Another Day More Cost-Cutting at British Airways: Crew Have to Clean Planes Themselves

British Airways is trialing something new at London Gatwick on short haul flights, crew give planes a light clean during the time between flights instead of paying contracted cleaners.

COST-cutting British Airways bosses are letting planes take-off with just a “light clean” and toilet waste-tanks unemptied.

Crew members are being paid an extra £10 if they give the plane a quick tidy before departure, saving cash on paying contracted cleaners.

Crew will be paid an additional £10 per flight segment, and the new standards mean that “a jet’s sewage tank is not always emptied. Instead they fly if it is up to a third full. In addition BA planes can now depart with just 50 per cent levels of drinkable water used for making tea and coffee.”

British Airways considers this a test to “see whether passengers notice the planes are not as clean as normal.”

Will Blue Lighting Help Hide The Dirt?

Crew cleaning planes between flights is hardly a new idea. When Southwest Airlines was forced to return one of its four planes in 1972, they invented the “10 minute turn” to shorten the time between flights and maintain their schedule using only three aircraft. Flight attendants and pilots cleaned planes during those 10 minutes. And of course on every flight, crew come around picking up trash from passengers prior to landing even if they’re not going back through the plane once on the ground to look for items left at seats, on the floor, or in seat pockets.

Financially troubled airlines often reduce cleaning and fly dirty planes. They also defer maintenance. A decade ago United decided it was cheaper to compensate passengers than replace burned out reading lights.

British Airways has been on a tear to limit costs. They first introduced fares that didn’t include checked baggage (Hand Baggage Only fares), and applied these rules even to elites who normally receive an extra checked baggage allowance. They have started charging for inflight food and drink in intra-European economy — even for hot water if you bring your own tea bag. And they’re reducing space between seats from an already-tight 30 inches to offer less legroom than Ryanair.

Will This Trial at Gatwick Spread to Heathrow?

Some readers thought I was unfair a year ago when I asked if I had flown British Airways Club Europe or Spirit Airlines.

Perhaps a new idea for a fee is to require that all passengers clean the area around their seats themselves, or they can pay £5 to have a flight attendant clean for them. A £5 fee per passenger would be a revenue stream rather than incurring £10 per flight attendant per flight!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “British Airways considers this a test to see”….whether passengers will put up with same standards of hard product they would get if flying Pakistan International Airline… 🙂

  2. LOL, in a sad sort of way. For all of us who gripe (with some justification) about US airlines’ race to the bottom, this is a reminder that it could be much worse.

  3. Wow, this used to be my preferred airline, due to great service, comfort and FF perks – but it is truly falling from grace faster than I thought. I don’t see how they can be competitive towards other major airlines with that attitude.
    Even the cabincrews are leaving the company, due to rediculous pay- and working conditions. If they want to turn BA into a low-fare carrier is fine – but let the fares reflect this.

  4. This is so sad to watch…but in five to seven years’ time there will be students at business schools around the world where the complete and utter rape and destruction of British Airways, and its brand, will be prominent parts of the MBA research, curriculum and many “case-study” theses leading to students’ graduations. Make no mistake, this is NOTHING SHORT of the wholesale rape and destruction of a once proud, premier glabal brand. Of course, what else would one expect from the greedy jackholes running this company into the ground, who by their own admission in a powerpoint presentation late last year included a slide that actaully stated: “Show Us The ‘Effing’ Money”. This brutally honest lapse in judgement (some might say akin to a “Freudian Slip”) should make clear that this management’s exact vulgar and crass objectives are to destroy BA simply to line their own pockets, and perhaps the financial community which is egging them on. Once done, and there’s no more blood to squeeze out of this investment “vehicle”, the management will walk away with big bank accounts, lifetime passes to fly to their hearts content in the front seats, leaving the airline on the brink of death or even beyond “saving”…of course, the same banks that riding roughshod on passengers and demanding further degradation of services and an endless array of ever increasing fees, will swoop in with offers to “restructure” the company by bankruptcy or whatever the UK equivalent is…they’ll scoop up the airline’s nearly priceless slots, gates, terminal facilities, aircraft, route authorities, and even the very lucrative frequent flier programs and/of “affinity” credit cards. Of course, what won’t happen, is that BA’s massive and long underfunded pension plans will figure into this picture, and instead will be simply abandoned as happened here in the USA in most of the major airline bankruptcies. This is the flight path that this management at BA is clearly pursuing…it’s the so-called “legitimate” business world’s version of a mob “bust out”….run the company into the ground, and when there’s nothing left to take, walk away and burn it.

  5. Do I detect some sort of bias against BA? Given the repeated, negative “articles” (really closer to “editorials”) on this site, it makes one wonder.

    Many airlines deserve scrutiny. But passengers who seem unwilling to pay for quality services also share blame.

