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Mon 27 Dec 2010 01:16 PM

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Failure of British Airways is snow joke

Holiday chaos has shown yet again why BA can't compete with Gulf carriers, writes Damian Reilly

Failure of British Airways is snow joke
British Airways, Heathrow, snow, ice, severe weather

Any psychologist will tell you that past behaviour is the best signifier of future behaviour. Which is a polite way of saying no one changes. If you were fat and lazy in 2010, you will likely be fat and lazy in 2011. Which brings me neatly to the British aviation industry – BA and Heathrow specifically. As I type, hundreds of people in the GCC are finding that if you want to fly from this region to the UK over Christmas, you would have a better chance of doing so by flapping your arms up and down very hard in the hope of taking off than by buying an enormously expensive flight with Britain’s increasingly shambolic national carrier. BA, once the pride of the skies is now in danger of becoming a joke. Or a punchline, at least. What a terrible year it has had.

It is snowing in Britain, you might have noticed. So British Airways has come to a petrified standstill as officials at Heathrow ask each other searching questions about whose job it was to buy the de-icer back in the autumn. Today (Wednesday, 22nd December), BA has cancelled all three of its flights from Dubai to London, and a further two tomorrow. By contrast, all the Gulf carriers are operating all of their scheduled flights to the British capital. Emirates alone is sending thirteen flights to London. How has it come to this? If there is one thing the British national carrier should be a world beater at it is flying in rubbish weather.

In 2010 we heard endless – largely baseless – bleating from European carriers about how the Gulf airlines had all sorts of unfair competitive advantages over them, and how Europe is still the centre of the world in terms of aviation (despite the fact it now plainly is not). My prediction for the coming year – in keeping with the theme of this week’s issue of the magazine – is that we will continue to hear this sort of griping as the months pass, in fact that it will become increasingly shrill and desperate. But it will be hard to keep a straight face, no? Because who books a flight on BA from the Gulf these days? It is almost always the most expensive option, and you have an evens chance that your flight will never leave because a) the flight attendants and baggage handlers are all playing tiddly-winks on the picket line or b) there is a cloud in the sky. It is a shocking and embarrassing state of affairs.

Until BA sorts its act out, it is not going to stand a chance of competing with the Gulf carriers, bad weather or no.

Last week we printed our annual Rich List. It appears we made some mistakes, which I would like to take this opportunity to rectify. We stated that Bahaa Hariri had a fortune of $2.3bn, but we have since been notified that the correct figure is $3bn. Likewise, a representative from the office of Issam Alzahid, whom we said was worth some $4.3bn, has contacted us to say his wealth actually stands at $10bn. Further, an official from the private office of the Banaja family, whom we said was worth $3.3bn, has asked that we point out this figure is erroneous and that in actual fact the family are not wealthy enough to appear on the list. I am sincerely sorry for the errors, and for the distress they may have caused.

So that is that, 2010 has come and gone. Next year should be a good one, if the general consensus of the industry leaders we have asked to look into their crystal balls on your behalf is correct. Thank you for sticking with us this year. Have a great break – and we’ll see you in 2011, raring to go.

Damian Reilly is the editor of Arabian Business.

jon 9 years ago

Damian - suggest you keep your editing skills to grammar and spelling; your article is total propaganda and could have quite easily have been called "fly ". BA is not without faults - but when you start blaming them for the weather and the inability of an airport operator to keep the airport open, then you are really clutching at straws!

It would be interesting to see how a Gulf carrier would have managed in the same situation if their hub airport was closed for a few days; far worse I would imagine.

Shahdad 9 years ago

Making BA look bad (rightly or wrongly) will not make up for the efficiencies of Emirates and would certainly not win the hearts and minds of the passengers, if that is what you are trying to do sir! Frankly, your tone is so personal that one would suspect if there are any personal issues involved.

