Consider the feathers ruffled…

Yesterday I wrote a piece about how British Airways Airbus A350-1000 aircraft are struggling to adequately serve true long haul flights, due to decisions made during the procurement process for smaller stowage. The article pissed a few people off, to say the least – but the insider knowledge I’ve been afforded on the subject has been corroborated by too many others inside British Airways, or as passengers, for there not to be truth to it.

Today, British Airways emailed me to categorically deny my comments and effectively call me a liar in response. Coincidentally, I was already updating the initial article with further information, but not the type they may have been hoping for. They even issued statements to other outlets saying my piece was simply untrue.

I stand by every word, and now that I’ve been offered a formal rebuttal and categorical denial, I’ll actually elaborate a lot further on what I’ve learned, which makes the denial more amusing, at least to me.

Here’s British Airways Response

British Airways Press Office hit me up to tell me I’m wrong. That’s fine. Well, actually, they offered this comment to another blog first, stating my piece was incorrect before reaching out to me at all. Ouch. Here’s what they had to say…

​This is not true. Our A350 has sufficient space to accommodate catering for the duration of any of our flights, and has already flown to Dubai, Toronto, Tel Aviv and Bangalore, with more routes planned.  ​

True, the airline has flown to Dubai, Toronto, Tel Aviv and Bangalore with the A350, but that’s almost entirely useless information to offer anyone who actually knows how meals are served on BA, other than the Bangalore bit. None of the other routes receive the long haul meal service, which the A350 doesn’t seem to have enough space for. Worse, Bangalore isn’t actually a great bit to include in their rebuttal either.

Why? Because Bangalore, as of roughly three days ago, is the only double hot meal service the A350 currently flies to, and the airline just had to remove ice cream and other standard items to make room for the second meal. I don’t know about you, but I f**king love ice cream. Is it adequate if something needs to be removed? The issue is causing chaos in World Traveller Plus (premium economy).

But again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the storage capabilities of this plane. Nothing!!!

Wink implied.

And Then There “Was” Tokyo

British Airways has its share of haters, of which I am not one, and apologists, which I am also not one either. I think the airline has gone in a positive trending direction over the last few years and I’m pretty happy with most changes, but some things in life just aren’t true, no matter how much you want them to be.

Many BA insiders chimed in to say “not true, it’s going to Tokyo this summer”, including some with direct knowledge of the procurement process and route mapping of aircraft. There was truth to that, at least briefly.

Passengers booked on summer services, namely to Tokyo 2020 were informed of aircraft changes earlier in the week to the Airbus A350. There’s documentable proof of this, which I’ve seen first hand. Hooray! The British Airways A350-1000 has by far and away British Airways best business class seat and updated cabins, most were overjoyed. It’s a great way to fly!

But, less than a week from the original swap over to the A350, the flights all changed back to either a Boeing 777 or Boeing 787. I guess the A350 wasn’t actually working out so well on those Bangalore sectors, after all? So just to reiterate – at least from BA’s side – they never “officially” announced Tokyo, the plane is perfect and it already flies to Bangalore and there are more routes coming.

Ok…

What is this, a Sean Spicer press conference?

“It was the biggest crowd ever”…

Photographic proof it wasn’t.

“It was the biggest crowd ever”….

Ok then…

While We’re Still Here…

While we’re on the subject of BA’s planes – which I wouldn’t have been on, had I not been accused of making untrue statements – the lengthy Boeing 787-10’s, which British Airways will soon take delivery, have limited route ability as well. Yep, they really do.

Why, you may ask (again)? Because BA’s 787-10s are being retrofitted to remove crew bunks, so it too will be limited in how far it can travel. If crew doesn’t have space to rest, they legally can’t fly past a certain hour limit. This isn’t unique to BA, Singapore Airlines has done it as well, but then Singapore only flies it regionally, to places like Seoul which are 6 hour flights. British Airways has their 787-10 scheduled on 9+ hour routes like Seattle, which won’t prove very popular with crew.

Read as: don’t expect it flying 11 hour flights any time soon, or ever. This too, is fact. For those routes which do receive the 787-10 though, it should actually be BA’s best plane, thanks to the newer first class, club suite and most updated seats in premium and economy.

So, if the A350 is struggling to cope with two full meal services without removing things as simple as ice cream, and the 787-10 doesn’t have the space lawfully required for cabin crew to rest on ultra long flights, then what can passengers on BA’s longest journeys expect to find?

It’s not like the 777X is going to be delivered any time soon; not after the doors blew off during a pressure test observed by the FAA. That’s years away, at best.

