What price British Airways’ reputation?

In last Monday’s edition of The Hobson & Holtz Report, Shel and I spent a good 15 minutes in the show discussing the communication and employee relations challenges facing British Airways and Gate Gourmet following last week’s flight cancellations fiasco.

The broader consequences of that fiasco will be pretty far reaching, starting with financial aspects according to the Financial Times:

Corporate travel managers and agents face extra work and expense following the strike that grounded British Airways flights last week. Some UK travel management companies will charge customers for time spent booking travellers on alternative services, finding them hotels or organising refunds for unused tickets. Others will not charge but will seek compensation from BA.

BA have said they will consider financial claims on a case-by-case basis, and I’m sure many people will get refunds or other forms of compensation.

Yet the real cost to BA could be their reputation as travellers’ trust is badly dented by the events of last week, no matter who or what was the cause, as it’s the third year in a row that BA have had serious disruptions to their entire operation because of labour problems. Where dented trust could have the biggest impact, though, will be with business travellers and those corporate travel managers the FT mentions.

While some commentators say that the events of last week won’t have any lasting damage to BA’s reputation, I’d say that view assumes nothing changes either in travellers’ perceptions of service, the organization and structure of BA, or the airline business itself.

I wouldn’t bet at all on nothing changing.

So on my next UK trip, will I fly British Airways? Well, yes, I do intend to – unless I get even a slight inkling of any problems with flights. Then I’ll choose from KLM, BMI or Easyjet, whichever one I perceive as being reliable. If that happens too frequently, that’s when you start thinking about switching your brand loyalty.

4 thoughts on “What price British Airways’ reputation?

  1. To prove your point about trust, I just switched to Emirates from my usual BA for a flight to the Middle East this weekend. I just could not take the risk that I’d be left stranded – either at Heathrow or at the other end.

  2. Niall, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of many others making similar decisions already.
    It’s also interesting seeing some of BA’s customer relationship communication in action. As an Executive Club member, I received an email today with an apology for the problems last week and with a gift – quite a few air miles as a gesture from BA.
    That’s very good indeed, not a bad step in efforts to rebuild those relationships with the traveller group whose demographic profile must indicate they are a key group BA needs to keep sweet.

  3. I’m an exec club member as well, but no email and no gift. They’ve clearly already read your post, and decided I’m not worth keeping sweet.
    No-one in our office has received any free gifts of air miles though, even though they’ve had the email. Smacks of favouritism to me…

  4. Hmm, that’s interesting. I have no idea how BA is working out their approach. Perhaps it’s an Exec Club differentiator of some kind. For instance, as a member in continental Europe, my member benefits are different than those of members in the UK. The club miles structure is different, too.
    Just guessing, though.
    I think it would be terribly un-smart if they were communicating different things to different members without some clarity of why.
    People talk, you know 😉

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