BA summer bookings in the UAE seen down by 50%

Other carriers reap rewards of passenger fears over cancellations

Earlier this year, BA posted a record full-year loss of ?531m (US $767.66m).
Earlier this year, BA posted a record full-year loss of ?531m (US $767.66m).

Bookings of British Airways scheduled flights from the UAE this summer are down by more than half when compared to earlier this year before the carrier’s cabin crew began industrial action, Arabian Business has learnt.

Adeel Ahmed, supervisor of the outbound department at Belhasa Tourism and Travel in Dubai said when bookings for this summer are compared to those earlier this year before industrial action began “the difference is almost half”.

“We do tell [passengers] about the risk and that the flight might get cancelled,” he added, while also highlighting the fact that “the other carriers are getting their share.”

This sentiment was echoed by Sunil De Souza, regional travel manager for the UAE and Oman at Kanoo Travel, the largest travel management company in the Middle East, who observed that the strike disruption “has had an impact on sales,” and Mark Reed, general manager of Arabian Pacific Travel and Tourism LLC who added that BA bookings are down by “at least 50 percent, probably a bit more.”

“We went through a stage of not offering BA as an option because of the threat of strike action,” Reed said and observed that the company has “been selling a lot more Emirates.”

“They have got to build good will again in the market place and I don’t think it did very much for their image,” he added.

However, Paolo De Renzis, area commercial manager for Middle East, told Arabian Business that “excluding the impact of the cabin crew strikes during the fourth quarter, the underlying traffic volume continues to show a modest year-on-year improvement in premium traffic and non-premium traffic levels.”

“As always our customers are the priority and we will do all we can to keep British Airways flying. Our CEO recently committed to flying 100 percent of longhaul flights if there is another strike in the coming months.

“We have a loyal customer base globally who have remained committed to the airline and shown tremendous support in recent months. However, we recognise that we need to regain the faith of customers. [Last week] we launched a Middle East all cabin sale which sees airfares slashed by as much as 50 percent,” he added.

De Renzis was speaking at the announcement last week of the winners of the British Airways Business Opportunity Grants, a AED6.5m ($1.76m) initiative in which 30 UAE companies were awarded ten return business class BA flights.

Unite – BA cabin crew’s union – carried out of a series of strike periods earlier this year as part of its ongoing dispute with BA management.

Earlier this year, BA posted a record full-year loss of £531m ($767.66m). BA said its revenues for the year to the end of March fell eleven percent to £7.9bn ($11.42bn), but forecast that it will break even by 2011.

The industrial action is over proposed changes to pay and working conditions announced by BA management, which has said it needs to shave more than $90m off the airline’s annual expenditure.

The changes demanded by BA include a pay freeze in 2010, reducing the number of cabin crew on long haul flights from fifteen to fourteen and switching around 3,000 staff to part-time work.

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