Brexit’s Nationalist Pols Take Aim at Quality First Class, Protect BA’s Inferior Product

Conservatives in the U.K. who favored Brexit sold the idea to their more free-market constituencies on the basis that escaping the regulatory shackle of Europe would unleash the British economy. In other words, the idea was that what they’d give up in the freedom from borders within Europe they’d get back many times over in economic freedom.

Things have hardly played out that way, and Boris Johnson (and Theresa May before him) are anything but market-oriented conservatives.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron hatched the idea of a Brexit referendum at the Chicago O’Hare terminal 3 Pizzeria Uno, hoping to hold together his electoral coalition and win the vote for Remain. However – just like pundits on this side of the Pond – he underestimated the desire of a large portion of the electorate to simply ‘break stuff’ and signal strength in the face of elites they believed had lowered their relative status.

And like in the U.S. the political equilibrium is one with a larger, not smaller, role for the state including in business affairs. So when One Mile at a Time writes that the U.K. is preventing Emirates from offering shower attendants in first class on their Airbus A380 flights to the U.K., read this as a minor trade skirmish in favor of protecting flag carrier British Airways.

  • Emirates offers shower suites in first class on their Airbus A380s
  • There’s a dedicated staff member who cleans the showers between uses (and cleans bathrooms elsewhere on the plane at other times)
  • They are lower paid than and aren’t qualified as regular flight crew.

emirates shower suite

The U.K. says that after a decade they can no longer enter the country on a crew visa. Emirates will add a crewmember to these flights to fill the first class duties on the shower attendant, and flight attendants in other cabins will refresh their own lavatories.

The ‘why now’ after a decade where this has been a non-issue is clear, look to recent changes in U.K. government. And who benefits is also clear flying between the U.K. and Dubai: the only other airline flying London Heathrow – Dubai, British Airways, which is forced to use its newest aircraft with best business class – the Airbus A350 – on the route (and will be moving a second A350 onto the route).

Brexit – and the politicians it has placed in power – are bringing a more nationalist industrial policy to Britain. The latest target is Emirates and their ‘over the top’ first class experience which needs to be taxed, in the view of some, to protect British Airways.

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. This “article” is a piece of hyperbolic fantasy.
    The real story is someone in Border Force twigged that the bathroom “Attendants” we’re being afforded crew privileges at the point of entry into the U.K. whilst not actually being licensed Crew.
    That they have got away with it for so long surprises me and I expect other countries may well follow the example of the U.K.
    The story is simple; Emirates have been breaking immigration rules by listing the Attendants as Crew. In turn, Attendants have been illegally entering the U.K., and the airline is complicit in enabling that crime.
    If you must do politics Gary, stick to your own country’s, as you have demonstrated how little you know about the UK’s.

  2. @Mike – please. This is not “someone finally realized Emirates was breaking the law” And that “only the UK was sharp enough, the rest of Europe is still asleep”

    Ask yourself what is different and who benefits, because your narrative is fanciful 😉

  3. @Mike I am pretty sure the CFO of Mercatus Centre knows is well qualified and informed to comment on international politics, especially in the business sector.

  4. This must be one of the silliest blog posts ever. It is illegal for the Civil Service to do anything but carry on with existing policies during an election so, if as you allege, this is a political decision, then it must have been sanctioned by either a Home Office minister or by the Prime Minister. But they are far too busy in the middle of an election period, to be messing around with this sort of thing. Gary, you are living in fantasy land trying to put a political spin on this, which hasn’t even been reported on the BBC, so there’s no political capital being spent or earned on it.

    Now, it’s perfectly possible that BA has complained and that complaint has been acted on, but that’s quite different to saying it was politically motivated, or that it’s a result of Brexit. The rules have not changed in many years on this – the only thing that has changed is their implementation.

    In the UK we are sick to death of every malaise being blamed on Brexit – certainly there are some, but the great majority of things that happen would happen anyway, especially as we are still members of the EU, and will remain bound by its rules for many months to come. It’s just lazy and fanciful reporting either by honest fools or by dishonest reporters wanting to stir.

  5. tl:dr

    Are you coming in as licensed crew? Yes. Are you ACTUALLY licensed crew? No.

    Britain is now changing this. I see no problems, regardless of who benefits.

  6. @Gary: You did not read the comments to the OMAAT piece:

    “Sean M. says:
    November 4, 2019 at 9:13 am
    The regulations have always been in place. Surprised Emirates got away with it for so long.”

  7. @Gary: You don’t know what you are talking about regarding Brexit. Putting this in a points blog lowers your credibility all around. What else was decided at such a superficial level?

