Well, it happened. The British Airways cabin crews did indeed go on strike and that’s bad for BA, bad for the cabin crews, and most importantly, bad for passengers. The good news, however, is that the communication has been truly excellent throughout the entire process. It’s particularly good when you compare it to Air France and its upcoming possible strike. They’ve really blown it.
Let’s start with BA. There’s no question that the strike sucks. A lot of flights have been canceled, but according to BA, all flights that were planned to operate have operated. The cabin crew’s union, however, says that it’s mass chaos. Who to believe? Probably the airline. For example, Unite says “By 2pm, only one flight to JFK airport had departed – normally there are five.” That’s not true. there are normally five flights per day on Saturday but only 3 are scheduled before 2p. Two of those were canceled so yes, only 1 flight operated, but the last two flights which were scheduled after 2p operated as well. I believe that was the plan.
BA has also done a very good job with its policies here. Anyone who wanted to change or get a refund was welcome to do so without penalty long before they even knew if the strike would actually happen. They have been putting out flight status information 8 full days in advance so you can really know if your flight can be expected to go or not and make alternate plans with plenty of advance notice. We have a Cranky Concierge client flying on the 29th and his flight is going so far. It’s just nice to know that the information is there and they’ve been able to maintain their schedule.
BA CEO Willie Walsh is putting out daily video updates on the strike talking about how things are going (well, in his opinion). The video communication adds a nice touch, I think.
The airline has even gone as far as buying Google keywords. Search for “ba strike” and you’ll see this:
That takes you to a page with BA strike updates. They are also putting updates out via Twitter. It’s been an impressive effort in an awful situation.
Now let’s talk about Air France. It’s just pathetic in comparison. Air France cabin crews have said they’ll strike March 28-31, perfectly timed to overlap with the second half of the BA strike. (French and British cooperating?!? The world is ending.) So how is Air France handling this? They aren’t.
If you go to their website, you won’t even find a mention of the strike, at least not anywhere I’ve found. We have another Cranky Concierge client flying on Air France on May 31, so we decided to look into the possibility of pushing the trip one day to happen after the strike.
First, I tried to tweet Air France to see if they were allowing changes for people traveling during the strike period. I never received a response. So I called Air France a couple days later and they informed me that since they don’t know if the strike will happen, they aren’t allowing any changes. If the strike happens, then you can change. Something tells me that if the strike happens, things will be much worse for passengers on Air France than they have been for BA passengers. Then again, maybe French passengers are used to it since striking is a national tradition.
So, kudos to British Airways for dealing with an awful situation quite well and Air France, boo on you.
“””””Then again, maybe French passengers are used to it since striking is a national tradition.”””””
I was thinking the same thing before I read what you wrote……lol.
BA was smart to make plans ahead of time in case there were strikes including chartering other planes/airlines to fly their passengers. Should be interesting if it really worked for them as it could set a tone for other airline workers who want to strike. They may learn an airline can make successful plans before hand and not cause the mass chaos striking unions hope for.
I’m not surprised you didn’t get a response when you tweeted Air France. There aren’t a lot of carriers that are making good use of social media to connect with their passengers. It’s a shame, but it isn’t shocking when you look at how businesses have been so reactionary to new ways of communicating with their customers.
Thanks for this article, it is good to see BA trying.
Striking is such a touchy subject and can really hurt brand loyalty. It is of utmost importance to make sure that those inconvenienced the most are being communicated and made very aware of the situation. I won’t try to argue the merits of the strike, but I will applaud BA for making an significant effort to reduce the long term losses.
What’s your take on BA’s wet-leases of other aircraft from other airlines to fill in during the strike?
I know we’ve seen wet-leases on other airlines during strikes (and, of course, for other operational issues like aircraft shortages, too), but still.
Seems to me that BA is going to great lengths to serve its customers here, too.
Also ironic that Ryanair is on the charter list and flying into Heathrow, isn’t it?!
I think it’s very smart to go with wet leases to fill the void. It must be hilarious when a passenger starts boarding a Ryanair flight. I like the quote I heard from Ryanair “BA passengers will be surprised when they’re actually on time” or something like that. Great stuff.
I see Open Skies is flying its planes for BA as well. The crews must absolutely hate that.
