Dispute settled, but BA faces long-term damage

THE trade has warned British Airways
the fallout from its resolved industrial dispute will have a long-term effect
on business.

The carrier has backtracked on the
introduction of a swipecard system – recording when staff start and finish work
– being linked to the 3% annual pay rise after wildcat strike action cost it up
to £40 million.

Union bosses forced BA to delay the
implementation of the clocking-on system until September and backdate the pay
rise to January.

But BA’s problems look set to
continue with the trade switch-selling amid reports customers are snubbing the airline.

Middlesex-based EST Travel manager
Linda Smith said: “BA has shot itself in the foot. We have been careful not to
book the airline. It is getting its just desserts as it should have thought
long-term and been more friendly to agents.”

Greenock-based Geddes Travelcenter
owner David Geddes said there had been an obvious backlash from consumers since
the wildcat strike action.

“We have had some people saying they
will not fly with BA, including corporate customers. People have lost
confidence in BA. You can’t treat customers like that.”

BA chief executive Rod Eddington
admitted the strike had hit bookings and would reduce revenue, and came as BA
revealed a £45 million pre-tax loss for the first quarter of this year – a
period when air traffic was hit by the war in Iraq and SARS.

The loss compares with a £65 million
profit for the same period last year. Revenues fell by 10.7% in the three
months to £1.8 million, and yields were down by 12.7%.

In another blow, the number of
customer complaints against BA have more than doubled over the past year,
putting it top of the Air Traffic Users’ Council’s complaints table. In the
year ending March 2003, complaints against the airline rose to 257 compared
with 117 for the previous 12 months.

Eddington said recent weeks had been
“the most testing period in aviation history”, with the strikes “terrible for
customers, BA staff and the business”.




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