22 March 2010

BA Dispute

A week spent in the French ski resort of Morzine/Avoriaz had the potential to be ruined by the 3 day British Airways cabin crew strike, that commenced on the day we were due to return home. There has been so much in the media about the strike that I struggle to believe that passengers have not been in a position to make alternative arrangements.

BA seem to have the upper hand with communication and emergency planning working effectively. They contacted me by email 3 days in advance of my return flight to say it was cancelled, I then had the option of booking an alternative flight that was 1 hour earlier than the original schedule but operated by Jet2 rather than BA.

BA do of course fall down in short haul with their almost complete lack of customer care and service. It seems that rather than rising to the challenge of the Easyjet's and Ryan Air's they have rushed headfirst to meet their levels of service. This is most marked now in the amount of luggage you can check in, 1 bag no more than 23Kg. Now I only booked BA to Geneva in the first place because they used to allow sporting equipment as an extra bag with no charge. So ideal if you are taking ski's. No longer; extra money will change hands if you have more than one bag. Does that remind you of anyone?

I feel somewhat conflicted in that I want BA to improve levels of service but understand that the penny pinching on meals and baggage is all about making savings or generating extra income, which in this climate has to be a smart move. Yet as a passenger they are no different to any other cut price carrier; making these savings removes a portion of their competitive advantage which I suspect they will never regain.

As if to prove this rule the flight operated by Jet2 from Geneva to Heathrow on behalf of BA was excellent, certainly better than the BA flight in reverse a week earlier. More motivated, happier staff, friendly smiles and good customer care. I understand BA cabin crew are demotivated by change but just look what potential competitors are doing and wake up.

And the BA cabin crew's position is no different to workers in other industries where the economy has changed the fight from one of profit and expansion to raw survival. While it seems clear that Willy Walsh is busting for this fight with the union he has a much better arguement about the survival of a great company for the long term than the unions do about what seem like relatively minor changes to terms. Obviously there is more to it but I dont see very much public sympathy for the cabin crew. They're pretty well paid and other workers have unfortunately had to accept new realities in order to survive.

Just want also to say thanks to Henry and jess at our Chillipepper chalet in Les Prodains, Morzine for looking after us with some great food over the course of the week. I'm not sure I'd pay the money to go again but the chalet hosts were lovely.

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