to collect you from.

I am sure that you don't need to tell them not to even think of offering you a 'cattle class' ticket..

Andrew said...

Verity: "BA, by contrast reflects the bossiness and chippiness of today's Britain"

I agree that they're an awful airline, but I don't think it's anything new. As with some other privatised companies (BT being a great example), they still suffer from the idea that they are a state-owned monopoly and that the customers are lucky to have them serving them.

I've also heard it said of BA that they're not so much an airline as a pension fund that happens to own a few aeroplanes... :-)

verity said...

Oh, yes! I forgot about Emirates -truly an excellent,well-run airline. Gulf Air is also very good.

I flew Syrian Arab on one occasion, because I was stuck for a couple of days, due to an airline's inefficiency, in Damascus. A travel agent found me a flight to Delhi on Syrian Arab, which he said was heavily booked, but he'd got me a seat. "But get there two hours early," he said rather, I thought, darkly. Well, this was in the days before the intense security of the last four or so years, so no one ever checked in two hours early for any flight.

The agent must have judged that his comment was water under the bridge, because he repeated it very sincerely. I thought, "How odd," but OK. So I checked in two hours early and 10 minutes later, to my amazement, my flight was called.

I and about 10 other people boarded the flight and again to my amazement, the flight crew closed the door and we began taxiing down the runway. There were all of 11 or 12 passengers on this "fully booked" flight and we were on our way 1 1/2 hours early. I asked for a whisky and she brought me a full ice bucket, a glass and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black and left them with me.

One of the most bizarre flights I have ever experienced.

sweet pea said...

I've not flown anywhere since this time last year - that was on business. Before then, it was 5+ yrs since I flew anywhere - previously for pleasure. (Yes you can do hols in the UK, folks!)

BA can now do humble pie and over-bake it till the next millennium for me. They were arrogant in the 90s (from a customer service recipient's POV), but the "X" debacle was the final straw (from a PR POV).

I think they need to re-find the "B" in "BA" and make the country proud of them again. Right now, I'm ashamed of them. It's been a long time since I thought of pride when it came to BA.

Anonymous said...

I've never flown BA.. ever.. and I never would. I heard Cathay Pacific are good though. Perosnally, I think Sri Lanka Airlines were the best I ever flew. The amount of gin they put in my g&t whilst we flew over the Iran/Iraq border was awesome!

Pogo said...

I've only ever flown once with Emirates, but they were superb. Better than any other airline I've ever travelled with, by quite a long way.

verity said...

Pogo - agree almost 100% about Emirates. However, Singapore Airlines has,in my opinion, a slight edge. But certainly, flying to or from the Middle East, Emirates would be my first choice and they are definitely one of the most efficient and pleasantest and most on-time airlines in the world.

People like BA don't understand that people are flying somewhere because they have to; not because they want to be on an aeroplane. I think BA has never got over the very early days of flying, when it was a great big treat and people really did feel special that they were in the air.

Those days, if they ever existed, have gone the way of the dodo.

I always want to scream when I hear the captain say, after 20 minutes of announcements and flight attendants miming safety exits, "Sit back and enjoy your flight." What's to "enjoy"? I'm strapped into this seat because I've got to get somewhere, not for a treat.

I agree with Andrew that BA still suffers from the 'state monopoly' complex and from an inexplicable belief that the customer is lucky to be flying with them.

PJ said...

I've not really had many problems with BA, which is noteworthy because I fly a lot. Inevitably if one flies thirty or forty times a year an airline will piss one off occasionally. The tickets aren't THAT expensive - as with all airlines, it depends where and when you fly. And the strikes are because it's unionised - a legacy of the 1970's, and not something Leary or Stelios have to put up with.

I've flow American, Continental and United - terrible every time. They SELL you headsets, they hardly let you out of your seat, they don't even have personal inflight entertainment and so on. Southwest is good though, probably because it's the only American airline that's not bankrupt. And personally I find BA much better than, say Iberia or Alitalia or Air France.

But maybe I've just been lucky.

Anonymous said...

ed said... @ 9.14pm


BA is clearly poorly managed. Strike after strike bedevils them and not others. Isn't it about time someone took them over?

malcolm said...

BA may have problems Iain but believe me don't fly with an American carrier they are mostly in Chapter 11 and they are without exception crap.
Personally I find the staff on BA usually good, not as your deranged correspondent Verity claims 'new Labour' at all. I do agree with her that BA are not as good as Singapore (or several far eastern airlines). I'd still buy British 'though if you can.

Anonymous said...

