February 20, 2017
Jeremy Clark discovers “sorry” seems to be the most popular word onboard British Airways at the moment.
So here we go, after having voiced my opinions on BA’s choice to join the ranks of Ryanair by selling food (“ah yes, but it is M&S food”) I took a flight to experience this new concept for myself.
It seems “sorry” is the new buzz word at BA – here’s how it went: As a Oneworld Emerald member, I get to check in at the always efficient First area in T5. “Only to Amsterdam today,” I said. I was processed quickly and very politely and then asked if I knew that food was now for purchase only in the Economy cabin. “I am aware of that” I said. “Yes, sorry”, she said. “Are you getting complaints?” I asked. “More than you can imagine,” she replied.
I wonder why? We boarded a B767 departing at 06.45 to Amsterdam from Heathrow pushing back on time. A lengthy taxi later and we were airborne. The announcement informed us that the posh nosh in the front was complimentary but that an exciting range of food items from Marks and Spencer was available and we should take a look at the menu in the seat pocket. I searched through the stuff in front of me but there was no menu. The passenger next to me also had no menu but someone across the aisle did have one dog-eared copy which I declined to look at.
I was in row 36 and around 15 minutes into the flight out came the trolleys which spent the entire flight in the aisle totally occupying crew who were unable to carry out any other form of service. “Sorry” they repeated as passengers were unable to get to the loos. After a while it slowly made its way toward me.
Someone wanted a cup of tea a couple of rows ahead but found the credit card to be in the overhead locker. “Sorry, we don’t accept cash.” Passenger felt it was too awkward to reach the wallet – lost sale – disappointed passenger. “Sorry”.
Meanwhile across the plane on the other aisle: “Sorry, the machine is playing up, do you have another card?” Still the machine wasn’t working from that point on. So, more disappointed passengers and no sales. “Sorry”.
Then someone in front of me asked for the bacon roll. “Sorry, we won’t have time for that”. Hmm, we would have had, if you’d handed them out at the start of the flight for free I thought. You’d also have had happy passengers and great feedback.
There was no chance that the trolley would reach me with anything like enough time to buy and consume anything without incurring serious indigestion. So my row and the rows behind me were left unserved. The hapless punters who had purchased stuff in front of me were being hurried to put up tables whilst still working on food. “Sorry but you must raise your table now sir”.
I had a browse through the High Life Shop catalogue. A rather futile experience given there was no possible chance of engaging a crew member to buy anything from it. So why was it there?
The return flight was a similar story although this time on a packed A319 evening flight the folly of the trolley barely made it midway down the plane before it was time to pack up.
The whole experience left me saddened. The crew were valiant, polite, apologetic and yes, embarrassed. A “sorry” tale if ever there was one. To Fly to Serve? No, To Try to Sell.