A quick photo preview of my flight from London to Johannesburg on a British Airways 747 in First Class.
It was an odd experience to watch the British TV show "A Very British Airline." In the TV show, the camera follow the day to day of the airline as they deal with issues and problems. Standing out to me was the flight attendant training for first and business class cabins. The training shows so much emphasis on treating the customer well, have great food available. Customer service is the highest priority taught to the attendants.
Then comes reality. If you've ever actually flown a British Airways flight, the story is likely hit or miss on if they actually achieve what they are selling. Customer services can be unfriendly, and impersonal. Food isn't great, but run of the mill.It just seems like the values the company wants to sell are pushed hard on the ground, but completely without reinforcement once the employees start working full time. However, the one stand out as a US Citizen, was that BA always gave a small meal, even on short flights.
In a move that seems to be a regression to the last decade of flying, BA will start to charge for all meals. In the US, airlines have started to compete again on offering small snacks and food without charge. Larger meals still are charged for, but small snacks have been added back to the flights with no additional charge. As airlines in the US start moving forward with customer service again, British Airways is going in the reverse direction.
This is likely a money saving effort, one that had already been a little controversial when British Airways implemented a similar policy for longer haul cross Atlantic flights. No food on an international flight? That just seems crazy. Now this policy is leaking into the European market.
I know that many US readers are used to policies like this, but British Airways is taking it one step further than we're used to seeing in the US. No more free drinks in the economy class cabin either for short haul flights. Soda will now cost you £1.50. This means now drinks of any kind, even water, without being charged. So forget the idea of keeping hydrated on the plane anymore, bring you own water... well buy it in the airport and bring it because it isn't allowed through security.
British Airways tries to sell itself as an upscale airline. They attempt to make it seem like their focus is on customer service and offering the best product. In reality, their seats are worse than almost all the competition, service is very spotty, and food/drinks are now being removed.
Attracting customers is a difficult proposition, but removing features and offering poor business class and first class seats is not the answer. British Airways really needs to get it's act together. They will not survive in today's world if they continue to offer sub-par flights.
I'm currently walking through the steps of double checking my itinerary and making sure everything is in order for my upcoming flights. My flight to South Africa will be on board a British Airways 747-400, an aircraft I've been looking forward to flying ever since my Qantas flight was swapped to an A380 in 2014. It's one of the few airplanes I've never flown on.
While going through my list of flights, and it's not a short list, I remembered reading about British Airways trialing WiFi on board a single 747 only 1-2 years ago. At the time you were lucky if you boarded this specific aircraft as British Airways literally had no other long haul planes with WiFi... I know, a tad bit surprising for an airline in the modern age.
Deciding to look more into this, I went in search of what is currently offered. This shouldn't surprise any of you when I say that British Airways has not added WiFi to any of their longhaul planes yet... but it's coming soon... well in 2017.
While the trial seems to have shown BA that it is valuable to have WiFi on board, they decided to switch to the Gogo inflight system over the provider that BA used during the trial period. The airline will be equipping their entire longhaul fleet, as well as some Air Lingus and Iberia flights as well. Unfortunately this will not be any time soon as the 747 will be the first to get WiFi, but the roll out process will certainly take quite some time.
Really this is very surprising to me. Competitors around the globe have had WiFi for a long time. It seems BA is lagging way behind the competition, and WiFi isn't the only place that is happening. If you've ever seen the show "A Very British Airline," it is a 3 episode show that focuses on British Airways. In the show, BA attempts to show how much of a world class airline they really are. In the real world, BA has a sub par first and business class seats. Food is far from great and service can be downright terrible.
We will see in person how they handle long haul flights in first class. The WiFi issue is not a good start. I do like the idea of British Airways and I want them to be great. Hopefully they can live up to the high standards they attempt to sell to us.
As my major Africa/Middle East trip draws near, here is a quick overview of what to expect in the way of reviews.
