BA closes down high street stores

British Airways is to restructure parts of its UK direct sales operations. This will see the closure of its Travel Shops. This is in response to changing customer behaviour and increased sales on its ba.com website.

Travel Shops will close by August, as well as the airline’s Belfast based customer call centre.

The proposed changes will affect around 300 staff who work in the 17 high street travel shops, corporate travel agency Worldlink based at Heathrow and its back office support areas. A further 100 staff currently work in the Belfast call centre.

The airline will consult with its trade unions about the proposed closures.

Martin George, British Airways’ commercial director, said: “It is clear that increasing number of our customers want to book and organise their travel plans with British Airways via the Internet. This is a travel industry wide trend and we have to ensure that our business reflects this.

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“Our UK call centres have seen the number of telephone calls fall by more than 60 per cent since 2001 from 15 million to six million calls today and we have reduced our headcount in this area of the business by similar amounts from 2200 to 800 people. Despite closing our call centres in Glasgow and London in 2004 we still have too much property for the size of our operation.”

“It is with regret that we propose to close Belfast and make more efficient use of our centres in Manchester and Newcastle. This is not about moving telephone calls abroad and customers in the UK will still speak to people based in our remaining UK call centres.”

“Our high street travel shop business is forecast to make ever increasing losses in the years ahead despite continued efforts to reduce costs and improve revenue. We are therefore also proposing to close all 17 shops by the end of August.”

“The announcement today is not an easy one and not one which we have taken lightly. This decision is not a reflection on the professionalism and efforts of our staff in these areas. It is about ensuring that we respond to changes in the marketplace.”

“In the months ahead we will consult fully with the Trade Unions and staff representatives. We will offer all the support we can to affected staff either to find other jobs within British Airways or with other employers.”
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