My recent review of British Airways Club Suites prompted quite a few comments from BA cabin crew so I thought I’d publish some of the key parts of their insights rather than people having to trawl back through the comments. Obviously, anyone working on the front line at BA at the moment is not having a lot of fun with the lack of staff.
The thing that stands out the most is that the crew working on the aircraft generally have the answers to many of the issues but are rarely listened to by those who can actually do anything about it! Sadly this is a problem in many businesses.
It’s also interesting the comment about hand running the service. I have been saying for a long time that hand running everything is a great idea if you have the staff. Otherwise all it does is take forever and means that staff don’t have time to provide things like top ups. I’m sure there is a compromise to be had with hand running some parts and using a trolley for others to speed it up. Virgin use trolleys and it has never bothered me in the slightest. Yes it blocks the aisle for a few minutes but most people aren’t getting up in the middle of the meal anyway.
One Tray Service
I would agree that the starter/salad is a pathetic offering. It would not be difficult to offer something more substantial and that could offer more to a variety of tastes. However, those who complain about one tray in general either haven’t experienced the full service or have forgotten that the dessert portion even when served separately was always a tiny portion and of no quality difference to the (tiramisu, in the current case) served on the tray.
The main course is exactly the same as it has been since Do&Co took over changing only with menu changes….A more substantial (portion) starter wouldn’t fit on a one tray arrangement. Something the objectors also forget, is that in full service mode, BA CW service takes too long. There is not the quality or substance or frankly the facilities to provide a grand restaurant experience. This is especially true on the A350 which BA has finally agreed was badly designed.
The forward toilet on the A350
The placement of the toilet should have been aft of the galley to make it generally accessible. But that would have come at the cost of a club seat and even looking at the reconfigured B777-200 which has squeezed an extra seat in (49 instead of 48) we can see that revenue trumps all. As it is, it is not possible to have passengers in and out of the galley because of the service arrangements as well as the security arrangements for flight deck access and (pilot) rest facility adding to the mix. It has been suggested that next-to-be-delivered A350s will be differently configured but that doesn’t help the current situation on board.
Where and when we work in First or Club
The current system of alphabetized working positions is stupid. It was invented (and it seems from what social media says, is the say so of the head of cabin safety though why he has that authority over brand and delivery I can not say, but that is typical of BA) It replaced the seniority system of the former legacy crews who merged in with another fleet that did not work on a seniority based system. Whipp (safety manager) published the rotations lists but they do not take into account in any way shape or form, how they affect the personal morale of the crew (many do like it, but they tend to be the ones who never had much choice to begin with) or how the level of service is affected. I know of a few people who have tried to bring this to BA attention but they are deaf to the words.
There is no care or attention whatsoever to who works where in terms of service. As it stands it is more than probable that unpopular working positions such as running the club world galley are fobbed off onto someone at the end of that month’s list who might not have done the job for 6 months or more. But the same could be said of a cabin position in either F or CW.
An online position request system was invented for the A380 (which in normal times has 22 crew) but extending that to all long haul flights seems to be a puzzle too much for cabin crew management. That was a simple request system which the IFM could print before briefing and more or less have that admin done quickly and easily satisfying most if not all of the crew preferences. Again, there is no consideration to having the best people in the best positions. Your article focus is on premium cabins but the best people in the best positions also mean that the person in the middle seat at 55E or somewhere also stands a nice change of having a good experience.
We do try. There will always be someone who lets the side down, but the position system is directly responsible for many of the failings. We are at an extremely low morale level right now and I think rock bottom is still some way down. Mixed flying (long haul and short haul) is not suiting everyone but there are two main obstacles in getting that ratio fixed.
One – the working blocks can be physically exhausting. 8 sectors on our cramped under facilitated A320Neo on days 1-3 before boarding an A350 (with the above noted handicaps) to go to Chicago for instance is too much. Similarly, a 20 sectors 5 bay block with 2 days off and the Las Vegas is also killing.
Two – Management with every excuse in the book continually delay and stall restoring our crew swap facility. It sounds like I show up and give you a bad service to Las Vegas because I would rather have swapped and gone to Maldives. But it is so much more than that. It is automated facility that allows swaps of trips, leave, days off to afford crew a balance between the demands of the job and homelife. Currently, our options and choices are almost zero.
I fully concur with my colleague M. I am part time (75%) and haven’t ever had first choice of working position and when I look at the calendar of alphabet change versus my week off, I probably won’t see first choice. My favourite positions are First or Club World, which I have done on my seniority as I have been there 35 years. BA would argue that it is safety related to keep rotating but I think it is juvenile to believe everything is at risk because someone hasn’t been (number 7, say on a 777) for X amount of time and has “forgotten” where the infant life jackets are. This position system is Wrong For The Customer apart from morale.
