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British Airways 'turning into Ryanair' as first class passengers are the latest to lose perks

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 20/03/2017 By Hugh Morris
British Airways 'turning into Ryanair' as first class passengers are the latest to lose perks

British Airways has come under fire from both staff and customers as concern grows that cutbacks at the flag carrier are damaging its “elite” brand.

Disgruntled cabin crew have provided a list to management of recent changes they say are diminishing the carrier’s reputation, the Sunday Times reported, including the loss of first-class perks, such as free amuse-bouches with customers’ first drink, no more fresh flowers in the first class toilets, and the downsizing of complimentary washbags.

One cabin crew employee, who has been with the airline for 12 years, told the newspaper staff were “embarrassed by the state of the product. The only thing not being cut is the prices”.

Alan Smith, a BA shareholder and frequent flier, said management was turning the airline “into Ryanair”.

“As a frequent and loyal BA customer, my patience with the ever-growing cost-cutting activities is growing thin,” he said, adding that on recent flights he felt aggrieved having to pay for wine, put up with a faulty entertainment system, fewer menu options and a reduced baggage allowance.

He also described BA’s fleet as “ageing and at times aesthetically ugly”.

BA staff said that shawls, blankets and slippers, once provided to all first class passengers, are now only given out on request, while there is now a reduced choice on the aircraft of magazines and spirits. One flight attendant summed it up as: “No more Drambuie.”

Kelly and Simon Mortimer flew with the airline for the couple’s honeymoon this year. The pair from Cheam, Surrey, paid £5,200 for return business-class flights to the Far East, but were left dissatisfied.

Kelly, 38, a wedding director and pregnant at the time of flying, said the staff were “rude” and the food was “disgusting”.

“This was our honeymoon and the 13-hour return flight was supposed to be a relaxing end to our incredible trip,” she said. “We got off the plane and the only thing we told our friends and family was how horrendous this flight was.” The airline apologised and offered £50 off another booking, but Kelly denounced the offer as “laughable” and said she was not flying BA again.

BA did not answer questions regarding the flowers in the first class toilets but disputed claims its wash bags had been reduced in size. It said that its menu had been reduced but there was a greater emphasis on quality.

“We are proud to fly more than 100,000 customers across the world every day and our colleagues work extremely hard to deliver consistently high standards in the air and on the ground,” the airline said in a statement. “Last month we were named Consumer Superbrand for the fourth consecutive year and we are focused on offering quality, value and choice to all customers in a highly competitive industry.”

It said it offered first class customers “world-class a la carte dining”, while “business class customers receive three course meals designed by top chefs plus snacks from [the] Club World kitchen”. It said it was investing in new aircraft, including the purchase of 12 A380s and 24 Boeing 787s in the last three years.

BA has had a torrid start to 2017, having to defend itself against claims that  its aircraft ran out of toilet roll, causing lengthy delays, and complaints that some of its planes were not sufficiently stocked with its new paid-for M&S food .

The airline is under increasing pressure to cut costs in a bid to be competitive with the likes of easyJet and Ryanair. The axeing of free food on all its short-haul flights was just the latest in a string of measures aimed at reducing its base fare and attracting budget travellers.

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