As noted in the original article, to some extent, plane interiors are like lego blocks. Snap in, snap out. Problems can be fixed without dismantling a fuselage, easily in fact, and BA may choose to do this, or modify future deliveries. Apparently an overhaul of the “mid galley” is already under discussion.

The entire cabin of one of these British Airways A350-1000’s could be stripped out and turned into a flying palace for an Emirati Prince in just a matter of months. So if that can be done, slightly larger stowage spaces could be retrofitted into these planes, and minus a seat or thing here and there, they could join the ranks of other airlines that have similar seat counts, yet manage to get the stowage right.

Only time will tell, and we’ll only know when they announce ultra long haul routes for the A350 that don’t require modified offerings to cope. I’ll hold my breath on that “you weren’t actually lying, we’ve made a few changes” email.  Until then, I’m gunna’ go ahead and call the bluff. And while I’m spoiling all the good stuff – Boston, Washington DC, Austin and Philly are next for the A350 destinations from August. Hardly ultra long haul, eh?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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45 Comments

  1. Did Willie Walsh girlfriend email you from the press office? This airline is a shambles and it is getting worse.

    1. Didn’t plan to, dude. When you take your work seriously and are accused of falsehoods despite knowing they are not, anyone with pride stands up for themselves.

  2. BA is way better than any US airline. Service, food, aircraft and (for the most part) people.

    So… dunno why you’re picking this stupid battle. Aren’t you married to a Brit? Does she prefer American Airlines? Perhaps so I guess.

    1. “So… dunno why you’re picking this stupid battle. Aren’t you married to a Brit? Does she prefer American Airlines? Perhaps so I guess.”

      Probably the stupidest and most ignorant thing I’ll read today and it’s not even 9am.

    2. Haha Andy, Andy – my man…

      You are trying to bark down a tree you can’t even find.

      1) All Brits are not pre-conditioned to like British Airways. If you read mainstream press, you’ll actually see they have a disposition to hate the airline. It’s something I’ve actually stood up for them and gone to bat about. I think the airline is doing better than it was in recent years. It’s called a Google search, it’s your friend, and I hope you find each other sometime.

      2) I am married to a Brit, and she just rolled her eyes at you after reading this comment. And added a “tut” to prove Britishness.

      3) American Airlines… I thought the first two points were funny, but this one is a fackin’ knee slapper.

      God Save Your Opinion.

  3. Lol this was funny! I also love ice cream! I checked VS and on the a350, they can hold 335 passengers (44 business, 56 prem econ, and 235 economy) whereas BA can hold 331 passengers (56 business, 56 prem econ, and 219 economy.) It seems to me that BA added more business class seats in their planes as a tradeoff to removing the space for food.
    If BA thinks it can fly longhaul with its a350 in its current form, then my guess is the meal service portions may become significantly smaller? I guess 2 small hot meals is better than one regular hot meal on a longhaul flight? 😉

  4. First the 777X has bigger problems than pressurization, it’s power plants a.k.a engines are at issue to.
    Second the 787-10’s are crap. While I have first hand knowledge from some insiders, it’s been widely reported where airlines return the 787-10 do to it’s shabby fabrication in the S.C plant. Enough so that Boeing sends 787-10’s to Everett for corrections before customer delivery. Why did Qatar recently return all 4 to the USA? Hmmm I bet there’s a story there. How does BA justify first-class anyways as other airlines pull back with their F product? And recently bloggers thing F on BA is nothing more than a plated meal from J class anyways and a bit bigger seat.
    Third I’d personally enhance your piece with A350 cabin crew interviews. Keep them anonymous but continue to expose the real truth here on stowage, especially since you’ve caught BA’s attention. Maybe this can be a piece that helps everyone for improved changes. Having flown the A350 it’s a great flying experience.

  5. Not convinced that BA give a damn about the customer experience nor obeying the law (see repeated point blank lies on EU compensation)
    Surely the answer is simply to warn those who may think they still deliver a competitive product / price) Even with fortress Heathrow their duplicity in marketing a service rarely delivered will catch up with them eventually.

  6. Why do you feel that BA economy has been moving in the right direction? I have to admit that I think it has gotten worse over the years rather than better.

  7. Great article, I used to be a big fan of BA but they have been downgrading their service to the point I no longer consider them to be fully serviced. They no longer provide free food in economy on many shorthaul, instead charging you obscene amounts for M & S food you could have bought in the airport. And business is no longer business, just economy without someone sitting in the middle seat, it’s still got no leg space and wedges you into a narrow seat. I’ve cut back to the point I no longer have a frequent flyer status.

  8. Sorry guys. I like this article a lot. Probably my favorite one from Gilbert. It is well reasoned and logics are to the point. Like him, I also hate being accused of lying professionally from morons who can’t do their job. Well done. I really wanna hear what ba says..