There is a workshop being set up for crew to collaborate in Club World changes that are on the horizon but the impression I got when I emailed and asked about joining was that things focus on a new meal order form, because in BA logic, anything that can be written down to “capture customer preferences” is much better than actually changing things at a most basic level to get the whole thing right.
No one is listening at BA. No one.
One Tray service – Despite what anyone says, this is down to staff shortages, nothing else. I can understand why it went that way but in my opinion the full service could be reinstated. It would mean removing a proper full-size starter and putting a main course in its place. Not exactly hard work.
Working Positions – As an Onboard Manager, I have to work the same position every trip and have for years now, however when it comes to my cabin crew, I want my most experienced crew dealing with my customers who are paying a small fortune to fly in our premium cabins. I want to make clear this is not just about knowing how to set up a First Class table or presenting wine in Club World, ( although that’s another story) it’s about how you interact with our Premium customers and the conversations you have with them.
Our previous Seniority based system allowed those very crew members who’d been flying for a long time to utilise their experience in any cabin they chose. Not all crew who’d done 20 or 30 years always worked in First or Club. Some went to work in World Traveller as that was just where they liked to work. This system allowed relatively inexperienced crew to gain confidence in dealing with customers before progressing on to the cabins nearer the front of the aircraft. The decision to get rid of this system, in my opinion, has been commercial suicide.
My heart sinks when I’ve got four or five really eager, experienced crew in the briefing room ready to work in Club or First but because their surname begins with A, B or C, I can’t utilise their experience. It’s a real shame. I used to be as proud as punch working in Club and now it’s a sheer embarrassment.
As mentioned above, no managers in IFCE ( Inflight Customer Experience) seem to be listening. It’s fed back and fed back but nothing gets done. I regularly read Flyertalk to see what our customers are liking and not liking onboard and inexperience in our premium cabins seems to be a recurring theme.
The really sad thing is that some crew that used to be on top form are now getting so dismayed onboard that they are giving up and their performance is now being questioned. So sad.
The head of inflight product …. came from JetAirways via Gulf Air and Etihad product delivery thinks hand running everything on our huge club world cabins is a great way to go. Ask her when last she worked to LAS or DXB and tried to juggle that mess and come out looking like… Etihad.
That brings me back to alphabetized working positions. A few weeks ago a customer asked me (as I passed by from Door 1 back to Door 5 on the 77H) to tell my colleague to stop calling his wife Babes. (Sweet girl, really the kindest intentions but surname letter got her a spot in First Class.)
Reading this makes me glad our next long-haul bus flight is on Air France, nave never tried them before… hope its better than this BA horror show, where for many many years the standards have been slipping!
Explains a lot – My wife and I flew to SIN in First on Tuesday and I should have known what was coming when a young female crew pronounced she ‘had no idea what she was doing’ across the cabin as they were preparing the plane for take off. Menu and IFE choice was totally uninspiring, and seats were battered and worn ( 787-9 ). Overall 2/5 and not a patch on Emirates.
Good luck on Air France.
We flew exactly the same route in First in February and I completely agree. It was an absolute shambles, so much so, that I immediately cancelled another First flight to SIN and rebooked with Qatar.
The crew had no idea what they were doing and were so noisy, I had to ask them to stop banging cart doors and overhead bins whilst I was ‘trying’ to sleep. It was like having the chuckle brothers in the galley. The food was beyond awful. Dry steak and a soggy mushroom on polenta served as a canapé. Disgusting.
Come on BA Management listen to your crew, seniority of service teaches you wisdom, how dare a system allow inexperienced crew serve the passengers that are paying top dollar!
The one tray running is a massive part of the problem with the quality and slow delivery in Club World.
My wife and I are in our early 70s and we have been very fortunate to afford to travel in 1st and Business. We are U.K. based and proud to British.
The acronym associated with BA is apt at this time and we would not choose BA 1st or Club if a viable alternative existed.
We have our favourites; Emirates, Singapore, Thai, Royal Jordanian being some. Virgin Atlantic used to be a favourite but they too have their service lapses all to regularly especially since the Delta tie up.
Personally I am hopeful that IAG (Willie Walsh) will sit on his hands and not re-interfere and that Doyle will find an inner strength to listen to his crew and do as he promised to make us all proud again to fly BA.
Come on Shaun, grasp the Nettle!
Seems like it is all about profit with BA nowadays. Fares for travelling in First and Business class are the same regardless of aircraft age (very old planes with seats in Business broken, no padding, dirty) and if flying from Heathrow or Gatwick. Fares should reflect service and cabin quality/age
Wow, I had always assumed that those working in Club and First had a certain level of experience and had passed some sort of test to establish they were suitable for working with premium customers. I am quite amazed that it is allocated by surnames. I feel for the IFM not being allowed to ‘manage’! This sadly explains a lot.
