The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

What’s British About British Airways?
November 9, 2010, 2:57 pm
Filed under: Comment

So last week – for possibly the first time in the last 5 or 6 years – I flew BA.

Apart from 13 seconds of the near 13 hour flight, I wish I hadn’t.

I know that sounds makes me sound like a spolit little princess – especially as I didn’t pay for the flight [thank you Uncle Dan!] – but the experience was almost a case study in what not to do.

Maybe I’ve been spoilt by Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic [thanks Steve & Lee], but from the moment I boarded the plane to the moment I got off, I was made to feel part of ‘their system’ and any personal needs, wants or requests had to go in the cargo hold.

Of course, the reality is whenever you fly with an airline, you are absolutely part of their system [read the book ‘Why I Hate Flying’ for greater clarification of what that system is] however whereas many other airlines do a great job in creating an illusion that’s not the case, BA don’t.

I know I’m not your typical business person – I work in advertising and wear birkenstocks – however I didn’t think I was that much of a freak until I boarded that flight.

In my opinion – and limited experience – the approach BA has adopted seems to have been lifted straight from the 1984 businessman cliche book.

Champagne on arrival.
Overcomplicated and complex food choices.
Minimal international exposure in chocie of reading matter and movies.

Maybe that’s the experience the ‘typical businessman’ wants at 38,000 feet but given the atrocious way it was executed, I doubt it – not unless they are BDM practioners or are conservative MP’s.

Seriously, when I was on the plane I just thought how horrible this client must be for those lovely guys at BBH, because it must be so hard to do work that finds a way to make the BA experience sound positive when its anything but. Though if my memory serves me, those canny black sheep have started doing campaigns that talk about the destination rather than the journey which makes a hell of a lot more sense I can tell you.

So what was wrong with the service?

Curt – or downright rude – hostesses/hosties who seemed to come from a starting position of not wanting to help and not wanting to like you through to food that was quite frankly a fucking joke.

Case in point?

Look at it.


Look I’m from Nottingham and my culinary pallete only extends to Sunday Roasts and kebabs – but even I wouldn’t eat that shit.

Apart from it looking about as appetising as a dog turd, why the hell is it swimming in the sort of liquid you see out of dodgy Chinese hotel taps?

And that was a business class meal.


Look, I don’t want to appear ungrateful – but this isn’t about getting to ponce in the front end of a plane [I never forget how fortunate I am for that] – this is about an airline not realising the times have changed, so unless they actually only want to appeal to passengers who carry briefcases or have approximately 13 years left to live, they should take a look at “what those little Asian fellows are doing over in the Far East” or face a future of decreased profits, relevance and hope.

Seriously, the food, the service, the seats [oh don’t get me started on the seats with their ridiculous configuration and quite frankly unintuitive controls] were representative of a company looking in the rear view mirror and all but guaranteed that if offered a choice, I would steer away from BA with as much determination as I do from their Antipodean, engine failing cousins, Qantas.

A national carrier [yes, I know BA isn’t really – but with a name like that, I would imagine many people in other countries don’t realise that] is like a tourism representative to the rest of the World.

Bad experience equals bad country and I think England – for all its faults – is an amazingly rich, historic, diverse, wonderful place and I’d hate to think that BA’s head-in-the-sand approach to flying experience could make people turn their back on visiting.

The good news is that people around the World probably have a good appreciation of what England offers compared to say Singapore or Dubai … but that shouldn’t mean BA can sit back and ignore their responsibility to tourism because like SIA and Emirates have shown, that early positive experience can lead to much more foreign interaction and investment at a later point.

Yes … yes … SIA and Emirates are Government backed organisations which certainly makes things easier interms of investment and management, but let’s be honest, with the way Britain’s finances are at the moment, BA should be grateful they haven’t got those buggers sticking their fingers in otherwise they’d be serving fish fingers and oven chips.

Mind you, I’d quite like that …

So did BA do anything right?

Well they didn’t crash or lose an engine so that’s a major positive however at the beginning of the post I said there were 13 seconds I especially liked and that was when the captain came on the PA when we landed and announced that one of the flight crew was leaving the airline after 10 years and wanted to wish them all the best … before adding that if we looked to our right, we’d see their new place of employment.

It was a carpark.

Classic British pisstaking humour which was rewarded with a plane full of passengers clapping and feeling good.

It was brilliantly timed too, because after a long flight, managing to have 300 people leave the plane with a smile on their face is a fantastic achievement. Pity for BA that was achieved by a comment from the pilot rather than something they have purposefully put in place to try and ensure.

Seriously, that 13 seconds made all the difference to me because it was a bit of banter that came from an individual, not the ‘BA customer interaction manual, circa 1984’ and so if they started to embrace that attitude a bit more – and found ways to extend that to the inflight experience – then BA might have a great future rather than simply a great past.

28 Comments so far
Leave a comment

BA=Bloody awful.

How much did Lee pay you for this?

Comment by DH

he doesnt know he has.

Comment by andy@cynic

You are a brave man attacking an airline I assume you still have to use to get back to Shanghai. Then with an appraisal like that, I think Lee and Steve would always have a seat for you waiting. 🙂

Good post Rob, especially the bit where you describe how quality airlines help passengers think their personal tastes are taken into account rather than being just a number enrolled in an inflexible system.

