Reply To: World Airline Awards – Poor BA!

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AnthonyDunn – 19/06/2013 03:17 GMT : You are entitled to your opinion. I’m also entitled to pose the question about what is it that those who favour Asia-Pacific/Gulf carriers like? The issue is clearly partly one of cheaper, pliant and more readily dismissible cabin crew from Asia

Oh good grief…

Cheaper? Maybe. Not always. Even Asian carriers need Europe-based crew – on my last two CX London flights I was served by ethnically Asian but London-based crew. More pliant?? Anyone seeing the amount of industrial action CX has suffered in recent years would know that that comment is utter tosh. And as for being more readily dismissable – where do you get this rubbish from? I am a lawyer working for a multinational, based in Asia, and I can tell you that in a number of countries around Asia it is almost impossible to fire people – we had one instance of a Korean employee who committed gross misconduct – and we were advised that we couldn’t lawfully fire him. Many Asian countries also *require* employers to provide some of the “silly” things you say that European crew expect, suich as pensions, sickness benefits, trade union rights and the right to work beyond age 30.

Having debunked (I hope) some of the ludicrous assertions in your post, let’s get back to your original question (which, I might add, is a sensible one) about why passengers prefer Asia-based carriers (you also mentioned Gulf carriers, but never having flown one I won’t comment). For the leading Asian carriers (there are some awful Asian carriers as well, and everything inbetween), my personal comparison for preferences is based on long-haul experience primarily with CX and BA, all in business or first. I have also sampled the long-haul products on TG and some others, but let’s stick with CX and BA to start with since I haven’t flown long-haul on others for a while. Throughout I have had a preference for CX. Why? A large part of it is hard product. There has been much criticism of CX’s “coffin class” old business seat but personally I found it very comfortable (perhaps being tall enough to see over the partitions made me feel less claustrophobic!) and rather more so than CW. Add direct aisle access and vastly better IFE and CX clearly won out for me. The memsahib had a slight preference for CW, though, partly driven by the fact she was usually flying with children and found it easier to keep an eye on them. However, now that CX have their new seat, both she and I have a very strong preference for CX – the hard product is simply miles ahead of BA. That alone would probably be a clincher for us

Does the soft product also make a difference? Of course. And here I would say it is not so much a case of CX crew being superior (and certainly not because they are pliant, subservient or female) but rather because they are efficient, considerate, polite (not the same as subservient) and – very importantly – very, very consistent. If I fly CX I KNOW, for an absolute certainty, what to expect. I absolutely will not get rudeness, attitude, backchat or anything else remotely unpleasant. If I fly BA, it is unlikely that I will get any of these but it is entirely possible. I have seen staggering rudeness from BA cabin crew, and experienced unbelievable attitude. Let me give you an example – the memsahib was flying first class from BKK to LHR on BA, with our two young children. She boarded with the younger in a buggy and was confronted by a female CC yelling (not saying, yelling) at her that she couldn’t bring it on board and that “YOU WERE TOLD!!” – which wasn’t true. When the CC realised they were in the first cabin she was obviously horrified – not because she had upset a valuable customer but because it meant she would have young children in “her” cabin. The attitude continued throughout the flight. To give one more example – mid-flight, the memsahib had the younger one lying on her tummy because she wouldn’t settle in the bassinet. It was cold, and since my wife couldn’t get up without disturbing the baby, she called for the CC and politely asked her to pass her the blanket. The CC rolled her eyes, audibly clicked her tongue, picked up the blanket – still in its plastic wrapper – and dropped it from a height of a foot onto the sleeping baby before stalking off.

These are extreme examples (although I can give you plenty of others) but they demonstrate the inconsistency of a key element of the soft product on BA. That inconsistency, of course, goes both ways – on many occasions we have had BA CC who were outstanding, and whose warmth, helpfulness and personal approach were truly special (interestingly, mostly from gay male CC). That rarely happens on Asian carriers. But give me a choice between the certainty of a consistent, polite, attentive, efficient crew on the one hand and a lottery which might give me something similar, might on occasion give me something which is 110%, or might give me attitude, backchat and desultory service on the other, and I will go for the former choice 100% of the time.

Finally, of course, there are issues such as the ability to fly from regional airports on Gulf carriers and make one-stop connections to a huge number of destinations without having to start off by making a short hop to an overcrowded hub airport on cramped planes with inadequate seats. There is also a broader range of destinations available from Gulf and Asian carriers for long-haul flights from the UK. These don’t make those carriers “better” per se, but they do affect people’s perceptions of carriers and their preferences

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