BA flights following ash disruptionBack to Forum
Anonymous21 Apr 2010
last night the air space restrictions were lifted for 10pm onwards. there was a BA flight from Vancouver landing at Heathrow about 9.40pm. There were another about 8 BA flights until airport shut-down at 1am the next day.
Why only BA flights?
How did they plan and anticipate airport opening, let alone: they boarded passengers to a destination that was still closed!!
Was anyone on these flights? Was anyone offered an alternative?
Please help – this should not go unnoticed.21 Apr 2010
BA flew 26 planes towards Heathrow and Gatwick, that would have all taken off whilst both airports were closed.
That doesn’t however mean that the planes were at risk. No BA pilot, not matter how much pressure is put on them would take off if they thought it was unsafe. They all have wifes, husbands, partners and children so to suggest that BA was playing with people’s lives would be unfair
Had UK airspace remained closed in the South, all those planes would have diverted to other European airports including Amsterdam, Madrid, Frankfurt etc or even Scottish airports that were open.
BA had to force the issue as the UK regulators continued to ignore the overwhelming evidence presented to the European Transport Ministers on Tuesday that it was safe to fly. This included the airline manufacturers, engine manufacturers and the airlines themselves who had all flown a significant number of test flights from Saturday onwards. This included national carriers, charter companies and low cost carriers
In fact Dutch, German and French airspace had already opened so to continue with the lock down in the south of England was beginning to look even more over cautious.22 Apr 2010
It was Willie Walsh who himself went up in the initial BA “test” 747 out over Shannon and back, and as an experienced pilot himself he knew the risks. This put him in a sound position to argue a successful case to the CAA to re-open the airspace and airports in the UK.
BA is not a monopoly, with competition on most routes it flies from other flag carriers and especially Virgin Atlantic.
Specifically on the Vancouver route BA competes against Air Canada offering direct services and the myriad hub and spoke US based airlines.
BA took a calculated risk sending aircraft out in advance as they might have had to land elsewhere, but that foresight, and the fact that the airline’s CEO could speak from personal experience that the ash cloud was not as serious a threat as first thought, paid off.
BA had most to lose from the closure of UK airspace while European airspace was re-opening and it’s only natural they they should have lobbied hard to get the airspace re-opened as soon as possible.
It’s fair to say BA was probably closer than most other carriers to the UK’s CAA/NATS/Ministry of Transport, but I don’t think that is monopolistic behaviour???
Willie Walsh and his team took a gamble and took some bold personal steps to demonstrate that it was a low risk gamble. That gamble paid off for inbound passengers.22 Apr 2010
Qantas certainly wanted to fly out of Heathrow during that time, however CASA (Australia’s version of CAA) hadnt given approval.
They even got as far as having passengers boarding the plane, but it took a further 11 hours for CASA to give them approval to sign off.
The other issues could probably be purely a numbers game given that BA have the most amount of slots at those airports thus were able to get moving quicker. Where as alot of other airlines planes needed to be re-positioned from other airports in Europe.22 Apr 2010
BA for sure is not a monopoly,
In my opinion has the biggest competitors from every other European Airline, has to compete all the US Airlines plus Virgin to all transatlantic routes,
The two biggest low cost carriers on the EU and domestic routes.
There are also Quantas and Singapore’s A380
and finally has to compete all the major European Airlines. London’s airports are just very popular.
I will agree with VK as i also believe that it was WW decision to bring the planes back and it was his duty to do it when he realized that it was safe to start flighting again.
It is a typical behavior for a leader who knows the right thing, has the guts to take difficult decisions and the courage (or power) to support them.22 Apr 2010
Quite agree VK and Potakas. How many other CEO’s went out on test flights? Probably none, they may not have the experience or have an interest in the hands on approach.
Look at LHR on a normal day and you will see BA planes after BA planes waiting to take off and coming into land. LHR is BA’s home so it makes sense that BA flights will be some of the first.22 Apr 2010
I was a passenger on the BA284 along with my and family. It was clear in San Francisco that we were going to fly to Europe come what may and that the airline and pilot were happy to operate.
Upon reaching the Irish Coast we then circled for 2 hours until airpspace was opened and were told clearly that if it was not, then we would land in SNN. We were just one of 6 BA flights doing the same thing.
Were we used as pawns by BA to pressure the authorities??? I do not know……I do know however that at no time did it ever occurr to me that BA or my flight crew were doing anything that was not safe.
I have nothing but admiration for how BA generally, and the staff in SFO handled this situation and us……we were fed and accommodated throughout………………Could it have been better???? yes of course especially BA.com and the You First team, both of whom were dire. BA.com was hopelessly out of date and carried little in the way of informaion on what the airline was doing. Under the circumstances this was perhaps understandable.
The “You First Team” simply ignored all communications either via phone or email and continued to operate to office hours in both the UK and USA.22 Apr 2010