  8. Oh, so “Saintly British Airways” whose legacy includes its widely reported – and infamous – “Dirty Tricks” perpetrated against Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic back in late 1980s & early 1990s when it offered a VASTLY SUPERIOR to BA’s business class that it called Upper Class had NO role in the sudden enforcement of rules regarding whom meets the criteria needed for crew visas after more than a decade & several national elections when regulators “looked the other way”?

    Yeah, right.

    Those that believe that might be interested in buying one (or both!) of the iconic bridges on either (both) sides of the pond that the pair of imbecile con artists & their destructive clown-shows that are only benefitting Putin & other wannabe butchers/dictators while the U.K. & USA burn under these narcissists’ & Putin’s Useful Udiots’ watch.

    For sure, Don the Con will gladly sell those that believe BA had no role in its bag of (Dirty) Tricks the Brooklyn Bridge and/or plenty of land in the Florida Everglades [aka a real swamp, NOT the imaginary one in his demented & delusional “mind”], to go along with those great, career enhancing degrees from Trump University!

    Wow! PT Barnum was SO RIGHT about suckers being born every minute.

  9. Some amusing comments.
    As a further reference point, I have done DXB-SYD return twice this year in F. On every occasion, there was a Flight Attendant and not a bathroom Janitor maintaining the facilities..
    Damn that Brexit…

  10. That’s “Useful Idiots” & buying iconic bridges from either or both of them in the above!

    BA had NO role in seeking to “Tanya Harding” one of its competitors (in this case Emirates)?

    Anyone who believes that is completely unaware of its long documented history such as the above referenced “Dirty Tricks” Scandal (n/b: google that if you never heard of that until now).

    But, wait, there’s more!

    Colluding with other airlines to successfully sabotage Sir Freddie Laker’s SkyTrain.

    Multiple episodes of price fixing, especially its cargo division.

    Oh, please! Anyone who thinks BA had NO role in whacking Emirates’ kneecaps (in a manner of speaking) with this sudden enforcement of crew visa eligibility is kidding themselves & would appear to still believe in the tooth fairy & Santa Claus, too.


  11. IMHO BA should better focus in their absurd (innexistant) First Class than picking on EK for having a top of the nothch product ! Shame on you, BA !!!

  12. Sorry but this post really makes some hilarious assumptions. The motivation for enforcing immigration rules is to reduce competition for BA?

    While BA no doubt carries some serious political clout, they are not omnipotent. And the same nationalist impulses of the current government that you mentioned as leading them to “protect BA” have also (surprise surprise) led them to both lower immigration quotas and increase enforcement, making discovery of this type of minor rule-breaking far more likely.

    But no, of course this was done out of overwhelming concern for the (now wholly private) flag carrier.

  13. Gary said: “he underestimated the desire of a large portion of the electorate to simply ‘break stuff’ and signal strength in the face of elites they believed had lowered their relative status.” Seriously Gary: That is a seriously snarky comment about English citizens that voted for Brexit.

    Whether Brexit was a good idea or bad idea, it should not take three years. At the end of the day, Parliament refuses to leave, despite the vote.

  14. Gary, really nice piece. Well done!

    “Seriously Gary: That is a seriously snarky comment about English citizens that voted for Brexit.”

    And the idiots who were sold a phony bill of goods (many of whom had no idea what they actually voted for — and some of them still don’t understand) have only themselves to blame.

  15. Steven M says:
    “And the idiots who were sold a phony bill of goods (many of whom had no idea what they actually voted for — and some of them still don’t understand) have only themselves to blame.”

    Now there’s a broadminded, rational, intellectual assessment of the arguments pro and con.

  16. @Steven M: My temptation is to mock you. It turns out I was actually reading papers from the UK 3 years ago at the time of Brexit. Every major paper was predicting end of world type of stuff if Brexit was approved. The Anti-Brexiters were in full force also predicting economic doom and gloom if Brexit was yes. The vote had high participation rate in the UK. To say that UK citizens did not know about the dire consequences of yes is like saying some people in the UK do not read the paper, do not turn on the television, do not listen to the radio. I find that hard to believe.

  17. Come on Gary! I realise and sympathise that it must be hard to come up with original content every day, but I’d rather see one fewer article than read absolute nonsense like this!

  18. I must first reiterate that I do like Gary articles … but only when he does not introduce politics into the articles he has written

    Or in this case takes all his Brexit information from the fountain of bull that is the Guardian.

    That is unfortunate

    Be more like the film “Sleepers”. Just like the bar scene, keep your articles “politics” free.

    You will thank us later

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