  9. I have heard from BA cabin crew that A350 the ovens in economy aren’t big enough to cook all the hot meals at the same time for a full economy cabin ! Also, isn’t there a row (35?) that doesn’t recline ? Until Alex Cruz is moved on, this ridiculous plan of putting more seats than is sensible of planes (320 neos, Refurbed 777’s Etc) is going to backfire in a few years.

    But then Cruz will have gone then and have his bonuses … The airline will have a fight on its hands to persuade people to come back. I won’t travel with them Longhaul anymore now

    Ps anyone know how much Alex Cruz got laid last year, can’t find a figure published in 2019 anywhere (last one was 2018 £1.3m)

    1. Amazing typo dude. Whilst I imagine his salary is public info via IAG plc, his bedpost notches probably are not…

  10. Just a small one, BA aren’t ‘retrofitting’ the aircraft to have the Overhead Flight Attendant Rest (OFAR) removed. It’s an option from Boeing that they’re not installing from the outset.

  11. Haha I love the argumentative responses, to me it seems these people only read your articles to pick fault, then when they can’t …… Pick fault anyway ……
    I didn’t read any of that as putting BA down as such I just read some interesting facts regarding their decisions when designing/fitting out their planes, I’m sure they have reasons why they done it …. Normally money 💰 and if they have got it wrong I’m sure they will review it or at least we would hope they will review it ……
    Anyway, interesting info, seems another money saving idea might be failing them ….

  12. When I started reading about BA food it made me smile and think “What food”.

    Over last year I have been on several flights from Ryanair to BA and about the only difference is BA seats usually recline a little and their cabin crew do actually seem happier.

    On Ryanair last Nov they looked as if they were going to a funeral!

  13. My my my! You really put a burr under BA’s saddle. Well done!

    I can see possibly making a mistake ( I hope) in procurement that would not leave enough room for a second hot meal on the 350, but intentionally ordering (if that was indeed the case) the 787-10 without a crew rest area is stupefying if a crew rest area is a required for true long-haul flights. That’s what I’m not sure of. The draft regulations cited don’t appear to require crew bunks. Ot perhaps BA plans to use 787-10s in a regional role as Singapore Airlines does.

  14. We’ll good news ‘Brexit’ worked out fabulously for America, took awhile but fabulously, I say (in my best robin leech voice).

    So “What is this, a Sean Spicer press conference?” aside BA will improve or die an unilustorius death. BA BA flights sadly ‘First’ or ‘WTP’ or hit or miss and a crap shoot at best -no matter the route or metal your flying. Sadly BA is the AA of the UK.

  15. BA is the single most worst airline to fly from the US. The crazy Flintstone era seat configuration and the lousy fuel surcharges are not worth it wine bit. If not for the AA and Qatar partnership inside the one word alliance there is no real reason to fly this crap. I ways look elsewhere when have a choice to fly BA business class.

    1. Really? BA is the single worst airline from the US?? If you travel any American carrier, more than two of you waiting for a washroom, and you’ll get told to sit down, as it’s too ‘suspicious’. I’ve flown a few times on United to Newark and it’s a decrepit 767. The food in economy looked like dog food. In BA we still give two meals in economy, drinks served throughout the flight in all cabins, and on longer sectors we have tuck box snacks for Self Service in economy. As cabin crew, I work my socks off on every flight, no slacking or cutting corners. In club I’ll always make sure your wine glass doesn’t go empty and you’ll never see me roll my eyes or do a half hearted job! I’ve really had enough of the crew haters… and surprisingly, they usually are made up of majority of silver or gold card holders.

      1. You’ve not flown United to EWR recently then. The route is operated by Polaris-configured “high-J” 767-300ER aircraft. These planes have 46 flat bed seats in Polaris, 22 Premium Plus seats and 99 economy seats.

        They also have great IFE and wifi. United food on transatlantic isn’t at all bad; some dishes are truly delicious. The Chicken Ginseng bowl and anything with Beef Short Rib comes to mind.

  16. I am a ba gold member and just flew with the a350 to tel Aviv. I was immediately surprised at the lack of galley space and public areas on this new aircraft. Yes the new seat is a tremendous improvement over the old club seats but the size of the isles proved to be extremely difficult for the crew to carry out the service. The crew could not pass each other during the business class food service. It was impossible for me to use the washrooms due to the overcrowding by crew of the tiny little space of the front galley where all the food is thought and prepared. The purser on the flight the agreed that it was a tremendous challenge for them to a custom to the aircraft due to lack of space. They found the galleys extremely claustrophobic.