Interesting to read, thanks Michele.
You have to be working for 6 months before being trained in Club and generally about 2 years before applying to work in First – if you get through the interview then there’s still training. The surnames for positions is to give everyone a chance to work where they like, providing they are qualified in that cabin. Personally I’m club trained so I can choose to work there or in Traveller, but don’t have the option to work in First.
The best and simplest description of Organisational Culture from my MBA Professor was: “The way we do things around here…”It is crystal clear to me that BA have lost the plot and changing the culture will be the most difficult thing to do. “D” sounds fed up which is very sad when he or she clearly has a stack of experience and KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge and experience is the ONE THING that can’t be replicated by competitors throwing money at Cabin Crew. Unlike spending money on hard product as others have done, the one thing you can’t copy are the people. I have flown all the major carriers in premium cabins and I have rarely had a bad experience with BA crew and will defend them. When they are excellent, there has been the right level of professionalism, fun, attentive British service and I’ve been happy with that. On other carriers which we all compliment- QR for their Q seats for example, I’ve always found their service a bit cool and stiff. BA at their best are warm and friendly, just like us Brits I hope. My point is, if you lose the one resource that is unmatchable, knowledgeable (because of the years they have spent “living and working the BA culture”), you are in real trouble. I disagree with you Michele about companies often not listening to their people because “great” companies DO and MUST! The Travel Industry is unattractive from the perspective of return on capital employed, so the businesses that do make it have to be exceptional. I understand why BA wanted a lower cost base but the way they went about it was staggering: they jettisoned the majority of the one resource they had which was inimitable: their HUMAN resource. They did this at a time when they were enjoying excellent profits which makes their actions even more bizarre. I consult now in this wonderful industry and I really cannot feel anything other than deep concern as a shareholder, customer and stakeholder. In 40 years working with and for a short time FOR BA, I have never seen them in such a mess. And I don’t know what the answer is I really don’t. I’m dreading flying with them as I use multiple 241 Amex vouchers- DREADING- that’s a terrible customer reaction to a brand.
It’s a very good point about BA’s cabin crew that has often been echoed here. When on form BA crew are the best. They have that British sense of humour combined with as you say professionalism which can make such a difference to a flight.
Reconcile all of the above with BAs current premium pricing strategy, no, I can’t work it out either..
So much for the recent email from Sean to customers about improving the product, if you don`t listen to your work force who are customer facing and know the client better than most then the company will never improve. A happy work force will always lead to an improved product.
In Tenerife now, travelled out Weds for a quick four nights away. We travelled in Economy out. The service by BA on their Neo was awful. Flight full of groups travelling out presumably for a Stag weekend. To order a cup of tea on the app was a problem as it kept saying try later. After 3 hours into the flight, I put the light on, for the cabin crew to come over, which she did eventually and turned it off without saying a word. I then walked over to the cabin staff. I explained and she hurriedly said, I will be back. 30 mins later no sign, went to toilet and the que was horrendous as it was clogged up by the cabin crew serving drinks. I asked about service and she said sorry darling, it’s been so busy and carried on. Seeing me queue for the toilet and in between serving, she shouted out, what was it you wanted and we are out of most drinks now. Never been shouted out of heads before. In experience and lack of manners springs to mind. Flying in September to Miami first class but wish I wasn’t with BA. Brought it all on themselves and how to get out of this mess, is start listening to your staff and your customers and bring back good service.
I am sorry but the arguments for seniority for selecting working positions don’t add up. The assumption being made is that the more senior crew will choose the premium cabins. That is by no means the case. D contradicts him/her self when saying on one hand that senior crew choosing positions first means that first and club will be taken by them, and then goes on to say that crew don’t always chooses the premium cabins. It seems to me the only way to guarantee a proper spread of experience throughout the aircraft cabins would be if the IFM assigned working positions instead of crew choosing. Obviously this would not be very popular but any system allowing crew to choose will inevitably lead to gaps of experience.
I think there are lots of ways to solve this. Previously it worked well as there were more senior people so it wasn’t an issue. Now I think there are other ways other than seniority. Having a rule that someone needs a certain amount of experience to work in F for example. Previously people worked for a long time before they were invited to train in F. While I see the benefit of having a fully flexible crew at the moment, I think it’s unfair on the passenger and crew to throw them in F when they first start.
had a shocking experience both with ground staff and flight crew on our last business class flight back from south africa – over 7 hours late, last flight from London to Manchester cancelled after a 6 hour wait in London, luckily managed to find our luggage in the mountain of late/delayed/cancelled bags and got the last train home – still waiting on our refund, out of pocket expenses and compensation after 12 weeks – a shambles!
