It seems that every week British Airways comes up with another change designed to speed it’s descent to the category of budget airlines ! Try as I might not to comment I just cannot help myself.
This week’s little wheeze popped into my in-box just after 8pm on Friday night (like a tired, discredited government slipping out the bad news with the garbage at the end of the week). As a Gold Executive member I was told “Our Seating Policy is changing. Rest assured it won’t effect you”
Alarm bells started to ring as clearly the change may not be impacting me in the short term but come next year if I drop down a tier to Silver the implication seemed to be that I would be getting to experience what this new change would be.
So what is the new policy ? Basically if you are in the lower THREE seating classes (World Traveller, World Traveller Plus and Club) and Silver Status or below you are able to select your own seat anytime between booking and check-in for free HOWEVER if you want to select an exit row you have to pay a premium of 50 GBP / $75. Hence this rather ominous header which Silver Executive holders received.
There was a moment during the early summer when many travel commentators started to pick up (finally !) on the fact, that British Airways – because it was a full service airline – was often the better value for money carrier. I blogged about it at the time.
This started to gain traction and British Airways started to bring that alive with fare comparisons on their own website.
But then the cuts started. Chipping away at a well crafted consumer proposition. Removing points of differentiation. Raise a few pounds here, destroy a few million pounds of brand equity here. Just watch this space I bet you that before the first fresh snow falls in the Alps they announce they are going to start charging for sporting equipment (ie Skis !). Survival is not going to be achieved by joining the competition in a race to the bottom. Once the differentiation disappears the motivation to be loyal disappears with it. Why bother working (and paying !) to achieve Silver when you can simply move to another carrier who will better reward your loyalty ?
It makes you wonder if the decision makers have signed off on these ‘death by a thousand cuts’ in a oner or someone is slipping them in just after lunch for a quick nod through.
I’m flying BA throughout next week and I half expect to hear the following “Be careful when opening the overhead lockers our policies, conditions of service and full experience may have moved in transit.”
I’ve got a suggestion for Mr Walsh, it’s a rather novel one. Full Service Airline. Only one charge. It’s called an Air Fare. Advertise the hell out of that concept and they will come.