  6. Flew 1st on BA289 on Thursday 2 March.Looks to me that the reduced or maybe eliminated cleaning is already in effect. Tissues on the floor. Bathroom not clean, tissues missing.
    Is there no other carrier that wants to fly to the EU from PHX?
    The 1st class lounge in terminal 3 at LHR is a disgrace but that issue is a topic for another rant

  7. @Gerald, ha I walked out of the BA 1st class lounge in terminal 3, went to the AA first class lounge and spent less than 10 minutes in there. Severely overcrowded and something in there was making me sneeze. Went over to the Cathay first lounge, very comfortable and absolutely beautiful inside. Lets not even talk about how terrible the gates at LHR are in terminal 3 either.

  8. Flight attendants on US airlines have been cleaning between short haul flights since the 80s. All the US majors do this, not just LCCs. Why is this being decried in these comments as some outlandish plan? How is BA different to the rest of the industry?

  9. Given British Airways now charges (intra-Europe) for hot water for your tea, how soon until they start charging for oxygen/masks?

  10. Given that BA’s cleaners were fired months ago, given the state of their aircraft cabins, this is a welcome change! Even better, they’re paying the crew marginally more to boot!

    …although I have no plans on flying BA anytime soon until current management realize that without passengers, they’re out of a job. I’m voting with my £ and my feet. Show me the f**ing service BA!

  11. @David IAG (BA’s parent company) profit rose 29% to 1.93billion in their last report. Clearly people are paying for their services. The issue is that they are now giving lower service than the LCC’s for higher prices.

  12. I do NOT have a “bias” towards BA. Quite the contrary. And without going into specific detail, have extensive professional experience over the course of several decades where BA was a prominent part of my direct responsibilities, be it as a travel agent, where a significant portion of the clientele not just flew the Concorde, but practically commuted on the Concorde the way most people in NYC take the subway or commuter trains to nearby suburbs. My professional background also includes at least two very detailed commentaries, analysis and large data reports of BA that was published in a financial newsletter that costs more than the typical general readership magazines to subscribe to. I also participated on a multi-year consulting assignment for the airline, which, for obvious reasons, I cannot disclose in great detail as it involved detailed legal research. This work, however, had me working alongside many people I respected and admired at various levels of the company, up to and including the highest levels of the company. So to suggest that I have some sort of “bias” against BA simply does NOT apply. If anything, as my earlier comments here, and elsewhere yesterday after receiving the email blast for another blogger’s post regarding further degrading of BA’s product to an Allegiant Airlines or Spirit Airlines-like miserly, and utter contemptible 29″ seat pitch between rows, I simply do NOT believe the strategy being pursued by the current BA management is in any way, shape, or form, viable in the long term. To wit, as someone who has actually taken the time to research this history of the supposedly “innovative” pricing models where “less is more”, which translates roughly into: more cash for obscenely large stock buybacks and outsized paychecks/stock options for a handful of people at the tippy top of the corporate by offerring LESS, and THEN, AS IF THAT’S ALREADY NOT BAD ENOUGH TO PASSENGERS, CHARGING YET MORE FOR EVEN LESS BY FURTHER “UNBUNDLING” “OPTIONS” AND ADDING FEES UPON FEES, this shady, dishonest, deceitful, business “practice” is neither new nor innovative. It’s the same bs “bait and switch” used by disreputable merchants, or in our country, commonly experienced with cable tv and internet providers. Never really disclose the true final price that will be paid, and instead “hate sell” to your customers by deceit and trickery. In the case of the airline industry, it gets even worse than the cable tv/internet providers or shady merchants, in that they’re lying through their teeth by somehow misrepresenting the constant stripping out of their product to not just heretofore believed unacceptably low standards for main cabin seat widths and row pitch, but also presenting unacceptably dense cabin confirgurations on aircraft clearly designed for long haul missions at vastly lower densities in the main cabin with more sensible configurations in the premium cabins than the obscenely ridiculous 1-2-1 cabins that result in 60 passengers consuming 50% of the available space on the aircraft while the other 306 are densely packed into seats LESS THAN 17″ wide in rows as densely packed as 30″ or 31″ of pitch (“legroom”). And as if that’s already NOT despicable enough, despite paying what for most will be high-hundreds and/or THOUSANDS of dollars for the “privilege” of buying just the seat for upwards of 16 hours spent in these densely packed, unsafe conditions (Deep Vein Thrombosis, anyone?), the hate sell continues from there since the product has been stripped so bare, the passenger is desperate to avoid the worst of the worst conditions that were VERY INTENTIONALLY DESIGNED/ENGINEERED TO CREATE A LEVEL OF DISCOMFORT TO DRIVE “UPSELLS”….oops!… sorry, I meant “options”, “choices”, “only the things ‘you want'”. As if travelling with children and desiring to be seated together and check a bag or two are “options” or merely luxuries. And as if this taken together isn’t already enough “hate sell” abuse, the passengers are “shamed” and “blamed” as being cheapskates who brought this extreme abuse on ourselves. That’s rich!!! And some actually fall for this con…AMAZINGLY…In the past, many once joked that if the could figure out a way to strap passengers to the wings of the plane and offer nothing more…who knows, someday managements like those at many USA airlines now and also at the new “Vueling”…oops! I did it again, I mean BRITISH AIRWAYS will figure out a way to get away with that, too…but short of that, they’re certanly honing their skills on the mid-1800’s shady practices used by railroads in Europe whereby there was a 3rd Class car/carriage that was also stripped down bare…practically literally, too…NO ROOFS TO PROTECT AGAINST THE ELEMENTS be it heat, cold, rain, snow, flying objects kicked up by the wake vortex of the other cars, the exhaust of the locomotive and more…and needless to say, there were NO SEATS, either…just a bunch of passengers crowded, or more likely huddled and hanging on for dear life stuck in 3rd Class…needless to say, anyone who could afford to avoid these horrid conditions, but the “UPSELLS” offered then…or whatever they called this selling “practice” back in the good old mid-1800’s. Don’t believe me? Fine! Type in “ROOFLESS RAIL CARS” (or “carriages” for those on the other side of the pond where the destruction of BA is accelerating to warp speed) in your favorite seach engine, check out the images, read the brief histories also available, plus the various newspaper stories about reasons why 3rd class was finally outlawed by regulators more than 50 years ago…and in some places, was outlawed BEFORE the end of the 1800’s. Then, after reading these articles and reflecting on what’s now happening at airlines, ask yourself if emulating long ago outlawed, discredited, disreputable, dishnonest, shady and SHAMEFUL, business selling “practices” that date back to (at least and possibly earlier) the mid-1800’s (THE 1800’s…imagine THAT!!!) is “new” or “innovative”??? No, folks, it’s NOT…it’s an age old, classic con, only now put on steroids by mathematicians and coders using supercomputers…that’s all this is…the same old pig, dressed up with “lipstick” to a public that simply does NOT know or does NOT WANT TO KNOW what it really is, and who, out of not knowing, fall for slick marketing bs that incredibly portrays them as the “villians” in the story who brought this relentless product degradation on themselves. Talk about “alternative facts”…this one’s a whopper!!! So, getting back to a “bias” towards BA, nothing could be further from the truth…I love this company, met many great and talented people that were like family to me while I was on a consulting assignment there, and seeing what’s now going on there is like watching a beloved family member or friend after they became terminally ill fade away until they’re gone for good…that’s the place I’m coming from.

