Here’s the British Airways Plan to Destroy the Passenger Experience

British Airways cuts have effectively destroyed its brand. What was once viewed as a quality international carrier is largely to be avoided when possible. If you aren’t based at London Heathrow the only reason to fly BA would be price.

Last March we learned that they planned to offer less legroom than Ryanair on intra-Europe flights. So it makes sense to give Ryanair a revenue premium to avoid flying BA.

British Airways business class is already a laggard.

And intra-Europe business class already started with less legroom than the median US domestic coach seat at 30 inches of pitch (it’s what American’s new densified 737 MAX offers).

Via Head for Points we learn just how British Airways will cram more seats into short haul planes flying in and out of London Heathrow.

  • Airbus A320s will keep their current first 12 rows of coach, that’s where you want to sit. A321st will keep their first fourteen rows. They’ll get both USB and standard power outlets.

  • The rest of these planes will get uncomfortable slimline seats with 29 inch pitch. They will not recline (or as Spirit Airlines says, ‘they’re pre-reclined’). There will be USB ports but not standard power. Seriously, retrofitting cabins and not adding power.

  • There won’t be enough galley space left to store meal trays for Club Europe, so longer flights will limit the number of intra-European business seats they’ll sell.

  • They’re eliminating drop down video monitors from new planes being delivered (less weight, less fuel burn, crew will do manual safety demonstrations).

  • Elimination of trash and water from the back of plane to save space, flight attendants are going to love this:

    This means that all waste will be carried through Club Europe for disposal at the front, and all requests for free tap water will require a trip to the Club Europe galley.

  • There may not even be coat storage for business class, “The Club Europe wardrobe will remain but will also be used for general storage and may not be available for coats”

Here’s the new British Airways business plan:

In January I wrote The Dumb, Stupid, Dull-Witted Way British Airways Has Moved to Buy on Board Food and Drink and concluded,

Charging for water — and especially charging premium passengers connecting domestically for water — seems like a mistake.

And reducing product differentiation between BA and its lower cost competitors seems like a mistake.

Given their higher cost structure, they need to earn a revenue premium. Competing at the low cost game with airlines whose costs are lower seems like a game they’re destined to lose.

And it means that they offer lower service levels than competing European legacy airlines on non-stop routes between London and the rest of Europe.

All These People Will Be Expected to Share One Seat on Their Upcoming Flight to Milan

Offering less legroom than Ryanair might be something they can get away with selling tickets to Heathrow-based travelers, although it makes KLM the preferred carrier London Heathrow – Amsterdam, Lufthansa the preferred carrier London Heathrow – Frankfurt, etc.

Heathrow is already a miserable place to connect for intra-European travel in no small measure because the UK isn’t a Schengen country. They won’t win much connecting traffic this way.

And while they can reduce costs, remember the CEO of British Airways used to run low cost carrier Vueling, they won’t get their costs down to the levels of Ryanair and easyJet. They need to earn more revenue than those airlines do and offering less legroom than the cheapest discounters won’t get them there.

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. Heathrow is a miserable place to connect period.

    No one should be surprised that BA and other airlines are instituting changes that will leave passengers begging for the rack. The goal of every airline is to give customers as little as possible and charge them as much as possible. Maximizing profit demands it.

  2. I believe BA’s reasoning for this is Brexit. How much of the UK’s Brexit-pain is earnest, and how much of it is self-induced?

  3. The drop down video screens are already gone on their Newer aircraft, no??

    Will the usb sockets not hold a phone or tablet charge ? Surely that covers most scenarios. I honestly think this sounds good to me. Right now there’s nothing

  4. “British Airways cuts have effectively destroyed its brand. What was once viewed as a quality international carrier is largely to be avoided when possible”
    I wholeheartedly agree. The BA First Class experience consists of crowded rucks at the gate, delays, overstuffed bus rides to the ‘plane and other indignities. This is especially true if one has the misfortune to fly BA from LHR T3. The PHX “First Class” (sic) lounge is a joke. And, unless you are on an A380, first class cabins on 777s and 747s have too high a seat density to truly be considered First. Why, I suppose, BA First is known as the World’s best Business Class.
    I just flatly will not fly BA Business class (Club World) internationally. It’s aweful.
    The real shame here is that if you are an AA flyer, as I am, one is forced on BA flights as codeshares if you want to fly at the front of the aircraft.

    AA: CK
    DL: DIA

  5. I spent many years in marketing. There’s no long term success in the “me too” model. BA were once a preferred brand (albeit not for me) that some people would pay more for. Much like the British motor industry, something that was once atop the world has been driven to the brink by poor management, a lack of vision, and a desire to step over pounds to pick up pence.

  6. All true. Though I suspect that is also why, when I can’t find a decent cheap business class or upgrade on any other TATL airline, I can still get BA saver awards or mileage upgrades in business if not first.

  7. @ Mallthus – +1.

    I would go even further, and say it’s (partly) a reflection on the UK itself – what was once an empire really, has become a depressing welfare society, overwhelmed with too much unproductive immigration and political extremism on both ends. Once a hub for Jaguar, now it’s a hub for Jihad.

  8. @Geff – i dont know. Perhaps that’d work too. Laptops are going USB Type C now.. i mean it shuod work too. but god knows. i dont have access to the technical spec. Anyway, shouldnt any laptop in this day of age last for a short haul flight ? We’re in the laptop lasting 10hours…

    I view BA as an alternative to Easyjet. They’re basically identical, save for a leather seat on BA, And i dont really have a problem with that. In both case you graduate your fair options depending on what you need – luggage, seating, etc. IN some cases BA is worse (you cant by fast track security for Heathrow), and you cant buy 1A in economy, but then again easyjet doesn’t fly all my routes.

