14 April 2008

Heathrow T5 debacle is a disgrace but not BA's disgrace

I was pretty hard on British Airways last week, calling them a national disgrace.

I haven't really changed my mind, but it appears that, on the issue of the Terminal 5 launch, I'm in a minority.

A fascinating survey of 1,220 international travellers by TripAdvisor, was published yesterday, revealing that most people think BAA is to blame for the T5 debacle.

Interestingly, while 20% said they are now less likely to use Heathrow or Terminal 5, and 14% said they would still use Heathrow but avoid T5, the majority (52%) said the T5 launch problems would have no influence on whether or not they use the airport or T5.

The press release continues...

Thirty percent of TripAdvisor respondents said that they thought it was teething problems and that the airport would soon be operating normally. Eighteen percent said it was just another Heathrow horror and 15 percent of travellers suggested it was a national disgrace.

Travellers seemed to be split about how Heathrow’s reputation had fared. Fifty-one percent of travellers said that the T5 problems had no impact on their opinion about the airport whilst the rest said that it either confirmed its reputation as one of the worst airports (23 percent) or that their opinion about Heathrow had gotten worse (26 percent).

Meanwhile, it does not seem that BA’s reputation is being hung out to dry in the minds of travellers. Only 13 percent said that they thought BA was to blame for the debacle. Thirty-eight percent blamed British Airport Authority and 19 percent said that T5’s designers were to blame. Fifty-three percent said the issue had not affected their perception of BA and 28 percent said that while perceptions were tarnished they would still fly with the airline.

It certainly appears that there is no terminal damage to British tourism, with an overwhelming 75 percent saying that the T5 problems will have no impact on their thoughts about visiting the UK. Only four percent of respondents thought there was any long lasting damage to the UK’s reputation and 45 percent said “no, it’s only an airport terminal”.

Said TripAdvisor European Communications Manager, Ian Rumgay, “This survey shows that the world’s travellers are a hardy and forgiving lot. This is not the first time that there have been problems with a new airport facility and it’s unlikely to be the last. Whilst those responsible have been pilloried at home, not least for failing to deliver on their promises, there is still a lot of credit in the bank for Britain, BA and even some for Heathrow”.

So, it seems I am wrong.

... and so is Jim McAuslan at the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) who last week said "Our reputation as a country has been harmed no end", and that shareholders and the city need to "wake up to the fact that there is something very wrong right at the heart of this company that is making our once great brand a laughing stock".

... and so are all the other airlines using Heathrow who are baying for BA's blood after BA and BAA suddenly announced on Friday that all the arrangements for BA longhaul flights to switch from T4 to T5...were on hold.

...and so is columnist Tony Parsons who doesn't mince his words about BA, saying they "do not fly the flag. They blow their nose on it."

... and so are the owners of the 28,000 pieces of stockpiled luggage, and tickets for over 700 cancelled flights.






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