Ann Pettifor

On travel, British Airways and bankers

27 May 2009 Apologies for the long absence. Have travelled to spread the word to – amongst other places – Berlin and Edinburgh. Not that it was enjoyable. Am distinctly uncomfortable about flying these days. Primarily because of climate change, but also because travel can be very unpleasant. Reading of British Airways’ results, reminds me why.

Gradually both plane and train operators expanded their business or first class departments and squeezed their economy passengers. As a result both airline and train travel economy class have become almost unbearable. Thankfully I am short, but how do those taller than 5.3″ survive in those cramped, claustrophobic cabins? The fact is that we, economy class passengers, were treated with contempt by both airline and train operators. More and more space was handed over to a minority –  the rich and privileged.

British Airways is now paying a price for this once profitable policy. As Nils Pratley remarks in the Guardian “BA’s reliance on bankers and financial types crisscrossing the Atlantic has been brutally exposed. The reliance itself is not exactly news, but the scale of it is still being appreciated.  HSBC’s analysts showed that “premium” revenues account for just over half of BA’s total income. In terms of numbers, these passengers amount to only 11% of the total. In terms of customer groups, finance and banking passengers contribute more than 40% of BA’s revenue. When a sizeable slug of these travellers is removed, the effect is dramatic.”

Thus BA’s latest massive £401 million pound loss, reminding us that the impact of the failure of  bankers continues to hurt every corner of the economy. Never mind, BA can now join their economy class passengers. Our backs and knees have been hurting for much longer.


8 thoughts on “On travel, British Airways and bankers”

  1. Well done Ann-I am a QANTAS CAptain have have watched with dismay at the slow decline in real service for economy passengers-the full

    service carriers really want you off with the so called “Low Cost” Carriers-Airlines provide a vital public good-they are not the playthings of the

    Most US carriers lurch from one crisis to another-increasingly there is a strong case for good national carriers to be owned by

    Governments-we had a beauty once called TAA-merged into QANTAS to provide the cash flow to make the float successful-few International Carriers

    make any money.
    Thanks again

  2. As 6’5″ tall, non-banker I can attest to the horrific state of budget airline seating on all airlines. My knees are pressed into the

    seat in front, my feet suspended inches from the ground. When the passenger in front moves I am in agony. If they try to put their seat back, they


    In a recent flight on United Airlines, I asked an attendant if I could move to one of their “premium economy” seat after take-off

    and I was told NO, unless I pay the upgrade. 3/4 of the Premium seats were empty.

    I measure the distance between my seat edge and the back

    of the seat in front: It was the same as the height of a 500ml bottle of Coca Cola.

    It is one reason I liken the modern flying experience to

    being boxed in a veal crate.

    There was a time, less than 10 years ago, when arriving at the airport 3 hours before departure and requesting

    an exit seat would ensure a pleasant trip. I remember being asked if I was medically fit and able to assist in an emergency – my only “payment” for

    the relief of an exit seat.

    Not any more: the only consideration for that seating now is whether I am willing to pay.

    I refuse. Why

    should I have to PAY in order NOT TO risk having a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?

    A recent legal victory in Canada made in illegal for

    carriers to charge double seating for obese passengers.

    I don’t have a choice being tall. It is the way my genes made me.

    If the

    airlines forced disabled, people of colour, or homosexual people to pay more for their seating, there would be an out cry.

    But because I am

    tall, I somehow have a “choice” between relative comfort or a potentially life threatening condition.

    I did not choose to be tall, so why do

    airlines discriminate against me?

  3. Ann, you are so right. Not only is what you said the case, so is the nauseatingly obsequious

    attention you receive if you travel first class or at any rate above tourist. On “British Rail”, not only can you get Earl Grey tea, you can have

    it served with lemon slices in first class. And the seats don’t hurt your back. I remember the days when BA was a decent airline. Now, it can get

    stuffed as far as I am concerned. The sooner they go out of business, the better.


  4. Its the same reluctance to regulate and ‘small government’ mantra that allows this to happen as with the GFC. These companies cant

    make a profit even without a Carbon imposte. A Green New Deal would have to envisage a fast train network for Europe with minimum human

    requirements of space etc. specified. BA’s own free market ethos should allow them to fail and maybe then the money would be available for humane

    sustainable transport options.

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