Having just flown to Chicago in Club World – first time since Covid – the comments explain a lot
Boarding was a scrum – no excuse
Fist time I have left a flight hungry – the food was shockingly bad – The “larder” was being used by everyone just to get some crisps etc – ridiculous
The crew seemed to be doing just enough , the uniforms which used to be crisp and professional , now seem to be faded
It was all underwhelming – so disappointing
I flew Business Class from London to LA recently. Oh my. Shocking boarding, it was a scrum, 45 minutes late leaving, sitting on the tarmac waiting for suitcases to be boarded, another 45 minutes at LAX waiting for a parking spot, then after an hour in the security queue, the baggage carousel wasn’t working. I guess you could say not their fault. OK. BUT, the service was not so great on board. As a Coeliac, I have to have gluten free food. I am used to no choices but to be given fish for both meals was a bit much. Also, please, don’t call me ‘darling’!!!! I paid four thousand dollars for you not to do that.
I’m puzzled from the safety management perspective.
Thinking type rated flight crew and the need to be able to immediately touch any nominated control. (Sorry, I haven’t flown a … recently doesn’t work)
When I had an office role, fire safety wardens had an allocated exit.
Does this not, then, apply to cabin crew?
This is what happens when BA sacked all their “expensive” legacy/world wide crew members, which they had been trying to do for years, covid was the perfect timing for them to do it, blaming everything apart from their own greed,
So now, you have “one fleet” as the cabin crew are now called, so you could up with 3 First class cabin crew of whom, none have done more than 6 months in the job, you would normally have more experienced crew in your premium cabins, however, I do know some crew who have done 25yrs plus service and still love working in Economy, so to summarise, the old way worked well, so why change it? Well that’s because BA want to maximise profits by having new crew on terrible wages, poor food offerings but still charge premium prices, listen to your crew members BA head office, otherwise BA could disappear, but is that what IAG are hoping for??
F to Mexico 10 days and back. On neither trip had any of the 2 F few worked there. No idea how to get to the table, make the lights work etc.
I paid my own money. Food was poor, few films. I know many will say change to another airline. Once BA stop rolling my Gold forward I will
I’ve totally given up with BA who are now seem to be a fiasco in every article you read. As with a previous poster, I think most people fly with BA with dread at the moment. We are converting a large build up of avios to Sainsburys to not have to fly BA. Poorer return in one way but at least you know what you are getting in Sainsburys
Getting rid of your best asset, experience, to save money but allowing your name to be ruined by incompetence from top to bottom doesn’t seem to be a long term business plan. It seems to be a way to destroy a once great brand.
Can only feel certain peoples comments are from a very defensive stand point when the try to defend anyone working anywhere. When BA were good, the more experienced senior crew could handle a multi tray meal service and it usually went seamlessly and quite quickly.
It just saddens what BA have become, sadly their problems are far wider than just cabin crew. Everything our flagship currently offers is now creaking at the seams, the check in process, the Baggage crisis, cancelled flights, terrible BA lounges and inconsistent service just to name a few.
For example I took two recent flights, the first was from Dubai. The guy running my aisle on the upper deck was absolutely brilliant, but the other aisle was absolute chaos. In the end he had to go over and steady the sinking ship, thankfully he calmed down some very high rated Club Customers. However it was not the staffs fault, because they were almost being asked to rewire a house without any prior electrical experience. The guy kept apologising profusely, a few passengers were filming, I assume their footage was ignored by BA anyway.
The second flight I took was to Lisbon, just six club passengers onboard. The cabin crew had hardly any spirits onboard, no gin, vodka or brandy, not a good start. Forgot to load was the excuse. It was funny that two Gold Members, sitting opposite me, refused to eat the BA food and asked if they could eat their own sushi meal that they had purchased at Heathrow. The staff agreed and understood that the food standards had significantly dropped. I only had one choice of Shepherds Pie that was stone cold, again the staff were apologetic, but powerless to improve the situation. The starter of half a lettuce leaf with the tiniest tomato in the world is just unacceptable.
How many times do you keep saying poor old BA, before making a decision to go elsewhere?
Thus to me the CEO must resign or grow a pair of b**** to deliver what he promised.
I’ve flown regularly for 30 years mainly with BA and a few other airlines so have a reasonable baseline of what good and bad inflight service looks like.
I agree with most of what’s been said., but what to do?
Well, Management need to listen better and they must manage their customers’ experience better. To do that they need their employees’ experience of their working day to be enjoyable, productive and worthwhile. Right now they are not delivering so can’t expect their staff to play their part.
