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Thu 1 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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The region’s agents air their anti-BA niggles

The region’s travel agents are angered by BA cabin crew strikes as well as the airline’s decision to relocate its call centre to India.

The region’s travel agents are angered by BA cabin crew strikes as well as the airline’s decision to relocate its call centre to India.

Some have been fiercely switch-selling London routes to BA’s rivals, while those with BA deals in place are

frustrated they cannot avoid the upheaval caused by industrial action: “I’ve stopped selling BA completely bec-ause I don’t want the hassle of changing or cancelling tickets if strikes take place,” explained Debbie Duncan, general manager at the Dubai branch of luxury concierge service, Quintessentially.

She was speaking as BA crew announced strike dates of January 29, 30 and 31; February 5, 6 and 7; and February 12, 13 and 14.

Although BA had commissioned a mediation service to help resolve the issue, no agreement had been reached with cabin crew at the time of press.

Duncan said 45% of the company’s airline sales were to London and that she was booking Virgin Atlantic, Emirates or Qatar Airways as alternatives to BA.

“Last time BA crews went on strike it was a nightmare to get tickets changed. BA says pop into your travel agent and they will sort it out for you, but they don’t even pay us commission for it,” she added.

Richard Evans, general manager at Dubai-based corporate and leisure agent, Prime Travel, said he would continue to sell BA, whose prices were more competitive now Virgin had entered the Dubai market.

“But BA’s new call centre in India is slowing things up,” he said. “I understand why they did it, to reduce costs, but the customer service has gone out of the window.”

Dubai agents Al-Futtaim Travel and Al Rais Travel said they would book BA if customers requested flights with the airline, but Hosseini Tehrani, general manager at the latter voiced concern at BA’s direct sell tactics.

“Their ads encourage customers to book at ba.com, and not with agents,” he argued.

BA’s area commercial manager, Middle East & Pakistan, Paul Starrs said it was “disappointing” agents were avoiding BA bookings and that he was “sorry” they felt let down by the new call centre.

“Our staff in India have been fully trained. However, as we recruited a number of new staff for the call centre, they will inevitably be less experienced than the staff we had employed in Dubai,” he said.

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