British Airways has just succeeded in making flying in its short-haul Business Class even less comfortable and frequent flyers are understandably not very happy.
Short-haul business class on European airlines, including British Airways, has never been a particularly comfortable experience. It is standard for European business class (which BA calls Club Europe) to be standard economy seats in a 3-3 configuration, but the middle seat is blocked off for more space and privacy.
In addition to a blocked middle seat, Club Europe passengers typically receive lounge access, priority boarding, extra baggage allowance and, of course, some form of catering service. and free drinks.
In recent weeks British Airways has sought to massively improve its catering compared to European competitors such as Air France, Lufthansa and KLM but suddenly British Airways has once again lost the advantage.
On Thursday, British Airways began placing short-haul Club Europe passengers in the middle seat. To make matters worse, some passengers didn’t even know this until they got to the plane’s door. Others found out in a categorical email minutes before they were supposed to board.
The email explained that due to the airline’s computer crash the previous day, it would start filling the middle seat in order to squeeze as many passengers onto each flight that had not yet been cancelled.
“British Airways is still suffering from the aftermath of technical issues in the UK and Europe this week which has had a significant impact on our airports, flight schedules and our colleagues,” the email explained.
“As a result, we are in a position where we have unfortunately had to cancel some flights and move people from these services to others or change aircraft types to accommodate as many customers as possible.”
“Due to the impact, we had to make the difficult decision today to temporarily use the middle seats of our Club cabin for Club Europe customers, to help keep as many people away as possible.”
Passengers have not yet been told if they will receive any form of compensation, but they have been promised the other benefits of flying business class, including food and drink – small consolation for many frequent flyers who don’t.
Some passengers expressed sympathy for British Airways and said it was fine to start allocating business class middle seats in rare and isolated circumstances. This is not, however, an isolated incident.
The last time British Airways occupied the middle seat was at Club Europe, it was last month. In this case, it was yet another computer failure.
Last week chief executive Sean Doyle admitted customers were “rightly fed up” with BA’s performance over the past few months. The airline is now proactively reducing its schedule until the end of May in order to build “resilience” in its operation.
Many of the issues have been linked to staff shortages due to BA’s rush to cut staff at the height of the pandemic.
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