I know that might mean managers admitting they don’t know everything and asking their teams how to improve, but hey it’s worth trying.
I can honestly say I love the job, but it isn’t always easy for us to impress our customers. We are let down by management who have no idea what makes a premium airline and what doesn’t. BA need to realise it can’t be premium and low cost – it must decide which it is. After 3 days of working short haul on an A320 Neo that feels anything but premium, we are then expected to serve in First Class the next day because of the first letter of our surname. Exhausted and at our wits end dealing with running out of drinks and fighting over handbagge on short haul we are now having to pretend to be premium on long haul. I actually thought my manager was joking when they told me to fold the loo roll into a triangle before boarding as ‘we are a premium airline’ my reply… ‘I thought that finished years ago?’ – and I was 100% being serious.
Crew working in Club or First need to have the desire to work in that cabin if the customers are to have a good experience. This could be achieved by either promoting crew into the Club/First Class role based on merit and interview, and paying them extra for that – like Emirates.
As soon as I have used up my 241’s I’ll be giving BA and AMEX a miss.I can use the avios now on Qatar and ITA has matched my status so looking at other alliances. I really wish a star alliance airline would introduce a 241 companion voucher and they would reap the rewards of BA failure right now.
Good managers show true leadership by admitting when they get things wrong, and listen and act on feedback from their customers and people to enable everything to get back on track.
Poor managers will have spent today trying to identify the individuals who shared their experiences with TLFL – with a view to punitive action? – and considered sending out missives reminding everyone of the consequences of sharing their individual views outside the organisation.
Some people, rightly, blamed Alex Cruz for many of the ills affecting BA during and after his ‘reign’ at BA. But he’s been gone now for a long while. So who is the new ‘Alex Cruz’ at the head of this continuing poor show in this airline? Name them.
Also I’d like to hear if any managers try to identify any of the staff commenting above to give them a hard time. I hope they won’t do that.
BA are clearly not listening to their share holder’s,they fail to listen to the crew, staff, in-fact anyone for that matter. It really is as if they are on a road to destroy The 100+ year old airline. Maybe we all should start again from scratch. I wonder if it could really be any worse than the current offerings.
It’s normal in business that in order to work on the more senior stuff, and in this case I would mean the more expensive cabins, you need to have the experience to go with it. Are you seriously telling me that BA staff are now on a rotation and that any old TDH with no experience is serving the premium cabins? Well no wonder that things are going downhill. TBH I buy a business ticket because of the flat bed + lounge, and therefore everything that this article says, just shows that I don’t need to fly BA anymore. I feel really sad but they have totally f**ked the experience by making all their experience staff redundant over the last few years. What a sh*tshow.
These comments are completely biased from an ex legacy crew perspective. The working positions system works fine, the problem is you often have lazy crew who want to work the easiest position with the least responsibilities. Regardless of “experience” we’ve all been trained by British Airways to work in the cabins we’re serving you in. Since merging I’ve worked with some 30+ year experience crew that don’t even know what door they’re supposed to be sat at for their working position, so it’s not all about your length of service. Us younger crew often get overlooked, or talked down to by colleagues… however some of us will give you just as good if not better service than some of those who can’t wait to pick up their pension and have bitter resentment to the company. Just a thought…
Always good to have different perspectives. Thanks for your comment.
Fair enough – but unfortunately a customer’s experience in 2022 is also including: cancelled / delayed flights / lost & delayed luggage / jetties not being able to access the stand / impossibility of getting through to customer services. It’s getting to the point now that I don’t care who is onboard – I don’t want to get on a BA plane in the first place. If those of us who are silver and above for many years are saying this, then you have real issues.
It’s nice your trying to fight your corner, but the reality I’ve seen on recent long haul and by the almost unanimous articles moaning about standards in premium cabins your view and the facts are very different. I know there will always be a resentment that the legacy crew were on better pay and conditions and that has to be disheartening but you knew the contract you are signing. You then make the decision is it right for you or not. Situation is not helped by a management (that are a bit like the queen and only ever smell roses). Crew know when they are on and treat them differently so they don’t see the sh**show that is a standard service. There needs to be more secret shopper style checks to get a true view of things. They need to see from the perspective of the people paying thousands of pounds for an inferior product. It will be interesting in the long run to see if the cost cutting of experienced crew actually turns out to be effective cost cutting or the death of a premium airline into just another means to an end
Some of this things posted on this thread, both in the article and comments, are so misleading, and some downright incorrect.
I’m ex mixed fleet crew, and I’d say the majority of the time, the new positions system works fine. Guess who causes a lot of fuss? The ex WW crew (who are the only ones quoted in the article…. Not very balanced!). For years they’ve turned up, and done just one position or one cabin. Now they actually have to work hard in other areas of the plane. Outrageous!!
