In a cost-cutting move British Airways' Gatwick division is making changes to its inflight product.
Readers have told Business Traveller that the airline has stopped supplying newspapers to business class passengers flying in Club Europe (BA's short-haul business class brand).
Now one traveller, just back from Bologna, reports that only one round of drinks was served in Club Europe "although if you ask they would serve you more ... and there were no hot towels. There were no headrest covers in economy class (even paper) and gone is the deli box, replaced by a sandwich."
Perhaps more worrying is the fact that BA seems to be cutting the crew to passenger ratio. "From the beginning of this month the flight attendant on my flight volunteered that the number of attendants on B737s from Gatwick is down from four to three. She said it probably wouldn't make a big difference when there were only three or four rows of Club, but on some flights they may have 30 [Club] passengers. How can one crew member [allocated to Club] serve them all ?"
A British Airways spokesperson told businesstraveller.com "...there are basically no changes to our Club Europe product. It is something we absolutely want to protect." Nevertheless the spokesperson did confirm that newspapers are now available only in the lounges. When asked for the reason, it was clear it was a matter of cost.
"Some of our lowest fares [both in business and economy class] are offered out of Gatwick," the spokesperson said. "BA is losing about £13 million a year on its Gatwick operations so we need to improve our revenue and cut costs. Although there are changes to the catering [in both classes] we have conducted research [before inaugurating the changes] so we can deliver service which represents value for money. While we are reducing the number of cabin crew, we now have a policy where we add or subtract staff [for a particular flight] depending on how busy the flight is. However, we do have a certain staff to passenger ratio and we will never go below this."
BA's short-haul Gatwick division serves a variety of domestic and international destinations. Destinations which feature Club Europe include: Amsterdam, Geneva, Mareilles, Nice, Toulouse, Bologna, Pisa, Naples, Barcelona, Madrid and Riga.
For more information go to ba.com
Report by Alex McWhirter