  9. The only remaining “good” thing about BA is its international configured A321 in business with its staggered 1-2/2-2/2-1 cabin. The single throne seats are better than BA’s F. Otherwise I’d rather fly its WT+ on its widebodies instead of CW. Sad how it — and sister carrier IB — have fallen under this new regime.

  10. The worst trip I’ve had in Europe was with Vueling. Will not fly them again, if Ba’s idea is to move in that direction then what a cluster. Good news for the other European majors and the better budget carriers like Jet2. I would rather BA gave me a reason to want to fly them.

  11. Meh. Won’t change my booking behavior or impression of BA one iota. Still will fly them when I need to.

    And shorthaul (less than 4hrs) seats that don’t recline ARE an improvement; as are USB power ports.

    If your laptop can’t hold a charge for the duration of an intra-Europe flight – buy a new laptop.

  12. It’s a shame that BA is letting Walsh and Cruz drive the brand downward to “compete” with Ryanair and easyJet. BA should make it clear that they are “a cut above” the ULCC riff raff with a superior product. Adverts that target how egregiously cheap the ULCCs are while highlighting your own product, maybe offer free water and a proper cup of tea on every flight, would be a winning strategy. Shame.

  13. I think, I might be wrong, that much of BA’s profits come from their transatlantic routes especially NYC and with the incoming LCLH airlines using new much lighter fuel efficient planes, they will surely eat away at those valuable BA profits so BA are having to make cuts across the rest of the network to stay competitive and profitable. They are nearly the only world airline still flying many 747s which have all recently been refurnished to fly in to 2020’s before their new A350-1000’s arrive in the fleet. You have Norwegian flying out of various UK cities to USA, Primera Air starting from June 2018 from London and a Northern UK city, WOW via Iceland has doubled in size in 12 months and they’re all using small single aisle new A321NEOs or the new Boeing 737 MAXs across the Atlantic. This has to be a contributing factor to the degradation of BA. There’s Level, from BA/IAG as well Joon from AF coming and Lufthansa has Eurowings who will all compete across the Atlantic for LCLH too. It’s definitely going to get very crowded and very messy over the next few years but hopefully good value for all transatlantic travellers!

  14. So although I agree with almost everything you say we still find ourselves using BA as our default international carrier of choice. This is for a few reasons. Primary is the convenience of flying out of San Diego. When we fly out of LAX it means increased time, cost and stress. A second huge reason is the fact that we can use the credit card 2-4-1 Companion Award to fly First Class for a reasonable cost (including fuel charges). British Air also has pretty good Award availability (although it seems a little worse every year). And although we don’t love LHR we do love London, and it’s a convenient stop for most destinations.

  15. In late 2016 I booked my partner via BA web site for a code share operated by Vueling that his co-workers were also booked on for a business trip.

    The first text message received after his flight landed was “NEVER AGAIN!!!”

    As someone who spent a few years working on a long-term consulting assignment for BA more than a decade ago, it’s especially heartbreaking to watch as this once great, or “World’s Favourite” as they crowed, airline is being destroyed to levels even worse than the bad old days pre-Lady Thatcher/Lord King/Sir Colin Marshall, when BA was short for “Bloody Awful”, which for sure very much now applies once again.

    And all in the name of shameless greed and gluttony by today’s version of the Robber Barrons of yore…

    Once the airline is completely destroyed (we’re not quite there yet…) the blood suckers will walk away scott free, while the British taxpayer will probably be called upon to salvage what’s left of the failing airline in the future to rebuild their national airline.

    What a shame.

  16. BA’s in the process of updating their widebody Club World seats. Reverse Herringbone with doors, a la Delta One.

  17. A totally inferior service which I had the stupidity to fork out a lot of money for. First class on their 787-9 provided a service with cabin crew who were less attentive to passengers than Ryanair’s well trained crew ( apologies to Ryanair as I don’t mean to be insulting to you by even comparing you to BA). Also flew their club europe to experience a miserable service. BA is to be perfectly honest the worst airline I have ever used. …and that was in business and first class. I have had a much better service and experience on the bus from Limerick to Dublin for 10 euros

  18. Another way BA has sunk beneath Ryanair is treatment of latecomers – while Ryanair closes check-in 45 minutes ahead, with BA at Heathrow as you go thru security you are AUTOMATICALLY DENIED BOARDING within 35 minutes of scheduled departure, even if you can see the gate and the plane isnt there yet

  19. Coupled with deteriorating service at AA (short-staffed premium check-in counters at PHL, DFW, ExPlat hotline wait times >30 minutes, etc) the rapid BA brand erosion is yet another compelling reason for very frequent fliers to avoid the OneWorld alliance.

  20. I could not agree more.

    Interestingly myself and a colleague are working in Africa for 2 months and using Com Air for many of the 2 – 4 hour domestic & international flights in the region. I think BA could actually learn a great deal from their franchise partner as the service is far superior.

  21. Well, well–Speedbird is apparently sinking to a new low. My last flight to London was VERY uncomfortable and I had the misfortune to sit behind a novice UK family who reclined all seats all the way…even during meal presentation. Cabin crew could not convince the lout to be the least bit courteous…it took all of my reserve not to confront he moron. Moreover they make a big thing about health concerns for DVT…and now they to this? How blood stupid and unabashedly greedy can they be? I’ve not flown BA since, and this latest move cements this. Nice trips while they lasted and you can take your Executive Club and get stuffed., as refused to be stuffed with a “little people seat pitch”!

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