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WTM report: BA cabin crew stuck in bygone era

WTM report: BA cabin crew stuck in bygone era

World Travel Market 2009 drew to a close with British Airways’ cabin crew have being slammed for not moving with the times or helping Chief Executive Willie Walsh cuts costs at the beleaguered flag-carrier.

Speaking at the WTM Vision Global Economic Forum on the Day 4, aviation consultant Jonathan Strickland said: “Cabin crew still think that things have not changed.”

With strike action looming at the recession-hit airline, 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, which was voted “World’s Leading Transatlantic Airline” at the World Travel Awards last weekend.


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 next Monday over strike action in a dispute about pay and conditions.