Not sure if BA does have a responsibility towards British tourism. I take your point and you do highlight how Emirates and Singapore are national carriers in the truest sense of the word whereas BA is not, but surely an independent organisation has to work in the best interests of their shareholders rather than the tourist board. I understand that by doing their bit for UK tourism they could be working in the best interests of their shareholders but it’s about focus and priorities and I think they may have other things to concentrate on.

That sounds very much like I’m disagreeing with you which I can’t work out why because I’m not really and as you normally do, you’ve constructed an argument taking into account the opposing view so I should really go now and let my jet lag continue to play hell with my body clock.

Anyway you should think yourself lucky Rob, I flew to Europe on United. They make BA feel like heaven.

Comment by Pete

You must be jetlagged because you definitely sound like you’re disagreeing with me on the BA for British Tourism thingy.

I get your point – and maybe the airline should of never been denationalised [though I don’t know how many people would realise that] – however I still think it would be a commercially valuable for them to actively encourage tourism to the UK.

Of course – and as I said in the post – more people know about Britain than they do about Dubai or Singapore, but that doesn’t mean they should rest on their laurels and offer a service that almost puts people off rather than attract.

Comment by Rob

dear god, that food looks like diarrhea

Comment by z

The fact you called it ‘food’ is already too much of a compliment.

Comment by Rob

Seems a perfect reflection of Britain to me.

Comment by John

last year i figured out why students get given cheap BA/Qantas codeshare flights from australia to europe. between the two of them it was spectacular race to the bottom. although the british air stewards did manage to hide their sneers a little better behind a plastered-on smile, and they didn’t play that fuckin’ peter allen song on boarding.

perhaps BA and Qantas are actually working a brilliant strategy and doing their bit for carbon-footprint reduction, so that people don’t fly all the way across the world so much. crafty buggers..

and, being vegetarian, i have VERY low expectations of what kind of food to expect on a plane – but are we actually asking too much to eat well on those things? i mean, i don’t eat a 3-course meal on a 6-hour train trip, but expect to on a 2-hour flight. why?

as pete pointed out, enjoy that flight home, won’t you..

Comment by lauren

I can sum up why I loved flying Virgin Atlantic with one sentence and one quote:

Plane is flying through heavy turbulence and people starting to look at each other and get nervous. Captain comes on the tannoy and says “Our plane is currently bouncing its way to London, our arrival time is about 6 hours from now”

Instantly you could see everyone calm down and chuckle.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Also. They do help British tourism… a bad flight to Britain and you’ll be enjoying every moment before you have to get back on!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

As I said to you in the past, I don’t understand the need for hot meals on a plane. They’re an anachronism predicated on past times when we needed them to break up the monotony of the flight – now we have far greater entertainment choices and really would be happier with less intrusion and the ability to access juices and snacks when we want them (with the possible exception of breakfast).

As you hinted, the ritual is now more to do with giving cabin crew a routine rather than trusting them to provide good customer service i.e. when the customer wants it.

Comment by John

look at doddsy trying to make this post look serious. what a waste of fucking time.

Comment by andy@cynic

That could be said about all the posts.

Comment by John

you fucking said it.

Comment by andy@cynic

Wouldn’t trust them with a cheese sandwich.

Comment by Chris

I just flew with them to Amsterdam. They gave me a piece of kiwi fruit. ONE FUCKING PIECE OF KIWI FRUIT. At least it was fresh [well, cold] and looked like a kiwi fruit should, which is a step in the right direction.

Comment by Rob

If I didn’t love you so much I’d do a fake rob campbell blog called rop cambbell, because you deserve it. Jesus.

Comment by Marcus

face it marcus, it couldnt be as fucking shit as the real thing.

Comment by andy@cynic

“Here’s a plate of dog poo. What can planners learn from it?” Mate, I’m sure we could give it a go.

The planners would love it too – which may actually be a reason NOT to do it.

Your call.

Comment by Marcus

they make themselves look big enough twats on here and then theres always the psfk purple list shit isnt there.

Comment by andy@cynic

Piers wouldn’t let me on the purple list. I wonder why?

Comment by Marcus

his name is piers. says it fucking all.

Comment by andy@cynic

mind you campbell is on it isnt he? shows theres no fucking taste or judgement on that fucking thing.

Comment by andy@cynic

what a fucking wanker.

if angelina walked in your door and begged you to fuck her youd complain her hair wasnt bouncy enough. youre a princess prick. but ba are fucking shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m making it my personal mission to clarify the myth that Emirates is government backed. They received seed money at the very beginning (25 years ago) to start the company and have then grown double digits year after year on their own steam.

P.S. Thanks for the insightful rant!

Comment by Heather

isnt that like saying the american government has nothing to do with blackwater even though every fucker knows it has everything to do with blackwater.

Comment by andy@cynic

How dare you imply, nay say, that the American government
has anything to do with Blackwater (now renamed the X factor)
Nothing could be further from the truth.
OK, it’s a little bit true.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

beef burger patty, tofu, greens, a tomatoe, kiwi in the middle: my guess.

That glass of champagne would of kept me ‘flying’ for the 13 hour flight.

Comment by Jacob B

Leave a Reply