British Airways to Lose 4 Star Skytrax Rating – Rating it the Same as Ryanair!!!

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Oh British Airways – another week, another week of bad press. This time it was the Daily Mail (I know…) reporting recently that the UK flag carrier is set to lose its current 4 star Skytrax rating, downgrading the airline to 3 stars. That is the the same rating as Ryanair.

I’ve asked the question before as to whether BA is really any better than Ryanair these days, and it seems I’m not the only one raising the point. Skytrax ratings are very far from being perfect, so take the star rating itself with a pinch of salt, but there can’t be much doubt that it feels like BA has gone downhill over the last few years.

I think there are two key elements to this general sense of decline: perception and reality.

Focusing on perception, it’s indisputable that BA gets bad press. Just type ‘British Airways’ into the Google news search on any given day and you’ll see something like the below:

Headline after headline of cuts, downgrades, strikes, failures, delays, cancellations, etc.

Complaining is a bit of a national hobby (for the media at least), and it tends to be the institutions, companies and organisations that we retain (misplaced?) affection for that get the worst treatment. It’s inevitable that all the negative coverage impacts perception over time.

The real question then, is whether the bad press is fair or not. In the case of BA, I think you’d have to agree that some of it is. At the very least, it would be fair to say that a lot of the headlines are self-inflicted and could be avoided.

For example, British Airways organised a big PR event a couple of months ago (which InsideFlyer attended). This was a great idea and airline did a genuinely good job, garnering some positive headlines for a change. Great work… until later the same week, when CEO/Chairman Alex Cruz started speaking (seemingly off the cuff!) to a journalist about cutting complimentary food and drinks on long-haul flights. You could argue that his candour is refreshing I suppose…

My favourite recent British Airways ‘PR triumph’ though was Mr Cruz’s, utterly bewildering, decision to don a high visibility jacket during the IT meltdown a few weeks ago –  from inside the risky confines of what appeared to be a call centre.

I’ve worked with people who proffer advice like that, and unless they happen to be script writers for The Thick of It or W1A, you learn very, very quickly not to listen to them. The only thing someone in Alex Cruz’s position should be doing with people like that is firing them.

(The kicker is that if you google “Alex Cruz high visibility”, the second result is BA’s own Press Centre, offering the image above!).

What do you think – could BA’s PR problems be solved with better advice, or do the real issues run deeper?



  1. james says

    The issues run deep. It is fair that Skyteax ranks them alongside Ryanair now.
    The decline was well into full swing prior to Cruz’s appointment but he’s certainly accelerated it.
    It is an airline Britain could be proud of & was in the past. Now its a national embarrassment

    • Joe Deeney says

      That’s the thing isn’t it – I think the vast majority of Brits actually really want BA to be good, which is why it’s so disappointing when they screw up even though we should be used to it by now!

  2. Adam says

    Agree, BA is part of the UK heritage for aviation, all we are seeing is BA going down and down as the months go on.
    I feel there is more to come and it’s not going to be pretty, BA will become the laughing stock of the industry if this carries on.

  3. Andrew H says

    What worries me is that the BA powers that be are showing no attempt to stop the rot.

    A significant overhaul of First and Business Class to take them above and beyond their competitors would be a great way of improving their image but they don’t seem to care.

    Here’s a thought. Have they been told by the government that they will be forced to – at least in part – pay for the third runway at Heathrow, and are therefore making drastic cuts so that they can afford it? I do remember Willie Walsh saying sometime in the last few years that BA may be asked to foot the bill.

  4. Leo says

    Look we all have negative things to say about BA – but is it really the case that they offer the same or even a similar experience to Ryanair? Not in my book. It’s still apples and oranges – or did I miss Ryanair’s long haul division?

    And Skytrax….how objective is that particular organisation? Still a PR blow though I grant you. When I last checked mind you BA was making a profit.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Sure – but comparing the short-haul Economy products I genuinely can’t see much difference. Except that Ryanair tends to have better prices and are a lot more convenient, unless you live in London. I’ve also never had a cancellation or significant delay with Ryanair and certainly can’t say the same thing for BA, despite flying Ryanair more frequently.BA are switching to seats with less legroom than Ryanair, etc. The cabin decor is nicer on BA I suppose. 🙂

      Completely agree on Skytrax actually – the point isn’t really whether Skytrax is to be trusted generally though, but whether its view is justified this time.

      Re profit, absolutely – but so is pretty much everyone else at the moment. BA has very significant structural advantages, so it’s certainly possible that what they are doing makes sense even from a longer term business pov. Doesn’t mean passengers have to like it though, even if they still opt for BA in the end. I don’t think there can be any question that BA’s PR is a mess.

  5. Tom says

    Ba made obvious cutbacks in business and first class too, no choice of meal if you’re the last bunch to be served as they will load half and half of each option. Ba first class service and dining compares to lufthansa, air france, swiss business class. On long haul economy if you’re thirsty or would like a glass of wine in between drinks run you will not get it and have to pay or wait and hope they will do trolley run, etc. You get the point. BA is rapidly declining and doesn’t even deserves 3*. If cruz will not be fired ba will become people freighter by end of this year. Plus take side things into consideration as it was pointed out by maintainance people even in media, baggage loaders are pissing in baggage and cargo hold which is rotting and corrosive to the fuselage. BA didn’t admit it and played dumb as always. So no thanks BA.

  6. Dr Redeye says

    As previously mentioned, BA has been declining for as long as I can remember, well before Cruz. He gets most of the blame, but I can’t help feel that the strategy of austerity is coming from above.

    I’m probably different to most people here though in that even as a child I never rated BA. In fact i flew them this year for the first time in maybe 12 years. An acceptable and bland experience and nothing more.

    BA’s strategy is emboldened by the fact that no matter what they do, people still keep flying with them. Surely it is down to convenience (for Londoners) or pure jingoism. So if the figures work, why should they stop?

  7. Richard M says

    No question on short-haul very little difference from Ryanair or EasyJet now, just a free bag and it’s from Heathrow, which is not convenient for most people living outside central London.

  8. Johannes Bols says

    Skytrax is PAID. They don’t get out of bed to do anything for you unless you kiss their @r$e. They emasculate reviews to suit their purpose. I’m sure BA’s in dire ones. But to have Skytrax announce it is a bit like Keith Richards being the anti-getting wasted poster boy.

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