Sunday, 30 March 2008

Flying Fiasco

Relative to many other travellers, we were some of the lucky ones yesterday. We arrived in Frankfurt with our undamaged bags only two hours later than scheduled yesterday evening.

As we walked through the baggage hall, relatively unscathed, I was reminded that it is almost twelve years since I came to Germany. On that occasion, my bag was chewed up somewhere in the system but British Airways dealt with the matter promptly and efficiently and, because they were British Airways, I forgave them. I have been forgiving them with increasing frequency over the last twelve years for everything from the tail-plane design fiasco to taking away the Concorde from the roundabout at Heathrow.

I believe that the store of goodwill that I have for British Airways is larger than most. Nearly twenty years ago, BA was the first account I worked on as a new Planner at Saatchi & Saatchi. I associate the brand British Airways with those heady days still: with flying on Concorde back from New York, with fantastic conferences in Ireland and on Jersey, with my Gold Executive card. To me, British Airways is still imbued with that 1980s glamour of endless champagne and stunning TV commercials directed by Hollywood superstars.

But I am in a tiny majority. My son has zero goodwill towards British Airways. He has forgotten that sometime in the past BA gave out comics to children. He only knows that Lufthansa still bother to give kiddies something to pass the time away and BA don't. That Lufthansa at least rustle up a sandwich instead of BA's miniscule bag of guinea pig food. That BA managed to churn up his favourite trolley before his eyes last year and didn't really apologise. Before the opening of Terminal 5 he watched a rather self-congratulatory film of the new Terminal, seemingly populated by some rather creepy Dr Who-style cyber people which gave him bad dreams. After the opening of Terminal 5 there was a man in a purple shirt called something like Willy Wonka making excuses for the chaos. At the check-in yesterday, he implored the British Airways lady "not to lose our bags". He had a good giggle at the article in "Business Life" that we read together in the plane as it was announced in mid-flight that "not all the baggage made it to the plane". In case you're interested, the article starts with the oddly prophetic words "there's something not quite right about Heathrow's new Terminal 5..."

I expect that British Airways will weather the storm and after all, does it really matter what a seven-year-old thinks? But perhaps they should take heed: my goodwill is all wrapped up in British Airways' past whereas his lack of it is their future.

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