First class (and business) cabin attendants at BA

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  • mwhalberg
    Participant

    Interesting conversation with a purser (new title, I forget what) on BA113 to JFK last week in First class. She has been doing the job for 29 years and most of the time over the last decade in First class but from next month BA will not allow its experienced cabin attendants to work exclusively in First or Business (club class) She said it would be a rotating game that will result in often much less experienced crew in charge of the First class cabin. She had other things to say besides but it was in its way, a friendly caution. (My seat wouldn’t recline and the movie kept quitting and the red wine was fridge chilled. No problem, things happen…). But it seems very odd to me that an airline like BA would seek to impair that kind of high revenue business? Over the last months we have been more or less confined to BA because it was the only one going with more or less regularity and even without covid challenges it struggles against companies that are fully invested in areas they have let slip.

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    cwoodward
    Participant

    There is I believe nothing to fear from this new BA crewing system if well applied and perhaps some service improvement could even result.

    I do not often travel with BA but in my view of my perhaps four first flights over the past several years BA first has slipped quite far down the ‘Top 10’ not helped at all by the decrepit B747 cabins that plied some of the worlds most lucrative routes for far too long.
    The first crew were always very able and chatty but I felt somewhat complacent, rather slow and quick to the defensive if any aspect of the service or food (often rather poor) were even mildly criticised. Perhaps a mild superiority of attitude is what I am endeavouring to describe.

    The better of the Asian Asian airlines have long been considered by many to offer an overall superior product in first although described by some to be less personal than BA experience. Personally I prefer these Asian airlines service approach.
    Cathay Pacific and I believe Singapore airlines have used what sounds like a very similar staffing system to that described above which for many years and has been acclaimed world wide.
    There are only 6 seats 3 across on the Cathay 777 meaning 3 windows to each of four seats and with 2 loos forward.
    As regards staffing; there are on CX always two dedicated senior crew and if full sometimes three or four on very long flights although never all present at one time. The FSM is also normally based at the service area rear of this cabin and is often checking the first cabin and giving a hand from time to time particularly if all classes are full with less junior crew available. The two dedicated crew are augmented as needed (meal times etc) by junior crew from economy. This staffing system works incredibly well and the service is almost always flawless. This approach also offers more junior crew experience of the first class service ethic.
    JAL also seem to adopt a similar first class crewing system but I have never been 100% worked it out.

    With newer aircraft, a fresh staffing approach and hopefully a better quality food offering BA can possibly fast ascend the ‘Top 10’ first class charts.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    Bullfrog
    Participant

    @cwoodward Your points are well noted. The rotation of staff may have merits, but I think the fundamental difference between Asian airlines and BA, is ‘service’. I believe ‘being of service’ is more deeply routed in Asian culture, and therefore rotation is not such an issue on Asian carriers. Having less experienced staff in an already declining First Class, the new BA policy might push the product even more downhill.

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    I think it was agreed a long time ago that BA F, was en par with a decent modern C offering on most other airlines. I guess the main difference in F, is the need for cabin crew to individually set a passengers table for a meal service. So it seems logical to rotate the crew between cabins…

    Agree with cwoodward re CX.. even their C offering, I am made to feel special. On the odd occasion I have flown F on CX, I am made to feel very very special….

    4 users thanked author for this post.

    Cheeryguy
    Participant

    I believe the only change is the way working positions are allocated. On the legacy fleets they were bid for on seniority/length of service. Those with the greatest length of service always got first choice. This allowed the most senior to cherry pick cabins on a route by route basis.
    Now with all fleets combined as one, a new way of allocating positions has been devised. In a nutshell it gives all crew members a crack at being the most senior on a rotating basis. However the premium cabins can only be crewed by those that have received the training; therefore all will have had some experience.
    Length of service does or did not necessarily mean better service was offered or received.

    5 users thanked author for this post.

    esselle
    Participant

    The key to this process of rotation working properly is that the crew have been properly trained to deliver the required service standards in whichever cabin they are allocated to work in.

    This seems to work perfectly well in the F and J cabins of Asian and ME3 carriers, but on two occasions in BA F (and this is going back some while) I have been served by a crew member working their first sector in F, who were happy to tell me they had received zero training in the service standards they were expected to deliver.

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    domduro
    Participant

    This moving about the aircraft is a response to the loss of seniority for worldwide crew in the reshuffle and management not knowing how to address a ‘fairer’ administration between the blending of worldwide and mixed fleet crews who had a different method. (All crews at LHR are now ‘one’ and not the three groups pre-summer 2020.). World wide and mixed fleet crew had different methods of assigning or even requesting positions.
    My oldest friend is at BA so I get the gen from her.
    I am at Etihad, have been here 8 years after 5 years at JAL (first 2 years at Air Canada) JAL has western crew on some flights. At both of those it is an expression of interest to move from Economy to Business to First over a period of time. Training is thorough and cabin crew don’t move around once they’ve selected, trained and moved into that area.
    I would not have anyone with no current and up to date product knowledge anywhere near F or Business on one of our planes.