I am shocked on a regular basis how incompetent some of these legacy crew are. I have to explain Docunet to someone on a regular basis. Most of them have no idea how to check what time pick up is, or where to find aircraft diagrams. It’s shocking. And these people are the “experienced” ones, on a far higher salary than me. Just because you’ve been in the same job for decades doesn’t make you better at your job!
It’s not the 90s anymore. You have to know how to use technology. WW main crew seemed to relish the “it’s not my job” attitude to everything that’s not happening right now onboard. They will NOT take the time to learn how to use Docunet, or Google their hotel to find a supermarket etc.
Crew are trained in certain cabins. It is extremely unlikely that someone not trained in First will work there. End of. You’re not going to have 3 newbies running First class!!!
And guess what? Maybe the young girl in First didn’t want to be their either, but all the ex WW crew who picked first realised that economy was empty today, so decided to work down there for an easy day out.
Now, as to management, there’s a lot of people trying to look busy to save their jobs. The 350 is a complete mess, and it was obvious from the get go it would be. There’s no reason we can’t have a choice of starter/dessert on a single tray, except of course the galleys are so tight, as there are so many Club passengers in these giant cabins, that it’s just a logistical nightmare.
I’m sorry, but you’re not going to get a wine top up if you’re sat at the back of the new 773 in club. It’s just not going to happen! That galley is 20 odd rows away.
I regularly feed things back…. Nothing is ever done. And yet there’s always someone in an office ready to update uniform or service standards.
Oh, the uniforms someone mentioned. Basically there’s none available. You can order what you like, but the request will be denied. New starters are only given 3 shirts now… How does that work when doing a 6 day block?!
The airline is chronically short staffed everywhere, a lot of good people left, and sadly a lot of bad ones stayed. It’s a mess, but hopefully it’ll get better.
A few weeks ago, I flew out to Singapore on BA Club and then back from Kuala Lumpur on Qatar, featuring two Q Suite flights.
It was night and day. You couldn’t get a clearer impression of how far BA have fallen behind the competition – the lounges, boarding, seats, amenities kit, entertainment, drinks, food, service, cleanliness, you name it. The BA crew are trying their best but this is an airline whose management have seriously lost their way.
It’s sad to see. Even having a pile of Avios, you don’t need to spend them on BA.
We always fly Club Europe (I know we’re talking Club World here), however I just wanted to echo what a mess they are in on short haul too. Last flight – LHR – TFS 4.5 hours. Great on the way out (although crew were very unhappy, they did provide a nice service). On the way home – goodness me. The flight is return catered. No ice, no lemon, no wine, barely any water. Few cans of diet coke. Really? What on earth is going on? The crew were disorganised (trying to service 48 club passengers doing hand service) it took an hour and a half to get a drink. They were rude, the crew manager especially. He barked at the lady behind me, “I have only got one pair of hands….” when she asked for a drink of water. I mean. Honestly. I had to ask 3 times for a coffee. And what this comes from is inexperience. They were running around like headless chickens. 2 could have done that service easily if they’d just taken trollies out.
I was BA crew (back in the late 90s) and we were so proud. It is just shambolic and such poor value for money.
I honestly hope they can pull this back but a really do think that it has gone far too far,
As you rightly said Michelle, staff working on the front line generally have the answers to many of the issues but are rarely listened to by those who can actually do anything about it! Sadly this is a problem in many businesses.
However, there are some myths that some of my cabin crew colleagues perpetuate because it suits their narrative.
Where and when we work in First or Club – Crew “M” writes that the system of alphabetized working position replaced the seniority system of the former legacy crews who merged in with another fleet that did not work on a seniority based system; invented by Safety Manager Whipp. And how this is affecting the level of service and personal morale of crew (even though many do like it, but they tend to be the ones who never had much choice to begin with).
Crew “L” writes that their favourite positions are First or Club World, which they have done on their seniority as they have been there 35 years. BA would argue that it is safety related to keep rotating but they think it is juvenile to believe everything is at risk because someone hasn’t been for X amount of time on a certain position and has “forgotten” where the infant life jackets are.
Cabin Manager “D” writes that for working positions they want their most experienced crew dealing with customers who are paying a small fortune to fly in our premium cabins. They made clear this was not just about knowing how to set up a table or presentation, but how to interact with Premium customers. Adding that our previous seniority based system allowed those very crew members who’d been flying for a long time to utilise their experience in any cabin they chose. Not all crew who’d done 20 or 30 years always worked in First or Club. Some went to work in World Traveller (economy) as that was just where they liked to work.
Let’s break this down.
