I am writing this from Nashville, Tennessee, where British Airways was supposed to have flown me and a planeload of Boeing 787 customers on a direct service from Heathrow. However, the night before our intended departure I received a terse message from the airline saying that the flight had been cancelled. A later email informed me that I would be flying on their code-share partner American Airlines (AA) to Charlotte, North Carolina. Then after a layover I would eventually be deposited at my destination.
Not surprisingly the American Airlines flight was rammed with passengers, many similarly bumped BA customers. You could tell who was who by the expressions of frustration and anger on their faces. The AA crew told me this had been happening a lot lately and that the previous day there had been three last-minute BA cancellations out of Heathrow, while more were anticipated on the day we were flying. The official line from BA was that the cancellation had been caused by an air traffic control problem brought on by inclement weather. This had the AA staff rolling in the aisles. ‘How come extreme weather only seems to affect BA flights?’ they smirked.
Meanwhile, here in Nashville tourism officials are equally annoyed by the problems that a sub-standard and unreliable BA is causing. I was asked to turn my tape recorder off before they would fully express their despair at what was once a leading force in the world of aviation. Since the inaugural flight in May 2018, BA’s daily direct flights have contributed greatly to this city’s tourism boom, so gratitude is immense – equally, there is mounting frustration at what they say is BA’s ‘unreliability and general low standards’.
Sadly, it is a complaint that follows our national airline across its global network.