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Sun 20 Jun 2010 06:58 AM

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BA summer bookings in the UAE seen down by 50%

Travel agents say industrial action by UK carrier staff having big impact on bookings.

BA summer bookings in the UAE seen down by 50%

Bookings of British Airways scheduled flights from the UAE this summer are down by more than half when compared to earlier this year before the carrier’s cabin crew began industrial action, Arabian Business has learnt.

Adeel Ahmed, supervisor of the outbound department at Belhasa Tourism and Travel in Dubai said when bookings for this summer are compared to those earlier this year before industrial action began “the difference is almost half”.

“We do tell [passengers] about the risk and that the flight might get canceled,” he added, while also highlighting the fact that “the other carriers are getting their share.”

This sentiment was echoed by Sunil De Souza, regional travel manager for the UAE and Oman at Kanoo Travel, the largest travel management company in the Middle East, who observed that the strike disruption “has had an impact on sales,” and Mark Reed, general manager of Arabian Pacific Travel and Tourism LLC who added that BA bookings are down by “at least 50 percent, probably a bit more.”

“We went through a stage of not offering BA as an option because of the threat of strike action,” Reed said and observed that the company has “been selling a lot more Emirates.”

“They have got to build good will again in the market place and I don’t think it did very much for their image,” he added.

However, Paolo De Renzis, area commercial manager for Middle East, told Arabian Business that “excluding the impact of the cabin crew strikes during the fourth quarter, the underlying traffic volume continues to show a modest year-on-year improvement in premium traffic and non-premium traffic levels.”

“As always our customers are the priority and we will do all we can to keep British Airways flying. Our CEO recently committed to flying 100 percent of longhaul flights if there is another strike in the coming months.

“We have a loyal customer base globally who have remained committed to the airline and shown tremendous support in recent months. However, we recognise that we need to regain the faith of customers. [Last week] we launched a Middle East all cabin sale which sees airfares slashed by as much as 50 percent,” he added.

De Renzis was speaking at the announcement last week of the winners of the British Airways Business Opportunity Grants, a AED6.5m ($1.76m) initiative in which 30 UAE companies were awarded ten return business class BA flights.

Unite – BA cabin crew’s union – carried out of a series of strike periods earlier this year as part of its ongoing dispute with BA management.

Earlier this year, BA posted a record full-year loss of £531m ($767.66m). BA said its revenues for the year to the end of March fell eleven percent to £7.9bn ($11.42bn), but forecast that it will break even by 2011.

The industrial action is over proposed changes to pay and working conditions announced by BA management, which has said it needs to shave more than $90m off the airline’s annual expenditure.

The changes demanded by BA include a pay freeze in 2010, reducing the number of cabin crew on long haul flights from fifteen to fourteen and switching around 3,000 staff to part-time work.

Steve Gibson 9 years ago

This makes sense. When you are held to ransom by trolleys dolleys then there is no alternative but to book elsewhere. I hope the BA staff enjoy their perks when BA goes under. The Union is run by Northern England i.e work shy unions.........

alex 9 years ago

I have travelled to London once a month for five years, I used to always fly BA because the flat-beds are so much more comfortable than Emirates and because Virgin not having an overnight flight to London is useless. Since having to change three different flights because of the strikes, I now only travel on Emirates: that's AED18,000 per month (AED220,000 per year) of revenue that BA has lost from me alone. To emphasis BA's problems - if you wanted to book an airmiles flight in business or first you had to book nine months in advance a year ago; I booked one in business on Friday for same day (and there were seats available on virtually every flight for two weeks!) I have 600,000 airmiles with BA and I trying to use them as quickly as possible before it goes bust. BA is going to have to come up with some seriously amazing offers to ever win my business (and that of others) back. Well done hosties!

Paul King 9 years ago

Just like Good v Evil, Freedom v Slavery & Progress v Backsliding, this is a fight between the Producers and the Parasites! BA are producers... they produce a service that millions of loyal customers enjoy year round. But little by little, the parasites have infected the company until it turns in to a full blown virus and turns the company sick! The antidote is to inject the company with lots of fresh producers, hungry to satisfy and eager to kill off the company parasites! It's not easy... the parasites come in "union boss" & "blood sucking lawyer" shapes, but eventually with a sustained producing attitude you can kill off the parasites before they destroy everything in their path.

Matt Blair 9 years ago

I received the BA announcemnet on reduced fares and replied to their email by saying that I would like to book with them but I am just not prepared to take the risk of my business and or holidays being disrupted. I am not surprised to read that bookings are down by 50% --- it will only get worse as their compeditors make similar price reductions and can still garuantee the flight will happen.

Salim ALSuwaidi 9 years ago

Last year, I booked my Holiday to fly to Scotland with BA, i booked for me and my sisters, on our departure day, after boarding the flight; we were kept inside the cabin for more than 3 hours then we were asked to drop off, we were business class passengers, so I asked for alternative flight, they said all heathrow flights with emirates and other BA are full, I told them im going to scotland so there is a flight from dubai to glasgow, they agreed to take me there and meet one of their ground staff, i meet him and he said he can't take me there, I had to book with emirates one way, and he said that my one way ticket will be refunded because of flight cancelation. I came back and till today, I'm asking for my refund, all they say my case is compilicated and refund wont happen. So I'm not expecting to fly them ever again at all. either will start Emirates or Virgin our next flight to the UK, IF I WILL EVER DO

ExpatHog 9 years ago

I have been in Dubai for 6 years , I only used BA once when i mobilised .Since then I have almost exclusively used Emirates.Apart from a blip in 2009 when cabin crew attitude was not great I have never had a need to consider changing and then it would have been to Virgin. BA should look at Emirates and learn how to value customers and gain loyalty .I reckon I have booked over 90 flights back to the UK in the last 6 years all through Emirates .I am a British national and naturally disapointed that I could not support the British flag carrier.However when your travel plans could be disrupted by irrational lunatics in the unions advising their members to strike when they already have the best benefits amongst their peer group and if you are luck enough to to travel you have to suffer the cabin crew who make you feel that they are doing you a favour looking after you you are highly unlikely to use them arent you .Perhaps they need a new flag carrier ?Step forward Sir Richard?

404cameljockey 9 years ago

The UK COMMUNIST Party is heavily represented in the heirarchy of Unite, the trade union behind the attack on BA. Communists are almost wholly devoted to the overthrow of the capitalist system in the UK. Their aims are sometimes even close to anarchy, which would serve the same purpose for them. They keep a very low profile nowadays (since Maggie defeated them so heavily during the strikes of the 1980's) but they have quietly gathered strength during the weak period of Socialist governments we had recently. So, you see, they DON'T CARE if they grind BA into the ground and the company folds. That is in fact their aim, and the rank and file fee-paying union memebrs are too greedy, blind, or plain stupid to understand it.