The so called former legacy crews are Worldwide (WW, long-haul) and Eurofleet (EF, short-haul); and the other fleet is Mixed Fleet (MF, long & short-haul). MF was created in 2011. That is eleven years ago. How old do you have to be to have a legacy? And how much seniority or experience do you have to have to be able to work in First or Club?
As in any case, there are those who do things with pride and properly; and those who don’t. It doesn’t matter when you joined the company. And that is the main problem with choosing where one works based on seniority. Not to mention the dangers of complacency. Thus Safety Manager Whipp was brought in because complacency was leading to safety issues.
BA has crew who worked for them for a long time, left and now re-joined. Therefore we go back to square one and don’t take into consideration their past experience? Other crew have come from Qantas, Emirates, Monarch, Virgin: does their previous experience not count for anything just because they have not worked for BA? And some crew currently working could have come from other departments within BA, they will have a high seniority but just started flying 5 years ago. And let us not forget ex-BMI crew. Bought by BA in 2012; but could not keep their seniority as any TUPE’d process would because the BA Pilots Union did not want some of their members to lose their seniority to ex-BMI colleagues. Therefore what experience and seniority are we talking about?
Let’s not kid ourselves, while all the criticism and bad decision taken by BA Management is spot on, ex WW/EF crew are very reluctant to changes; and show the same level of arrogance towards the less seniors and outsiders as BA Management has.
Etihad crew, for example, get their working position allocated by a computer system when they report for a flight; based on their skills for that flight. Not seniority. As any crew trained for such cabin should perform their duties with professionalism and knowledge.
Staff shortage is not only to do with the fact that BA downsized during the pandemic. Now it is to do with high levels of sick leave as crew keep getting Covid – however masks are not obligatory when flying all over the world, while we still high levels of infection and death.
Then there is the fact that more senior crew with 50 or 33% contract are failing to show up to be trained on different aircrafts because they do not want the mixed flying of short and long-haul.
Everything adds up when there are already so many problems: pandemic, supply chains, world economy, etc.
And just to correct some comments from your readers, i.e. James, no crew with just more than 6 months are working in First.
However, Keith W, makes the most important point: BA need to realise it can’t be premium and low cost – it must decide which it is.
It seems that following American models, BA does not care if their staff morale is down; if the standards are not consistent; if their IT system is third rate, etc; as long as they are slightly better than the North American and most of the European carriers, and while giving dividends to its shareholders.
By the way, Jeff Earl, Willie Walsh left the IAG group in September 2020.
Mmmm , explains a lot. Just experienced a flight on the “low cost” ( except fares of course ) Gatwick operation. One of the crew in the business cabin seemed totally clueless and had to shown how to do everything from taking food out of the oven to checking the doors. No wonder the manager seemed so fed up that he couldn’t manage any interaction with passengers. We had to wait on the airbridge while the crew went round with a vacuum cleaner as they don’t pay for an aircraft cleaning company. Food was obviously costed down using cheap ingredients – sausage and mash ? a “mushroom risotto” than contained more cauliflower than mushroom !!! Dinner salad on the 4 hour return was 3 small lettuce leaves and a similar number of 1 inch cubes of chicken. A far from premium experience at a vastly inflated price over economy. Only did it to build tier points and would always choose an alternative airline for long haul.
I was mixed fleet too. I like the mix of people now and the diversity and REALLY like that the merge has stemmed in many ways some of our particularly mean and nasty CSMs (now IFMs) from their obsessive micro management activities. Some of them still need taming. BUT mixed fleet had a high number of people who are not really yet what my former carrier (Etihad) would consider ideal candidates to work in business (club world) and first class. Very few people I work with here are interested in wine and food as a topic – not just something you shovel out of an oven and dispense whether it’s on one tray or two. I hardly ever see anyone in premium classes either observing the wine ritual and even more who don’t value experience. New joiners should spend a year or two in WTP/WT getting the hang of things and Club World and First class should come later after application and interview. So it is not precisely seniority and experience in those specific terms that I think should determine where one works but important (I don;t know what the word is, expertise or being really good at the cabin) goes out the window with the current working position system. How many people who like it actually DO the service to the best possible measure? Not many I can vouch.
I will also say though that no matter how hard you try, BA will find a way to let you down and make being good at the job an onbstacle course of failed and broken and missing equipment.
Some really good points Ozzie. I can’t remember the last time I was offered a taste of a wine first. Or told what the mystery wine actually is. I realise they don’t have much time now but it’s just sad when I remember how things were prior to Covid.
To be honest I’m currently in despair at the state of British Airways. Over the last few months my wife and I have flown in First and Club to several destinations, and have just returned from a trip to Australia in First.
We always fly club unless there’s a great price in First. We paid less than £9k for two return tickets to Sydney. Was it worth it? Hmmm maybe. Was it worth the £24k BA are currently asking? Err, no.