    7 users thanked author for this post.

    Stormin
    Participant

    I tend to take a slightly more lenient approach than some ….for me its important that all the Flight Attendants are given opportunity to develop in each of the travel classes and based on my experiences (albeit limited), the staff working in First and Business on the Vegas & Barbados routes may not have been perfect but they were trying very hard and definitely didn’t demonstrate that “superior” attitude that some of the more aged crew can sometimes show. So for me I’m not averse to a cross section of crew (but hopefully not complete newbies as their nerves might get the better of them).

    Overall, I find the BA crew to be quite solid but I do agree the Asian carriers take service to another level.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    esselle
    Participant

    I tend to take a slightly more lenient approach than some ….for me its important that all the Flight Attendants are given opportunity to develop in each of the travel classes and based on my experiences (albeit limited), the staff working in First and Business on the Vegas & Barbados routes may not have been perfect but they were trying very hard and definitely didn’t demonstrate that “superior” attitude that some of the more aged crew can sometimes show. So for me I’m not averse to a cross section of crew (but hopefully not complete newbies as their nerves might get the better of them).

    Overall, I find the BA crew to be quite solid but I do agree the Asian carriers take service to another level.

    Stormin

    If you go for tea at the Ritz, or stay in a Four Seasons property, or lunch at Le Gavroche, you would naturally expect the staff to have been trained to do their jobs properly.

    Why would you expect less if flying in a premium cabin?

    12 users thanked author for this post.

    fqtvgla
    Participant

    I think rotating crew has its merits but not if you end up with crew where they are not comfortable working in a premium cabin.


    rferguson
    Participant

    BA has never had First or Business Class ‘dedicated’ crew.

    Historically, all BA cabin crew were able to work in Economy and Club World. If you wanted to work in First you had to put your name on the list and this was a separate course. Just to clarify, there was no application or interview process to work in First. It was rostered to those that wanted to do it on seniority.

    On the longhaul fleet you would typically wait around 5-7 years to be allocated a First Class course. Thus, on the old contract fleet (Worldwide) everyone that had an interest of working in First had been allocated a course and was able to work in that cabin as there was no one with less that around 13 years seniority.

    On the day when you would check in for your flight and attend the pre-flight briefing crew chose which cabin they wanted to work in based on seniority. It was like a role call. From top of list to bottom. Most senior person had first choice, most junior had last choice. This system had it’s pros and cons. The advantage was that you often had senior crew that were GREAT at working in First and loved it and were often working in that cabin so knew the product like the back of their hand. The main disadvantage was that it wasn’t uncommon for senior crew to choose First Class working positions because they wanted to do as little as possible and this obviously impacted on the F customers experience. Hence the huge variation in customer experiences in that cabin. Another disadvantage of this system was as ‘Worldwide Fleet’ was essentially a closed shop for many years, if you were the most junior you were ALWAYS going to be the most junior. There were no ‘new’ crew coming in under you and this often grated on the more junior Worldwide crew members as they were most often constantly left with the most unpopular (usually due to workload) positions. And finally, some crew that were very senior were SO ingrained in their ‘comfort zone’ that if they got called from standby and were left with whatever working position remained they literally had NO clue what they were doing despite doing the job for thirty years. Anyone ever seen ‘Penny’ of Great British Air on Come Fly With Me? If that’s not based on a senior BA crew member I will eat my hat.

    BA did not like the system of seniority for chosing working conditions. When Mixed Fleet started on a clean piece of paper Seniority was not a thing. Crew were allocated positions instead by the CSM. Although this created other issues. Some made claims of favouritism in allocating working positions, others said a briefing was like ‘calling bingo numbers’. But overall a system where crew are rotated around the aircraft (taking into account their experience) is a good thing IMHO. Obviously, where there are three crew working in First Class you don’t want all three of them inexperienced. But to be fair, both my BEST and my WORST First class experiences as a passenger were with Mixed Fleet. The key is to ensure there is a good mix of experience. The benefit of the less experienced crews is they tend to make up for it in hard work, effort and enthusiasm. And stick to what they’ve been taught in the training room. Combine one of these crew with another two experienced crew members is a great combination instead of three that last did their first class training 18 years ago and have ‘tweaked’ the service standards to what makes life easier for them.