Lucy 9 years ago

I think Damian needs a reality check or at least to try and get an understanding of a subject he tries to write about. I believe that British airways did not make it snow. As BA is the largest operator out of heathrow, they are penalised more than other carriers.

Gulf Traveller 9 years ago

If this were published on April 1st, then this could be taken with a grin and ignored. However, in December, the author must be serious! If Gulfian residents were allowed to strike, if Customer Service (the lack of it) had any form of retribution, then one could compare these two region's aviation companies.

How often have we been grounded in the Gulf by "high" winds, etc, etc. No compensation, no re-routing, no.... anything! How often is a flight cancelled or 'delayed' (conveniently until that airline's next flight) with no avenue for complaint, in fact no punitive avenue at all.....

BA and/or BAA are by no means the best in the world, but they operate under constant scrutiny with fiscal penalties for poor service, etc. Do please provide examples of any form of reribution on the Gulfian carriers. Should staff morale, staff pay, European fuel rates, etc be applied to these, I dare say it would be a very different story.

Sky Observer 9 years ago

Whilst I am the first to give Willie Walsh a hard time about the appalling service that BA provide to this part of the world and that they have no answer to the airlines that they compete in the Gulf, I have to say that the situation with BA out of Heathrow is a bit more complex than your journalist suggests.
Whilst EK and EY can call upon their crews who are all billeted in nice villas and flats provided free of charge by their respective company's and are transported to and from their place of embarkation by staff car or crew bus, the crews in the UK have to report for duty on their roster from around the UK or sometimes further afield. Thus with most of the UK snowed in or under ice conditions when roads are impassable or public transport is not running, positioning of crews is critical. Rostering is a nightmare when this occurs as airlines cannot depend on crews reporting with severe conditions. Lets see EK/EY cope with a very severe sandstorm affecting their operations in the UAE

nm 9 years ago

Dear Damian: Very good article and I totally agree with your comments about BA. Good for you to apologize for the mistakes. Wishing you and Arabian Business a Happy New Year.

TelcoGuy 9 years ago

Last time I checked BA was an airline and Heathrow airport was run by BAA, owned by a Spanish firm (Ferrovial).
Different firms, different owners, different tasks...You may or may not like BA for whatever reasons, but blaming them for a decision taken by BAA?
I also suggest that you check what was situation in mainland Europe, Paris and Madrid for example. And what is the situation on the East Coast of the US. Maybe they refused you an upgrade to business?

jane 9 years ago

British Airways with as many faults as it might have, were at the mercy of the weather and the airports authority in coping with it. But this article seems to reflect a negative personal opinion only; so allow me my personal opinion too.
I dislike British Airways in many ways but Emirates, although deserving of its massive achievements is built on pure media hype and this constant public adoration of everything Dubai, yet in reality, the quality of service, including seat pitch is appalling. Still they pull.
To even remotely compare Gulf carriers who don't even stock de-icing material with an airline that was completely snowed and frozen in is ridiculous.
The priority would have been to bring loaded airborne planes down safely rather than slip and slide already empty grounded aircraft.
It was a bit like the driving around here. Me thinks the Gulf carriers pushed their luck quite a bit.

Tom 9 years ago

At least BA will take care of you in such situations, unlike some Gulf carriers, notably Emirates, which will dump you anywhere they can land and leave you to manage on your own. This is exactly what Emirates did when LHR was closed. As for who books BA.....ask the thousands who fly them to and from the Gulf region each day, including in many cases, Arab royalty from various countries.

Gulf Traveller 9 years ago

Well Damian, I think these comments provide a good summary of the 'balance' of your article, or the lack of it. ArabianBusiness.Com is read by many of us as a good source of balanced journalism focused on local issues. Your article has damaged the reputation of this fine online publication, delivering a personal, unfactual, sentimental 'story' - for whatever reason.

I for one would like to see a public retraction of this article - perhaps redressing the balance and removing the doubt behind the 'reason' for the story.