Weekend rave: British Airways

Weekend rave: British Airways

Summary: Colleagues regularly moan about airlines. Here's a good feel post about BA. It's an airline that is looking after me very well. I am pleased to sing its praises.

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TOPICS: After Hours
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Airlines are the bane of mine and other colleagues lives. We constantly chase the best airline service we can find and always at the best possible price. In recent months I have changed my mind about low cost crews like SouthWest, RyanAir, EasyJet and the rest. While low cost might seem the best option, for those of us who rack up many miles, it turns out these are likely the worst option. Enter British Airways.

British Airways is far from cheap, On most routes it is among the more expensive options. Yet I will choose them time and again over lower cost. Why?

Service

Service starts when you arrive at the airport. My experience is that BA is consistent in being polite, courteous and helpful. Got fragile goods to ship (I usually have camera gear) - they come out of the check in podium and steer me to the 'oversize' luggage area. A tad overweight? No repacking. The staff use their best judgment to lessen the load of a few pounds over weight. No ball ache about checking in at the many self service check in machines. Want a better seat? BA will try accommodate you plus they know the flight seat plans so you don't end up in a seat that positions you nearest the rest rooms. If possible. If not then they warn you of the likely issues. 

Flight service

I have travelled economy, premium economy and business class with BA. Regardless of class you get great in seat service.  No hassling you to buckle up, just friendly reminders. Want a conversation with the airline staff? No problem. On a recent trip, one traveller was - shall we say - a little too exuburent. The staff dealt with the person politely but firmly. What could have been a nightmare was defused in a few minutes. 

If you drop off to sleep during food service, they don't hassle you to take dessert. They queitly clear up for you. Got stuff blocking the exit areas? They put them into the luggage bins without disturbing you. 

During the flight they offer a tax free purchasing service the same as every other airline. The difference is they don't make it seem like a supermarket experience. They quietly announce the service over the airplane intercom and then float through the cabin without saying a word. No 'wanna buy stuff?' as the low cost fliers insist. 

Upgrades

As a regular flyer, I get plenty of upgrades and always without asking. That is a tremendous value to me as someone who regularly flies 5K miles each way. The last trip I took, I was upgraded to Business both ways on transatlantic legs. It could be because I tweeted their great service and BA was gaming my pleasure. I don't know. But get this. On my last leg from London to Spain, I was offered a paid for upgrade prior to mobile checkin. I gladly paid. 

Technology use

BA uses the QR code system for boarding passes. That comes free. So far I've had no problem in using the QR coded boarding pass at any European or US security desk except on one occasion when the system could not find me - I'd been upgraded as the service agent explained and likely the mobile service hadn't kept step. Low cost airlines have gotten into the habit of charging customers for similar services, routinely requiring the printing of a paper boarding pass at my cost. How retarded is that?

Business lounges

In my experience, BA has some of the best business lounges on the planet. London Heathrow T5 is sumptuous. A great choice of freshly prepared food, a bar to suit anyone, free wifi plus power points aplenty are enough to satisfy the most fadistious traveller. The only one I know that beats it is Sydney, Australia. I am told Dubai is the mutt's nuts but I have yet to sample that pleasure. US lounges pale by comparison. Low cost airline lounges? Forget it. 

Downsides

Virgin Atlantic's in flight video offering is more up to date but does that really matter when what you really need is sleep on a transatlantic? I'm not so sure.

BA provides an airmile accumulation service called Avios. You can use those miles to book other flights. However, I find it highly restricted, often requiring flight booking months in advance of where I'd like to travel. That doesn't work for me. Avios flight booking needs a serious overhaul. Compare to Virgin Airlines which is far more generous in its flight miles offerings.

When the mobile site fails it doesn't offer immediate help back to a local call center. That needs urgent fixing as users end up in an endles loop. 

Conclusion

If, like me, you travel more than 100K miles a year and mostly transatlantic then choosing the right airline is important. BA planes might often be older than the competition, they are often a tad tatty. But that pales into insignificance when it comes to that most important ingredient of all: service. In recent times BA has bigged up its mantra: 'To Fly, To Serve.' If my experience is anything to go by then it is living up to its name. BA has more than earned my loyalty and I will happily recommend to others - even if there is a premium to pay. Why? The alternatives are not worth thinking about. 

Topic: After Hours

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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2 comments
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  • Service wins the day

    Yes, I absolutely agree. One small thing: mentioning Southwest and Ryanair in the same breath makes me think you haven't flown Southwest much. Yes, it's annoying that they don't have seat assignment, but in everything else, they are remarkably good at delivering what they promise nearly every time. That includes free baggage and exceptions to the staff's friendly, helpful attitude are rare (in contrast with most US airlines on both counts.) They don't play games with trying to squeeze every last dime they can out of you. You don't have constant news articles about stranded passengers, not carrying enough fuel, or other O'Leary specialties.

    For some time now, Southwest is often not the cheapest in a given market. But people are happy to pay because they can be counted on. And since you mention "low cost crew" they are nowhere near the bottom of the pay scale - maybe that's part of why the employees seem happy to be at work. They don't have employees who worked hard for the company for 20 or 30+ years only to have their pension wiped out in bankruptcy court.

    When I choose Southwest, it's for the same reason I am willing to pay a little extra to fly BA, LH, or SAS: I know there is a very good chance I'm going to get what I paid for, including courteous service.
    Abflug
    • ...in fairness

      I've not flown SW many times and yes, they offer reasonable service but I sense they're loosing their way. I do however bow to your experience.
      dahowlett