BA are, in my experience, shifty bastards, but what do you expect of the free market.

Also on my shit list: KLM/Northwestern transatlantic flights.

machiavelli said...

Iain, you're sounding like a socialist now! The "workers" go on strike and that's the company's fault, not the unions?

It might just be worth suggesting that if people don't like the terms and conditions under which they're employed, they shouldn't have taken the job.

Still, at least they're not bloody Varig

verity said...

malcolm says: "as your deranged correspondent Verity claims".

You keep on making groundless remarks like that and you will get the comment moderation switched back on.

I personally don't care what your opinion of me is, but you should, out of respect to Iain and the other readers, say what led you to this conclusion. Chippiness, I suspect. Given that you have failed to recognise that BA is chippy to a degree verging on lunacy, you may share this affliction.

wonderfulforhisage said...

There is a super programme on the wireless on Tuesday eveninings at the moment called 'The Singer not the Song'.

For me it's 'The Aerodrome not the Carrier' that matters. My wife and I now choose our holiday destinations according to where we can go and at the same time avoid Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead and Luton. Birmingham is fine and I've heard good stories about East Midlands and Coventry aerodromes.

But, we're lucky to live half way between Heathrow and Birminham.

PS. Verity seems to be a bit of a gadabout. Up until now I've always thought of her as a rather demure lady of a certain age with sensible opinions and probably wearing sensible shoes. Now I'm not so sure. Invite her to appear on 18DS Iain. I'd love to see her and 'The Chipmunk' on the same couch, as it were.

Curly said...

Balkan Airlines - who needs an inflight disaster movie!

Anonymous said...

As a pom living in HMP Australia, I can only confirm what people say about Quantas.

As for Ryanair, you can't buy a £40 ticket and then complain. Getting the coach from Victoria to Rome costs more than Stansted-Rome.

Iain, dare I say you'll love Virgin Atlantic. It's as camp and as British as you can get. On my last flight to the US they played Wham as we approached JFK. Tickets are good value too.

As for those miles, they're a waste of time. Near-impossible to redeem, they're a con trick that many sheep follow.

Iain Dale said...

last time I went to DC I cashed in Amex points for a free first class flight on Virgin. Never having been first class before (apart from once on Middle Eastern Airlines to Beirut!) I was a little disappointed, but then I'm difficult to please at the best of times. Can't say I could point to any campery...

Anonymous said...


Hello Kids,

Remember a way we used to spend wet afternoons in a more innocent time?

Remembering this old game, here's some dots to join up...

Follow this lead:;jsessionid=TJICXJXNXHQTRQFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/opinion/2002/03/06/dl0601.xml

Not strictly on subject, but worth reminding our readers about our old friend, Lakshmi Mittal.

He's gone a long way since 2002, hasn't he?

Most recent "dots" include:,,442879,00.html


I could go on, but I won't. If you type the words "Mittal" and "Brown" into Google (UK option only) you will get a mere 36,500 results. As our friends in the US say..."do the math.."

I'm going to fire this same post onto Guido's blog and see what people think.

It really is like watching the end of the Roman Empire, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Annnoyed as I am with BA over the way they treated that member of their staff who wore a crucifix, they did back down eventually, so I must defend them.

I'm severely deaf and received superb service from BA when there was a security scare as I waited to return to UK from a business trip to Paris some years ago.

I merely asked one of their staff if orders for evacuation would be flashed up on their flight notification screens as I can't hear announcements. Within minutes I was escorted to my plane well ahead of everyone else by a steward who signed (BSL) and was given free orange juice. I then waited in comfort, the sole passenger on the plane, while all the other passengers for my flight were delayed in the departure lounge.

Don't be mean, Iain, fly the flag! Better if it was the St George's Cross, I know but, failing that, the Union flag will do for now.

Anonymous said...

Wonderfulforhisage said "and I've heard good stories about East Midlands and Coventry aerodromes.

As the young lady (Twiggy?) on the famous '60s TV ad, referring to Luton Airport, was heard to say:

Cor blimey mate, where you bin?

Anonymous said...

Like most reasonably right-minded people, I find it difficult to quote from the Daily Mail, but this is worth reading:

Geoff said...

My other half was in Oz watching the cricket several years ago (we lost that time too) when she heard that her father had died. Quantas couldn't have been kinder.

Not only did they get her on the next flight back to the UK but discounted the ticket and then upgraded her to First Class too and kept her topped up with red wine.

The amazing thing was that when we travelled with them a year later they had her details flagged up on their system. They said that they were sorry that the last time she had travelled with them had been under such unfortunate circumstances, that they hoped they had been able to help her out at the time, and would we accept another upgrade this time too?

