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British Airways was right to use the middle seats yesterday. Here’s why…

Travel is incredibly emotional. There’s the “Love Actually” side of it all, where new places, old friends and love at the other end plays a part, but there’s also the stress of being crammed through security scanners and then embarking into the skies in an aluminum tube.

When you ask customers to boil down the things that they really, really care about though, the numbers are quite simple. People care about getting somewhere when the schedule says they will, and about price. If those aren’t your two main concerns, you’re in an extreme minority of the general traveling public, and it’s important to check that against whatever your personal feelings are.

It’s because of this that British Airways was absolutely right to use “middle seats” for business class customers yesterday, in the face of the many European storms and IT issues affecting Heathrow.

Would you rather be stranded, or potentially share an arm rest with someone for two hours (or less)?

British Airways Euro Traveller Club EuropeFor starters, British Airways “Club Europe” business class doesn’t offer any more legroom or seat comfort than economy.

Club Europe offers lounge access, security fast track, meal and drinks on board, but the only physical differentiators are being in the front of the cabin, which still would’ve been the case yesterday, and the benefit of not having someone next to you, which would’ve been the only notable exception in yesterdays experience.

Drinks were still served, with extra top ups to make up the stress…

In exchange for that displeasure, up to 24 more people per flight made it home, or to meetings yesterday when they otherwise would’ve been stranded. In other words, British Airways prioritized getting people where they needed to be, and that – in my opinion – trumps all other concerns. People who book flights generally have places to be, and that’s the primary concern.

Should people receive some sort of compensation in the form of miles or a voucher for the diminished space and comfort? Sure, why not – seems only. Should BA have done this proactively? Yes, that would’ve been the classier move here. British Airways promises an open seat next to you, and not delivering may be worth a very little something.

But was British Airways wrong to make a minor adjustment to make hundreds, perhaps thousands more customers happy than they otherwise would’ve been able to? No, just no. They made a tough decision which opened them up to cheap shots, but ultimately did right by customers by getting as many where they needed to be during adverse conditions, and that’s something I can get behind.

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