British Airways now no better than a short haul LCC

It’s fair to say that British Airways has always been seen as a full service airline, yet that now only applies to its long haul operations. The economy passenger is being squeezed to death on long haul and there’s almost nobody who will tell you that business and first class are as good as they used to be.

You pay for what you get possibly? A same date same route analysis for a premium economy return seat for two people to SFO, showed a £735 ($996 USD) difference between Virgin Atlantic (£3095) and BA, which is enough for most people to decide on BA in this case (£2360 including seat reservation cost on BA, included for free with Virgin).

However…when it comes to European short haul, BA is clearly aiming at being little more than easyJet in blue.

777’s are already getting an extra seat in every row, now A321’s and A320’s join them.

A320 will go from 168 to 180 and A321 from 200 to 218.

The front end of the aircraft will change little with ‘business’ class seats for 12 rows on A320 and 14 on A321, but the rear galley – no longer required because they don’t serve free meals anymore – is being mostly removed and will loose its water supply, along with any rubbish space, which crew will now drag up the cabin, through business class to the front.

The positive – if it matters – and because I charge everything and carry a power pack it never bothers me – USB charger points will be on every seat, with business seats getting standard plug points as well.

The negative – economy across the board, will loose screens in the overheads and crew will now have to go back to manual flight safety instructions. I don’t really think that’s a big issue.

So with the extra thin seats, pay-for food and less leg room (and if it’s anything like Lufthansa that might not matter, the thin seats compensate for the loss of room), BA is offering prices in line with easyJet.

So other than the business cabin what do you get for your money in basic economy?

Nothing really. And that’s the problem. The difference between BA and easyJet, especially in the hyper-competitive London Gatwick market, has vanished. A tiny bit of snobbery maybe? But that’s about all.

In long haul BA is little better – some say worse than Norwegian which is unashamedly low cost (but actually, unless you’re savagely strict with your budget, the differences quickly vanish in price terms).

And this is where BA has chosen to be. It’s trying to have its cake and eat it. At one end of the aircraft you’re personal cabin attendant will fuss over your first class needs, while at the other end, they’ll bung you a £7 sandwich you pay for, standing there holding it back with one hand, the other outstretched waiting for the cash. It’s like they expect you to grab the sandwich and run off without paying, even though you’re in a window seat.

Like it or not BA isn’t ever going back, even Air France and Lufthansa have changed – though both of them so far refuse to drop snacks and drinks on short haul.

The difference is only now in service quality. BA crews are demoralised and don’t have their hearts in the job – and it shows. easyJet on the other hand is often excessively enthusiastic in a Holiday camp sort of way.

However I’d rather have efficiency, a decent seat, a pleasant attitude and a no-nonsense fair structure – no snobbery, and a light snack. And that’s why I’ll always choose Lufthansa over the other two whenever I can when it’s short haul.