Airline: Virgin Atlantic
Route: ATL to LHR
Class: Business (Upper Class)
My first international leg will be on board a Virgin Atlantic A330-300 aircraft. While this is the updated interior, Virgin has just announced that they are no longer going to be using this interior. It tends to be very cramped as Virgin tried to shove lots of business class seats in a small area and it was not well executed. Tight or not, look forward to seeing the sleep suit, the tight seat, and everything in between.
Airline: British Airways
Route: LHR to JNB
After a decently long connection in London, I'll be off to Johannesburg to catch my final connection. This will be my first time in a 747, and it'll be done in first class with a small nose section, a beautiful seat and interior. Queen of the skies from takeoff to touchdown, it'll be a memorable one.
Airline: Qatar Airways
Route: JNB to DOH
After a four day stop, a safari, and tour of the cape peninsula, I'll connect in Johannesburg to a Qatar Airways 777-300ER. Not the most ideal business class seat to fly on, their 787 is much better, but it'll make an interesting review. Then on the ground in Doha, Qatar I'll be reviewing the brand new Qatar Airways massive first class lounge.
Airline: Qatar Airways
Route: DOH to DXb
Here is where I get to try out the Qatar Airways 787-8 business class. Said to be one of the best business class seats money can buy, we'll see how it matches against American Airlines business class and others.
Airline: Emirates Airline
Route: DXB to LAX
The dream jewel of this trip; opulence, overstated gold accents and just a little too much bling, Emirates brings it's A-game in first class. It may not be the seat that wins me over here though as much as using one of two on board showers while flying at almost 40,000 ft above the ground. This aircraft was why I made this trip, well that and to try out the unbeatable Emirates A380 lounge that stretches the entire length of the A380 terminal at Dubai International. This lounge even features direct gate access for first class passengers only... insane!
Route: LAX to ATL
Class: Domestic First Lie Flat
An unexpected close out to the trip, I get to fly Delta's business class product on a domestic route. Handling the heavy LAX to ATL segment, the 767-300 features a first class seat that is equal to the Delta One offered in business class on international fights. Don't expect any food review here since it is a red eye, but a lie flat on a domestic route is a full on win.
This trip is starting to get me excited. I can't tell you how much businessfirst class makes flying an amazing experience again. Flying can be enjoyable. Business Class, First Class and Lounges make all the difference in the world.
Not too long ago, I had praised British Airways for offering meals even on short intra-European flights. Many times, I've flown the London to Marseilles segment with British Airways. Not only was a minor meal offered to everyone, they even had a vegan option for all passengers.
That level of service seems to be on its way out now.
After flying these segments with British Airways, I made a point that US airlines could learn a thing or two from their European competition. Unfortunately while US airlines seem to at least be moving back in the right direction, British Airways has swung the other way, and in a really bad way.
British Airways has decided to do away with their second meal service on shorter trans-Atlantic routes like New York to London. While these flights are historically shorter, in the east direction, the west direction of flight can approach 8 hours in the air. It is a good idea to provide a meal prior to touchdown for an 8 hour flight. Instead British Airways will now offer their main meal after takeoff, and then a small "fun-sized" candy before touchdown. They really are going out of their way on the 10 cent piece of candy that is well known to be all sorts of healthy.
Then we come to what is obviously the real motivation here... snacks will be for sale on board for economy passengers who would like something more substantial. However, if you have ever purchased a meal in economy on a domestic flight, you'll quickly realize that this snack will be exactly that, chips or something that won't really fill you up, and will likely cost your first born to purchase. Exaggeration aside, this is a really bad move.
No word yet on what the routes will be that implement this change or if there is a time in the air where this won't apply. My prediction is that we'll see this start on the short flights and then begin to migrate to longer and longer flights. I really hope that a 13+ hour flights don't start to see this happen as well.
If you are flying business or first class, no need to fret, you'll still get the normal meal. Only passengers in "steerage class" will see these changes.
Come on now British Airways, better customer service should be the name of the game, not worse. Let's see how this all plays out.