Shorthaul Business in Time of Covid – BA/TK Comparison

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  • FormerBA
    Participant

    I last 15 days my wife and I have taken four sectors in business class, two on British Airways and two on Turkish Airlines. This mini trip report provides a little insight to my experiences of flying short haul business class in a Covid-19 environment.

    Check-in

    T5

    The first flight was a club Europe flight to Glasgow on a Sunday morning at 9:40 from terminal five. Check-in was an absolute zoo and it took more than 75 minutes of queuing in shameful, unhealthy and frankly unsafe conditions to check-in two bags. The agent was very pleasant and appropriate priority baggage tags were applied to both bags.

    shameful-T5-Queues

    Glasgow

    At Glasgow there were three desk available none of which were dedicated to either executive club or club Europe. The process however was very swift and we waited only a few minutes while two or three people in front of us were checked in. The agent was perfunctory, there was no information on the status of the flight given and no priority tags issued

    Gatwick

    Turkish Airlines normally operate from the South terminal at Gatwick however this is closed and so all flights are departing from the north terminal. When we arrived we found 10 desks dedicated to Turkish Airlines three of which were dedicated to business class. There was an extensive queue at economy desks but no queue at all at any of the business class desk and the queue was being managed effectively by Turkish Airlines representatives. Agent was very pleasant and priority bag tags were issued.

    Dalaman

    T1 at Dalaman is closed and all departures are from T2. The flight departs at 11am and the terminal was very quiet. Check is was smooth, priority tags were issued.

    Lounge

    Prior to the flight at London Heathrow we used to the north galleries lounge. There was a small issue of gaining access as the lounge dragons were too busy discussing their shift swaps to notice that I had scanned both boarding passes and got quite school mamish with me.
    Lounge staff who are not BA personnel were excellent, as always, and the food was tasty and well proportioned. It was ordered at the table and delivered promptly

    Glasgow
    The BA Glasgow lounge is currently closed and it would’ve been nice had the check-in staff advised me of this! as well as being in club we are both silver card holders but they didn’t, nor did they make any offer of refreshment elsewhere. So having arrived at the lounge we had to turn back and head towards the upper deck priority pass lounge in the terminal, this too is closed but the Lomond lounge was available for use and is currently not charging a premium to priority pass holders. The staff were pleasant, table service was good and it has a fantastic view of the apron.

    Gatwick

    No lounge provided by TK so used priority pass option. The aspire lounge clearly aspires to be something but an airport lounge it is not.

    Dalaman no lounge provided by TK so used priority pass option which is a comfortable area but the catering and rinks were simply awful. Tiny paperclips of tea and absolutely no free alcohol.

    Boarding
    LHR
    Boarding was strictly by seat row number beginning from the rear of the aircraft and using the automated gates.

    We departed on time

    Glasgow
    Boarding from the rear of the aircraft strictly by seat row number using more traditional method of agent and scanning the boarding pass.

    Flight was over 20 minutes late departing

    Gatwick

    Turkish Airlines took everyone’s temperature using a handheld device prior to going into the boarding gate area. There was no waiting and passengers were told to board onto the aircraft immediately.

    Departed on time

    Dalaman

    Generally smooth but I was selected for additional security screening. The temperature check was again conducted but there was no dedicated boarding for business class.

    On passing the check point it became clear we were being bussed to the aircraft.

    Departed on time.

    Inflight

    From London British Airways provided a sandwich in a brown paper bag along with a chocolate mousse and water. No other drinks were offered by the crew.

    BA-Club-Europe-catering
    Glasgow

    The return flight from Glasgow offered exactly the same sandwich in the same bag but this time the bag was badly crushed as was the sandwich. The brown mousse thing was also in the same bag along with a bottle of water. The only difference was that both tea and coffee were provided along with alcoholic refreshment.

    Gatwick

    Turkish airlines offered a Bento box which was very smart looking. In the box, from Do&Co, the same caterers used by BA, was a limited but tasty selection. There was no alcohol on board the Turkish airlines flight but my wife and I did both get a small bottle of wine, we asked for a second but it was refused on the basis that the was no more left!
    There was no tea or coffee either and this was very disappointing given Turkish airlines reputation for high-quality catering, even on short sectors. The crew were very visible throughout the flight often with cleaning products and keeping areas wipe down.

    TK-Bento-Box-DLM-LGW
    Dalaman

    Same bento box as the outbound and we were offered beer or wine on our return to LGW but again no spirits and no tea/coffee. We were prepared this time and had bought some miniatures in duty free!

    Arrival

    Glasgow
    20 minute wait for baggage priority tags played no useful purpose.