And TAP Portugal is also taking the “Air France” approach apparently – some comment here
that rather supports your thesis, and more…
Hrm, BA has really outplanned the union here.
So, the question is are CHAOS style strikes legal in the UK? And do you think they work Cranky?
Beats me. Probably not since we don’t see them as often as we do in places like France or Italy. And as for effectiveness, they’re great at pissing off passengers. That’s about it.
Then again, maybe French passengers are used to it since striking is a national tradition.
And such behavior is uncommon in Britain? But then again, let’s consult history…
“The English disease”: the supposed predilection of British workers to opt for strike action. In the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s, strikes were commonly used by workers for dispute resolution (BNET Business dictionary)
The Air France strike was cancelled …
Sorry, where do you see that?
… But it seems that Lufthansa will go on strike starting on April 13
Interesting. My dad’s in the UK now and he’s a die-hard BA loyalist, but this time he flew on a different carrier (probably for the first time in a decade or more) — not because of the strike (I’m not sure he was aware of it) but because he wasn’t able to find a decently priced seat on BA. He bought his ticket not too far out, I wonder whether the looming strike and possibly pre-cancellations was what made BA availability so scarce.
Interesting article. I wonder if BA are actually trying or if it’s just typical marketing spin?
It is trying. Ask the passengers who’ve benefited. A gimmick in this instance would have backfired badly.
I agree with your assessment, and, on balance, it seems BA is winning the battle for “hearts and minds” here in the UK… It is interesting that they are getting riled at the union’s attempts to inflame the media though:
Air France Strike has indeed been cancelled. They didn’t do anything about it because they were confident that they would reach an agreement. When I spoke to the staff 3 days ago they were sure that it would not go ahead. Therefore kudos to both Air France and their union for willing to negotiate. Boo to BA for being a bunch of stubborn idiots. I never thought I would see the French handle a strike so well.
Thanks for the link. I absolutely disagree that Air France handled this better, however. There was no negotiating. Air France simply pushed the proposed cuts down the road. So nothing gets resolved; they’ll just end up facing the same problem later on down the road. BA is trying to get this resolved once and for all.
Maybe they have just delayed the problem and this could prove to be a good or a bad thing. However, now they can capitalise on the disruption caused by BA and increase their revenue over the strike period. I also think that maybe they are waiting to see how things pan out with the BA strike as it will set a precedent no matter which sides wins the dispute. Maybe this will give Air France and their union a bit of perspective when returning to the negotiating table. BA might get things resolved once and for all but at what cost?
It’s pretty late for Air France to be able to capitalize on the disruption. Most people will have made their plans already. BA has put out its strike schedule and they’ve been able to hold to it so far. So I think most of the gains have already been made.
It’s pretty clear that BA is going to win this dispute. If they were going to cave, they would have done so before a strike. I’m sure there’s room to negotiate a little, but the cabin crews need to realize that they aren’t going to get what they want here.
I have to say, I agree with what M O Neal has said.
I am due to be flying Air France on Monday which falls within the proposed strike period. Ever since the rumours of the strike surfaced, I contacted their call centre regularly. I was always told that my flight would defnitely be flying as scheduled and that there was nothing to worry about.
Initially I was skeptical of this response after seeing reports of the strike in the press, however, as it turns out, they were absolutely right.
At the end of the day, the decision to cancel the proposed strikes was a direct result of Air France’s management deciding to postpone the changes to crewing levels. So Air France seemingly knew that the strike was not going ahead, informed their customers of this and did not post any information about it on their website.
In the circumstances, and for the above reasons, I think it is daft to suggest that they have provided a poor level of service to customers – me being one of them!
It’s easy to say that now that the strike has been called off, but they could just have easily have gone forward with the strike and then you would be screaming at the top of your lungs. The call center agents would not have known whether the strike would actually happen or not. If they told you that your flight was definitely going, then that was probably a mistake. They would have no way to know that.
As far as I can tell, Air France didn’t notify anyone about anything. Maybe you were given some information because you kept calling in to the call center, but others wouldn’t have received the same info. And I’m not convinced that the info you were given was entirely correct anyway. (Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.)
Lets see how Lufthansa do :)