So now, exhausted after getting conferenced out over the last 3 weeks, I am on my way back across the pond. And I find myself once again confronted by the complete lack of thought on the part of my not so favourite airline (British Airways). This posting is a bit of a rant … but it has a point. Designing an effective customer experience needs to be reflected in all your processes not just your marketing collateral.
As a regular traveller across the Atlantic, I normally fly Premium Economy as I can usually work and get things done (and that also has the added advantage of letting me actually have somewhere for my long legs). So over the years, I have risen to the lofty ranks of a Gold Card holder. And the benefits I get for that are … er … well I get to check in at the usually empty First Class line, and sit in their lounge (I don’t usually drink while on travel).
Now on the Washington to London flight, those with access to the lounge were always able to have their dinner before getting on the flight in the hope of getting some sleep on the 6 hour red-eye flight. Well not any more, it now seems that this privilege is reserved for those who have agreed to fork over the $4500 for each way (and that’s booking 3 weeks ahead).
Point being that, despite spending around $30-40K per annum with BA, I am now denied this meagre benefit (instead I have to head outside the lounge and spend $15 on a shitty hamburger).
As a Gold Card member you would think that this would entitle you to the odd upgrade – the reality over the last 18 months – nada. No upgrades unless you know someone on board, or get someone to pull strings for you back at the departing airport, or the once in a blue moon when they are really overbooked in the back of the business units (and nobody else is above you in the pecking order … i.e. has a permanent flag on their record saying they are “suitable for upgrade”).
So you start to ask yourself just what is the benefit of putting all of your business into an arrogant waste of space carrier like BA. Yes they “protect the brand” but that is of little consolation to you the regular traveller. And they piss you off with petty rule changes designed to save a few dollars – but in the process, they loose customers.
Where was the cost benefit analysis … let’s tease it apart. Per passenger that are in that category (i.e. gold card holder in Premium Economy), BA get to save perhaps $5 per person (remember they get to save the meal onboard). Lets say that applies to half of the PE travellers … say 12 people. They don’t get to save any staff costs really (same number of people standing around in the dining area). And with 2 flights per night to LHR, that say $120. Or put it another way, less than $1K per week. But along the way they loose a regular customer … and I am sure I am not the only one.
Time to switch back to United … while the service is not great, there are appreciable benefits associated with them. I am not saying their experience is much better, just that you don’t really expect much (and you dont have to pay a premium for it). BA’s marketing is that there is some real benefit … when the reality is there is virtually none (compared with competitors). Their cost cutting program has perhaps trimmed a few dollars here and there from the fixed budget, but they have also trimmed customers.