    Heathrow
    We waited on our bags for almost 30 minutes there were no priority tags this time but I saw no bags with them.

    Dalaman
    At Dallaman at 8:30 pm in the evening we waited just over 15 minutes for a bags which were the 3rd and 4th bags onto the the belt.

    Gatwick

    Waited around 5 minutes but again priority tags played no useful purpose.

    Summary

    All four flights were frankly disappointing – service on board is very limited. Catering is frankly poor and standards really do need to start improving as you simply do not find this level of service in hotels or restaurants all of whom seem to be able manage things so much better than airlines. The service style and catering provision is supposed to reassure but I’m not sure it does. Airlines need to remember that I have already decided it relatively safe to fly. The service and catering now just looks cheap and that it is a cost-cutting measure airlines have applied during this period of crisis.

    Who was best?

    On the basis of catering and service style neither airline would win any awards. BA still provide a G&T (occasionally) but TK was very poor particularly in light of their previous very high standards.

    It must be said however that Turkish airlines A321 Neo, which provides a proper business class seat, free Wi-Fi and extensive in-flight entertainment, just leaves BA dead in the water. I would gladly BYO (and did) if it meant I could enjoy the TK cabin on other short sectors.

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    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    So what is it with T5 and their inability to function in line with the required social distancing when the terminal is busy? If T5 had been a social gathering, it would have been closed down.

    At least face coverings can been seen on the people facing the camera.


    SimonS1
    Participant

    So what is it with T5 and their inability to function in line with the required social distancing when the terminal is busy? If T5 had been a social gathering, it would have been closed down.

    At least face coverings can been seen on the people facing the camera.

    It is penny pinching. BA know in advance exactly how many people will be passing through the terminal and at what times, so could not claim this was all a surprise. I suppose though it is financially better to leave staff on furlough and make people queue.

    Glasgow
    20 minute wait for baggage priority tags played no useful purpose.

    Heathrow
    We waited on our bags for almost 30 minutes there were no priority tags this time but I saw no bags with them.

    BA doesn’t do priority baggage. The tags are only there to make people feel good.

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    FormerBA
    Participant

    It’s a very good question and it surprises me that images such as these and tweets from Robert Peston have not been picked up by news broadcasters or print media, including the likes of business traveller.

    The passengers are compliant, they are following the rules laid down by airlines and airport authorities, but they themselves pay scant regard to public health and safety.

    Both BA and Heathrow have benefitted to the tune of many millions of tax payer funding (rightly) but in taking this money they have a responsibility to ensure they take responsibility for keeping those taxpayers safe when the travel.


    FaroFlyer
    Participant

    FormerBA wrote:
    “Both BA and Heathrow have benefitted to the tune of many millions of tax payer funding (rightly) but in taking this money they have a responsibility to ensure they take responsibility for keeping those taxpayers safe when the travel.”

    BA have taken furlough money, but BA has not benefitted, it is BA employees who have benefitted. Without furlough many thousands would have been made redundant, and been on social security benefits, much earlier. The sole reason for furlough is to keep unemployment figures down, and to provide support to employees, and companies, in the hope of a more speedy economic recovery.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    SimonS1
    Participant

    FormerBA wrote:
    “Both BA and Heathrow have benefitted to the tune of many millions of tax payer funding (rightly) but in taking this money they have a responsibility to ensure they take responsibility for keeping those taxpayers safe when the travel.”

    BA have taken furlough money, but BA has not benefitted, it is BA employees who have benefitted. Without furlough many thousands would have been made redundant, and been on social security benefits, much earlier. The sole reason for furlough is to keep unemployment figures down, and to provide support to employees, and companies, in the hope of a more speedy economic recovery.

    For a redundancy programme it would have taken the time to put the package together, plus 45 days for the consultation period with the unions, plus the notice period of between 4 and 12 weeks to staff. So in all probability 3 months start to finish, and longer for the long serving (better paid) staff who the airline wanted to shift.

    Whereas under the furlough model, staff could be moved off the company payroll more or less overnight.

    So it’s ideal if the staff are being paid by the government on furlough as opposed to the company while the consultations and statutory process works its way through.

    Seriously I think it’s a bit naive to think there wasn’t some financial benefit to BA here.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    barnacles
    Participant

    Terrific report, thank you FormerBA. You highlight the innate problems of travelling anywhere by air currently; problems likely to be with us for some time, sadly. I’m interested to know if you noticed any of the ‘basic’ measures (e.g. hand sanitisers, antiseptic wipes on offer) that are supposed to be elemental in keeping us fit and healthy.

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