We think very highly of Quantas.

verity said...

Don't know about Virgin, Iain, as I have never flown them (except on a joint Malaysian Airlines/Virgin flight), but Quantas isn't camp. Yes, the male flight attendants are gay and good looking, but they don't act camp. Oh, well, maybe one or two ... but not what one would call campery.

Curly - Funny!

Anonymous 11:46 "You can't buy a £40 ticket and then complain." I agree. You know what you're getting and you signal an agreement to endure it in order to get where you want to go at a bargain price.

Wonderful for His Age - "Sensible shoes" - what a hoot! I haven't got any!

Anonymous said...

Man of Steel (above)
..... don't you mean left-minded people!

no longer anonymous said...

Strikers should be sacked.

Or lined up and the suffering passengers armed with machine guns.

no longer anonymous said...


Lest my above comment be seen as advocating violence and therefore lead to the return of comment moderation, I must emphasise that I was only joking! (But I do loathe those who inconvenience thousands of people by striking.)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12.36 AM

No - I do mean "right-minded people" in every sense of the phrase.

In my youth I was a Young Conservative (1970s) but lost the faith somewhat in the later 1980's. The party really seemed to go to Hell then - and for a long time after that - sadly.

It's thanks to Iain, Guido et al that I am back to being a subscribing, card-carrying member of the party at the age of 47.

I belong to that generation who remember the so-called "Winter of Discontent" under jovial Jim Callaghan in the late 70's. I remember doing my homework under camping lamps, wearing extra underwear to school (because the heating was off) and bringing packed lunches (because the kitchens had no power.)

Something tells me that history is about to repeat itself.

Read the contributions to Iain and Guido's blogs and you can't go much wrong.

Keep the faith...

Man of Steel

sweet pea said...

Sorry, it's the logo underneath the post...

You could just travel to West Ham, Iain...

No need for BA then...

permanentexpat said...

Yes....QANTAS is a good lot. Pity that 'Pom living in Australia' can't yet spell it proper:-) How's that for assimilation.

Verity too! Naughty, naughty girl!

verity said...

Permex, I am very aware that the initials of QANTAS are such, but everyone says Quantas. I know it's an anagram of Queensland blah blah blah. What is it: Queensland, Northern Territories Areo something ...

But normal people say Quantas.

Anonymous said...

Man of Steel at 1.05

No - I do mean "right-minded people" in every sense of the phrase.

That being the case I fail to see why you should have a problem in quoting from The Daily Mail!

Incidentally, I went to the link you provided, which appeared to have nothing whatsoever to do with this thread concerning BA - very strange.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12.29

The naisally challenged actress/ model/whatever that you are referring to was Lorraine Chase.

That has to be worth another "cheese" in Trivial Pursuit.

Anonymous said...

permanentexpat said...
Yes....QANTAS is a good lot. Pity that 'Pom living in Australia' can't yet spell it proper:-) How's that for assimilation

Always's leave some mishake's ,you then know somebody is reading your messages :-)

Anonymous said...

Man of Steel -

Lorraine Chase indeed it was - remarkable of you to remember since you must have been only 7 0r 8 at the time.

john "beergut" prescott said...

Verity : Remember, no essays - that's a Yellow Card, Darling!

permanentexpat said...

Ah Verity............(sigh)
Yeeeessss...people do PRONOUNCE it quantas or kwantas or whatever but here....we are W.R.I.T.I.N.G.
We do not write: 'Lestersheer'....and the clown who says: put in some mistakes & you'll soon know whether you're being read or not is a typochondriac.
Having to clutch at straws, I once had to fly Aeroflot. Be grateful for the broomsticks you have.
Verity:you haven't emailed me recently.

Anonymous said...

You're being a tosser Iain. Whatever BA has done to you (like nu Labour have perhaps) does not excuse this hubris. BA are OK to good to excellent. I have a lot of time for other serious carriers too. But this is just petulant. Again. Come on Iain stop tilting at windmills. Fourth term beckons.

verity said...

john "beergut" prescott said "That's a yellow card, darling!"

Surely only the property owner is enabled to issue yellow cards, petit parvenu?

Don't call me "Darling" because frankly, to a woman, being called "Darling" by a stranger signals that that man is inadequate and angry. We have this knowledge genetically.

Never try to get into this kind of patronising dialogue with a woman, "darling", because you are always going to lose.

Also, I don't think our host wants people such as yourself to turn his property, which he runs for political discussion, to be subverted for others' agendas.