    SGJNI1961
    Participant

    Everyone has a “first day” and you have to gain experience by practice so the concept of rotation seems like a good idea, PROVIDED, the appropriate training has been given. I have sometimes found legacy crew rude, lazy and completely uninterested in service, some have been fabulous. Equally, some of the less experienced crew are very willing, if totally incapable: “red or white Champagne” was not uncommon!
    I would always prefer someone to smile and be pleasant even if the odd mistake is made, than be a grumpy sour-puss but lay the table correctly.

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    cwoodward
    Participant

    BA has never had First or Business Class ‘dedicated’ crew.

    Historically, all BA cabin crew were able to work in Economy and Club World. If you wanted to work in First you had to put your name on the list and this was a separate course. Just to clarify, there was no application or interview process to work in First. It was rostered to those that wanted to do it on seniority.

    On the longhaul fleet you would typically wait around 5-7 years to be allocated a First Class course. Thus, on the old contract fleet (Worldwide) everyone that had an interest of working in First had been allocated a course and was able to work in that cabin as there was no one with less that around 13 years seniority.

    On the day when you would check in for your flight and attend the pre-flight briefing crew chose which cabin they wanted to work in based on seniority. It was like a role call. From top of list to bottom. Most senior person had first choice, most junior had last choice. This system had it’s pros and cons. The advantage was that you often had senior crew that were GREAT at working in First and loved it and were often working in that cabin so knew the product like the back of their hand. The main disadvantage was that it wasn’t uncommon for senior crew to choose First Class working positions because they wanted to do as little as possible and this obviously impacted on the F customers experience. Hence the huge variation in customer experiences in that cabin. Another disadvantage of this system was as ‘Worldwide Fleet’ was essentially a closed shop for many years, if you were the most junior you were ALWAYS going to be the most junior. There were no ‘new’ crew coming in under you and this often grated on the more junior Worldwide crew members as they were most often constantly left with the most unpopular (usually due to workload) positions. And finally, some crew that were very senior were SO ingrained in their ‘comfort zone’ that if they got called from standby and were left with whatever working position remained they literally had NO clue what they were doing despite doing the job for thirty years. Anyone ever seen ‘Penny’ of Great British Air on Come Fly With Me? If that’s not based on a senior BA crew member I will eat my hat.

    BA did not like the system of seniority for chosing working conditions. When Mixed Fleet started on a clean piece of paper Seniority was not a thing. Crew were allocated positions instead by the CSM. Although this created other issues. Some made claims of favouritism in allocating working positions, others said a briefing was like ‘calling bingo numbers’. But overall a system where crew are rotated around the aircraft (taking into account their experience) is a good thing IMHO. Obviously, where there are three crew working in First Class you don’t want all three of them inexperienced. But to be fair, both my BEST and my WORST First class experiences as a passenger were with Mixed Fleet. The key is to ensure there is a good mix of experience. The benefit of the less experienced crews is they tend to make up for it in hard work, effort and enthusiasm. And stick to what they’ve been taught in the training room. Combine one of these crew with another two experienced crew members is a great combination instead of three that last did their first class training 18 years ago and have ‘tweaked’ the service standards to what makes life easier for them.

    I was hoping that we would benefit from your always informed words rferguson.

    6 users thanked author for this post.

    lee.leininger
    Participant

    I’m Lee. AA/EXPPro and Swiss (M&M) Hons C.
    QF to visit the parents (in that other life when you could!).
    My beef with BA: I gave up hoping for an all round polished trip years ago.
    It’s BA’s inability to have the right people in the right places that keeps me renewing with AA/LX
    though I include mostly off-topic themes in that that are often more important to my needs.
    BA lacks some kind of solidity that is reliable on the ones I prefer. Plainly after all the news
    throughout the lockdowns and their new systems and upsetting loss of staff it is going to take time
    for them to find a new groove but not on my money.

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    FormerBA
    Participant

    As a leisure traveler in F and J my flights are really important to me in that firstly they re on my own dime and secondly pat of the overall experience of travelling.
    For a long time BA were my carrier of choice as Avios were important. But that ended quite some time ago when their standards slipped and F became no better than a decent J product on other airlines. I was for example coming back from SFO and requested a vodka martini only to find on my return from getting changed for sleep to find a bottle of vodka, a glass of ice and a bottle or vermouth on my table. Pretty desperate stuff in F and I ran into the same crew member 3 months later going to Sydney.

    The carriers who excel in F and J have dedicated well trained crew. I appreciate BA may nver have had dedicated crew but the seniority really did give them an edge once upon a time.

    I was very lucky to fly F in my mid 20’s and much of what I know today about good food and wine, I learned on board BA flights in the 80’s and 90’s. Todays experience is a very fr cry from those glory days.

    8 users thanked author for this post.
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