Having previously been of the exact same opinion, my feelings were moderated when I sat down in the T5 lounge lobby (with the “All The Time In The World” Wall Sculpture) waiting for a travelling companion to emerge from the Spa and watched the chancers attempt to gain entry.
Nearly every third person was trying it on, misunderstood their entitlements (eg Gold card holder in Club World trying to get into the Concorde Room) or was simply misdirected.
I agree the tone of the interaction must improve. It is simply not acceptable to handle things as they are often handled.
Some of those on the reception desk (in BA uniforms) are grounded for health or other reasons, and as I think this means they only get their base salary without the additional (modest) flight pay they are used to, I can understand why they can seem frustrated and less customer-focussed than might otherwise be the case.
However, it doesn’t really stack up to be paying people to remain at home, while there is work to be done on the receptions which these employees are perfectly capable of doing. So I also understand why BA makes use of this otherwise wasted pool of resources.
To alleviate this, BA needs to:
1. Post clearer lounge access instructions in the Manage My Booking Page.
2. Post clearer lounge access policies at the base of the escalators to the main T5 lounges, which make it clearer which category of passenger should go to which lounge.
3. Should train its ground staff better on the lounge access policies.
4. Should train its ground staff better on hw to deal with such situations, while maintaining the respect due to ALL categories of paying customers.
5. Should ensure a refresher lounge access policy, possibly in Pam Ann style, is available for reception staff to watch each day, setting out the policy (including its more esoteric complex access policies eg inbound in F/same day connecting on Domestic = Concorde Room access) and suggesting ways to respond firmly, but politely to chancers.
6. Consider hiring a dedicated core of four or five desk operatives, one per lounge, supported with a rotating pool of ground staff, rather than relying on this rotating pool of people.
Respect is a two way thing, and while there should never be any excuse for making a customer feel at all uncomfortable, the amount of insults and aggression I witnessed from passengers directed at Lounge Dragons in that 10 minute period was not inconsiderable; I would imagine it is a very challenging job.
The above suggestions represent a real cost implication (tens of thousands of pounds) , and at present that is probably not a priority. Hopefully, once further reductions to the cost base kick in, and profitability returns, some inroads into these vitally important customer interactions will be made.
There are of course difficulties hiring security cleared staff (less of an issue airside), and I would imagine there are other union restrictions (as I recall BA recently reached a successful settlement with T5 ground staff, but I don’t know much ab out that).
Your post relates specifically to the landside arrivals lounge, where there is even more potential for even the general public to try and gain access.
Many people also forget their boarding pass (easily done as it’s never made clear you need it for access to the Arrivals Lounge) and others believe they can pay for access (not possible).
I have found the (outsourced) shower staff to be the most downtrodden, miserable and dejected individuals with whom I have ever interacted. I again have sympathy for these low wage people, who are doing a pretty tough job (cleaning toilets, and facing tired, possibly tetchy customers). Last December the lady in T3 looked so dejected I was actually quite concerned for her.
I still don’t see why we can’t some bright-eyed bushy tailed actor types on the reception and managing things like spa bookings (though the T5 Airside Shower booking desk is normally, by contrast, very good) who could actually leave them with a positive impression of BA. With online check in, these lounge access situations can often be the only human interactions with proper BA staff (although many believe the security is BA as well, which it is not) prior to boarding and it is vitally important BA gets this right.