British Airways cabin crew stuck in aviation’s era of glamour


British Airways’ cabin crew have been slammed for not moving with the times or helping Chief Executive Willie Walsh cutting costs at the beleaguered flag-carrier.

With strike action looming at the recession-hit airline, aviation consultant Jonathan Strickland said: “Cabin crew still think that things have not changed.”

Speaking at World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry, he said the industry “had not been terribly focused on costs before – it was always glamour”.

“It took mavericks like Michael O’Leary [Ryanair Chief Executive] who really started to score after 9/11, because you have to keep an eye on your costs,” Strickland told the WTM Vision Global Economic Forum.

“British Airways is out of kilter with cost levels of competitors, which are delivering quality at lower costs,” he said, citing rivals such as Virgin Atlantic.

Speaking to the WTM Vision – Global Economic Forum in a pre-recorded video, Walsh said: “We need to shrink the business as demand has fallen; we need a balance between demand and supply.”

The penetration by no-frills carriers into the markets of traditional airlines such as BA was highlighted in the WTM forum, which used the low-cost sector as a key indicator of the state of travel and tourism.

Caroline Bremner, head of travel and tourism research at Euromonitor International, said LCCs accounted for 22% of the market in 2008 but that would rise to 25.4% in 2010.

Strickland said in certain European markets the LCC penetration was even higher, reaching 35-40%, although he pointed out that BA was boosting load factors by taking out capacity from its fleet.

“Legacy carriers are seeing a structural shift because of the loss of their most profitable passengers paying premium fares – these have declined about 14-15%,” he said.

“They do not know if those customers will come back so will they have to adapt their model?”

Walsh said: “The turmoil in the financial services had a direct impact on numbers in our premium cabins.”

BA cabin crew are set to vote on Monday (November 16) over strike action in a dispute about pay and conditions.


About World Travel Market
World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend four-day business-to-business exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry.

Almost 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press, embark on ExCeL – London every November to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.

WTM, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2009, is the event where the travel industry conducts and concludes its deals.

WTM is owned by the world’s leading events organiser Reed Exhibitions (RE), which organises a portfolio of other travel industry events including Arabian Travel Market and International Luxury Travel Market.

RE holds more than 500 events in 38 countries throughout Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific covering 47 industry sectors including aerospace & aviation, healthcare, manufacturing and sport & recreation.

In 2008 RE, part of the Reed Elsevier group, brought together more than six million industry professionals from around the world generating billions of dollars in business.