Watching the state of British Airways lounges has been like watching an EKG machine lately. They’d flatlined for a while before covid-19, fully went under for a bit, and then a new team came and made them better than ever before. For the first time in a long time, people were really happy with the state of British Airways pre-flight offerings, which included ordering food and drinks from your phone.
But then the UK Government announced the remix, with Lockdown 2.0, featuring new guest stars, and with no warning for the travel industry. Interpretations to the new rule book require expert legal opinion just to discern whether a lounge can, or cannot serve food.
Of course, British Airways has access to these opinions, and could’ve kept lounges open, but they didn’t They announced that all lounges would shut, despite others at Heathrow remaining open, including bitter European rival Lufthansa. GSTP was among the very first to break the sad news.
I say this, because in the coverage of the closure, I remarked that I thought it was a mistake to fully close only because a happy medium could be reached. My exact words were
“UK Government restrictions could technically shut down the ability to serve some food or drinks inside, but the private spaces still provide a welcome bit of tranquility, with power ports, private restrooms and access to reliable wifi. Surely sealed, to go bags and some canned beers could also feature?”
With the outbound travel restrictions in place until the 2nd of December, anyone traveling until then really is moving out of necessity, rather than leisure. Though many costs to run a lounge are sunk, or fixed costs, reductions are of course necessary, but why not make the most with what you got?
A lounge is a “first world problem” in these times, but much like the financial crisis of 2008, it’s actually a critical time to remind travelers why you’re their choice. I argued in comments and elsewhere that it’s the time to double down to retain the few flyers who are still putting money in your pocket.
In the end, British Airways did exactly that. They reopened a lounge, they created grab and go options and they actually kept the majority of the bar available. Basically, a BA flyer isn’t getting the same new and improved lounge they were over the summer, but it’s still a lounge.
Still, it hasn’t kept the ever pedantic and beehive of Flyertalk forum members from complaining. I’m here to say, from the bottom of my heart, shut up and give it a rest already.
Could BA do more? Maybe. Did they meet in the middle and improve from a low which many found unacceptable? Yes. Do I expect that they’ll gear back up to the good stuff in just two weeks time? Yes. The lounge still offers…
- private seating away from the terminal
- fast wifi (particularly with few using it)
- private, regularly cleaned restrooms (near priceless right now).
- complimentary sandwiches and other basic fuel for the body.
- full bar, all gratis and yours for the taking.
Having no lounge is no good, but having a lounge is. British Airways have delivered on something sub optimal, but better than nothing, which ultimately is set to last less than a month from start to finish. Anything above a nothing offering is an improvement.
Sure, the gamers who pervert the BA loyalty program as loss making customers who manipulate offers to their full advantage, for the sole purpose of drinking themselves stupid on expensive champagne won’t get the same joy for the next 14 or so days, but that’s hardly the “big picture”, particularly during a pandemic.
Travel is a series of compromises right now, from less flexible schedules due to fewer flights to ever changing offerings before flight and on board, but during a national lockdown, the most you can ask for is access to a private and tranquil space, with a little something on offer.
It’s fair for many leisure or business travelers to say they won’t travel until things return to full steam, but then again they wouldn’t be traveling right now then if that’s really the case, would they? I can’t wait for things to return to the new and improved full steam, but British Airways has reopened, and during a lockdown it’s good enough.