  13. In the above, should be “…BOUGHT the upsells..” NOT “but..” predictive text and typos still get in the way sometimes…with apologies for that when they happen…the world has changed a lot from the days of the IBM Selectrics I grew up with, and the full-size keyboards and very large monitors relied upon when I last wrote regularly about the airlines!!! Middle age and teeny-tiny screens with teeny-tiny keys don’t exactly go hand in hand…

  14. Howard Miller, long time lurker here, I simply had to break cover to comment on your extraordinarily long post, or should I say rant! If you want it to be read, please break it down in paragraphs, bullets, whatever…I gave up after 6 lines, which is a pity, as I’m sure there’s a lot in there which could be useful.

  15. To Howard,
    I think that you hit the nail on the head with your analysis about watching a terminally ill patient fade away.
    I was BA gold for like 17 years. In those 17 years I was sad to see the product deteriorate to the point where flying BA is no longer a thrill. I am not knocking the staff one board. They have been great and I am amazed that they have kept such a still upper lip.
    I fear we are seeing a Pan Am or Northwest decline to where in our lifetime , BA will like PAA and NW be acquired and gutted.

  16. To Jeff,
    I did exactly what you did with the exception of the AA lounge. I went into the CX lounge and fall in love with the amenities and the staff. I wrote a note to CX thanking then for that lounge experience. Perhaps you could do he same.

  17. Do you not have other transportation options beside BA?
    Boycott them! Hit them where they will feel it!

  18. In India, Indigo, a LCC, does ask pax to clean up after themselves in the seat area only. They couch it as a way to reduce turn around times. Toilets are cleaned by contract ground staff though.

  19. This job won’t exist more than a further decade: robots will do it far more cheaply and efficiently. Maybe just 3 or 4 human staff per wide body.

  20. Mr. Wise,

    Very well put…agreed…feedback appreciated…will keep in mind going forward!

    Thanks for breaking cover 😉

  21. BA a planes are flying filthy at the best of times, this is nothing but a race to the bottom. Until their passengers start complaining in droves nothing will be done. Corporate greed at its best

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