Look, everything about British Airways is mediocre. The service, the food, the cleanliness, the attention to detail, the pride, the love in the product…everything.
When you get great food or service etc (and we have on a few lovely occasions) you’re surprised – and that’s just not good enough.
So yes, Sean Doyle is a great guy and a million miles better than the nightmare that was Cruz but…Making BA anything better than mediocre is a Labour of Sisiphus that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
He should should do his family and his mental health a favour and resign – and let BA slowly die.
Hi Michelle, well done on a great piece and great feedback. Are you going to send this thread to Sean Doyle? I really think you should so he continues to hear the strength of feeling out there. I couldn’t see anyone in the replies suggesting that any of the feedback was unbalanced or unfair.
BA PR have read it and I’m meeting with BA this week so I’m sure it will be discussed!
Thanks Michele for doing this. Hopefully we can get our Club and First Service levels back to what they were Pre-Covid and our our leader will realise everything is not as hunky dory onboard as she thinks it is. Thanks again.
What is quite interesting regarding comments on this topic is than no one seems to appreciate the mammoth task Sean Doyle faces, as a direct result of the corporate greed and mismanagement culture put in place by the previous regime led by messers Walsh and Cruz. I remember very shortly after Cruz departed Vueling for BA the BCN operation imploded, with the incoming CEO laying the blame at Cruz’s door.
Cost cutting becomes a cancer within a large corporate such as BA, management unable or unwilling to halt it whilst the parent IAG continually demands more and more lolli to pass to shareholders (£4bn over a 4 year period via dividends and share buybacks).
Doyle would gain more respect by just admitting he’s trying to make the best of a bad job, righting the failings created by the previous regime, who are now long gone enjoying the fruits of their cost cutting culture.
He will certainly need many years and £’s to steer this ship back onto its previous course, let’s hope he will be given it.
Hi Michele. Since you are meeting BA this week, it would be interesting to know whether they see any value in making the new Madrid short haul base permanent or even semi permanent. It doesn’t take anything away from existing crew and must make some economic benefit or BA wouldn’t be doing it even as a stop gap. I think it offers quite a large number of advantages.
Nice one for the article and it getting their attention. Since covid reopening my company no longer books its long haul business or VIP flights with BA. Wonder how many others have done the same.
To all the cabin crew that feel upset about how you are managed, I completely agree with you however please spare a thought for mechanics with many years of service (from 5 – 40 years) who now earn £2000 a year less than mechanics who started recently or will start shortly. The long term serving experienced staff are even expected to train the the new starts. ABSOLUTE DISGRACE. Doyle is a charlatan and a puppet of Willy Walsh. They share the same objective which is to destroy B.A. Why else would a businessman worth £10 million take on a poisoned chalice role such as CEO of B.A. ??? Anyone in their right mind can see that it’s an absolute disaster that has been run into the ground for many years. The glue that held it together was it’s long serving experienced staff. They paid off 12000 of them and cut the terms and conditions and pay of the majority of the remaining staff. Now they’re paying the price. Such a shame that this has been allowed to happen to a flag carrier. Not to worry though, the 2 week trained Spanish agency cabin crew will come to the rescue and further destroy B.A’s reputation.
I disagree strongly about the new Spanish crew. They will bring a cultural balance that various hiring problems not least those caused by Brexit impeding a broad search that BA really needs.
Lufthansa (as a close European example) has managed long haul/short haul flying for decades so it is doable but in the case of British Airways they are socially and culturally still many years away from operating that system seamlessly. I would argue that the fleets should not have been merged until all, without exception, challenges and aspects had been examined at length by qualified and experienced people and ironed out. There is still value in a short haul fleet, if not, then the new Gatwick fleet is a waste of time and money (though BA do that with exceptional diligence) But as Michael points out that many might have missed, the reference to ‘she’ in his statement about management – the head of IFCE. Sean Doyle still hasn’t worked out that his middle level management are largely incapable on most days and utterly under qualified and out of their depths in times of trouble.
There are ways to fit a more substantial starter + dessert on a one tray service – have a look at Iberia (also catered by Do & Co). Let’s not all pretend to ignore the blunt fact that BA is using Covid as an excuse to “mask” cost cutting in the form of smaller portions in J, the missing second meal in WTP replaced with half portioned sandwiches and KitKat (come back to me when you fly 14h to SIN only to be presented a brown paper bag with half a cold stale sandwich after nearly 12 hours in the air with no other meal other than the 1st one…absolutely disgusting). As I said to others many times before BA management is living in their own deluded dream that everything is fine….the only way to wake them up is if we all stop flying BA alltogether. For the time being I shall take my money elsewhere (i.e QR for flights to Asia)
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