I am a commentator on this site, as are you. Stay within bounds or you will cause Comment Moderation to be re-instated and that swamps lively debate.

verity said...

john "beergut" prescott said "That's a yellow card, darling!"

Surely only the property owner is enabled to issue yellow cards, petit parvenu?

Don't call me "Darling" because frankly, to a woman, being called "Darling" by a stranger signals that that man is inadequate and angry. We have this knowledge genetically.

Never try to get into this kind of patronising dialogue with a woman, "darling", because you are always going to lose.

Also, I don't think our host wants people such as yourself to turn his property, which he runs for political discussion, to be subverted for others' agendas.

I am a commentator on this site, as are you. Stay within bounds or you will cause Comment Moderation to be re-instated and that swamps lively debate.

verity said...

Again, I apologise for a double posting and don't know why it happened. It rejected my copying of the letters, my post remained in the box, it presented new letters; I typed them and the result was a double posting again. Apologies and I don't know why ...

Anonymous said...

Aer Fungus is the airline of choice for me...

'Red' Dawn and Gordon do it again said...

Off-topic but how exactly does 'Red' Dawn keep her job?

'Britain is set to lose out on crucial inward investment because of huge backlogs in the value added tax (VAT) system, a leading accountant warned yesterday.
Until recently HM Revenue & Customs took just three weeks to process applications for registration numbers, but the wait has quadrupled to 12 weeks in recent months because officials at the department are desperately trying to crack down on VAT crimes such as carousel and missing-trader fraud."
VAT backlog 'hits inward investment'

sweet BA said...

RD and G do it again - 'Red' Dawn is Tom Watson's favourite Minister according to his blog. I think you had better revise your opinion of her in respect of this impeccable recommendation.

it's a mystery said...

Dawn Primarolo fiddles whilst the Treasury is looted
By Shutter(Shutter)
Carousel Fraud is massive. Criminals are taking over £400 Mn each months from the Treasury by fraudulent claims

Voyager said...

Why do they need an Australian and then an Irishman to run them ?

If they can't get a bRiton - get a German from Lufthansa - at least they function.

Anonymous said...

Verity is right. BA are chippy and arrogant and yes their culture still suffers a hangover from their old nationalised days. More than once they have sought to downplay their Britishness which id fine by me because I have avoided flying with them for years. I find their check in staff as bas or worse than the cabin crew. After one partticularly bad incident with my octogenarian father I've even managed to persuade him to switch to Virgin.

Anonymous said...

I heard on the radio this morning that the strike is due to BA trying to reduce the AVERAGE number of sick days taken by cabin staff - which currently stands at 22 days per year.

What other company is so badly run that its staff take 22 days off sick per year? I take on average 1/3 of a day per year off sick!

mark williams said...

BA stands head and shoulders above the other flag carriers of nations run by socialist governments. As a flag carrier BA is expected to fly a lot of unprofitable routes to parts of the world that the likes of Virgin don't bother with and don't have to cross subsidise. So of course other airlines are going to give you better value for money if you fly long haul to NY, DC, LA, SF, HK the ME or Japan, because they cherry pick those routes and fly once or twice a day. Just wait till you have to get to Bishkek, Bucharest, Dar-es-Salaam or Tehran, or a midday flight to somewhere closer in Europe.

Crossfire said...

I had dinner with a BA hostess last weekend who, before we rushed off for hours of breathless sex, told me most of the staff don't want to strike. It's just the union flexing it's muscles.

All the BA staff know that all the other airlines have less senior crew members and that if BA persists with this they will just become uncompetitive.

Anonymous said...

As a flag carrier BA is expected to fly a lot of unprofitable routes to parts of the world that the likes of Virgin don't bother with

Expected by whom? The managers still try to run it like a nationalised monopoly. BT have now managed to get out of this mindset, why can't BA?

verity said...

The number of sick days of cabin crew doesn't actually bother me, and I wonder how it stacks up against other airlines.

Flying long haul, with the constant adjustment of body clock, and breathing recycled cabin air for a living must be weakening to anyone's immune system. So this is one thing I find perfectly understandable.

Permex - Yes, you are right about Qantas. I should have spelled it thusly.

Anonymous said...

verity, sweetie, I think 'beergut' was being ironic..

Anonymous said...

Air Fucking France: The airline that cancels more flights than any other.

Lagwolf said...

I was supposed to go to the US to finalise my wedding plans on Valentines Day. They are striking so I am going Virgin (which I normally use and an FF of). I give BA a chance and they stuff it up. Oh yeah and Virgin is cheaper as well.