  17. It’s not just those planes, either. I flew on the good ol’ 747 from London to JFK yesterday and was told by the cabin crew that meals are provided at a “60% level” in traveller plus and business, meaning someone is almost always not going to get the meal they’d like.

    True to form, I was in business and given the menu. When the member of crew came to me to take my order, he had a crib-sheet with scribbles on it and he started by saying “Mr X, have you decided what you’d like for your lunch? Actually, let me tell you what’s still available…”. And so it was and so it is.

    It’s not unique. On Qatar business, you get pyjamas. They too only stock a few of each size and very few large ones, so they run out very quickly.

    I get it that it’s not possible to “over cater” to the extent that everything is available to everyone at all times, but it’s interesting how wildly it seems to vary by airline.

  18. I have to say I like this article, too. Such a typical bureaucratic non-response from BA. I also like the prior comment. My last two BA business class flights, last month, both ran out of meal choices very early on. One was missing basics like any sort of tea except for bog standard, and the other (on the key JFK to LHR route) had absolutely no amenity kits! I used to like BA a lot. But current BA management obviously doesn’t even care about the simple-to-provide basics, even for the premium passengers on their most important route.

  19. I love this article! Big thumb up, good work Gilbert! Some Avgeek websites are like Sam Chui, always post fake positive news. Not surprised! BA is definitely getting worse & worse. I flew BA First in Dec from London to Santiago, 15 hours flight only 1 hot towel during boarding, that was it. Really!? Other airlines offer hot towel at least before or after each meal in business / economy in long haul!
    There was only 1 little almost empty sad looking hand wash bottle in the lavatory. 8 First seats in 787-9, each main course / desert only loaded 2 potions! I didn’t get what I want! My aircraft had 11 hours turnover in LHR from previous one, but I found previous passenger used dirty socks were left on the ottoman. Really worn First seat as well!
    From Santiago back to London, I was in business, disguising pillow ( large pieces of yellow stain) / seat divider (sticky liquid) / carpet, really bad cleaning. That aircraft also had 7 hours turnover in Santiago. The Club Kitchen was almost empty entire journey back to London….
    Luckily I’ve taken all the photos & contacted customer service, as we can imagine, same answer, they try their best to offer good service…..urrrghhhh
    In terms of homebase LHR lounge, well, forget about the worn seats, even catering — hot dishes are always plain rice/pasta / veg curry / meatball for years! Nothing else.
    Everything goes for the cheapest option by BA management.
    No more hope on BA & IAG! Just booked my 2020 two trips on QR!

  20. Having been a BA loyalist for well over a decade after your experience (actually worse as they ran out of all premium meals) not once or twice but 5x on Indian routes my position has reversed. This was amplified when a complaint got the response that since meals are “complimentary” no apology or compensation was necessary.
    It does seem that BAs “smart provisioning” is in fact dumb but the abysmal customer service response turned me to a “BA hater” and I now avoid them whenever there’s a choice. We’ve saved circa 8% on fares and whilst a change is sometimes inconvenient, I’ve yet to fly another carrier who fails to deliver the advertised product with such regularity. Or that has such lethargic, ineffectual and downright customer hostile post flight “service” hence the birth of #flyabba

  21. Firstly, I just got back from a long haul flight to Germany last month and my whole trip from Sky Harbor to Tegel and back was BA. Granted it was my first trip abroad ever but I have no complaints.
    The service was very good & someone always there if or when I needed them.
    The overhead compartment was more than adequate and was my own w/the cubicle sharing it but still one in between mine & the passenger behind.
    I had champagne when I sat down and promptly both ways, altho on the flight back not as soon as the one over because of situating everyone into their areas first.
    I will admit my dinner choice on the way back was horrible while my son’s & others around were commenting how good theirs was (poor choice on my part). I got my dinner & dessert as well as a “snack” beforehand (def larger & more gourmet than a snack) and wow…gasp… I got ice cream awhile later. Don’t know what to tell ya.
    I slept comfortably altho initially I had my doubts & very good quality headphones to use with their televisions which had a very good selection of music, movies, television series, etc.
    Oh…and the kicker? I had one..yes count it..one layover in London.
    Very, very good experience and one of the best on my 2 wk trip and want to do it all over again.

  22. It’s a win win for BA. They get to sell more seats per plane and they save a ton of money on ice cream. These MBA’s and their brilliant minds are just incredible. I remember when to need to have an engineering degree to work on a airplane.

  23. I’m an AA Executive Platinum member that has been flying from CLT to LHR for the past three years at least 7-8 times a year. The A330s they fly are almost as tired as the cabin crew. The food is awful, I would almost swear that the wine has no alcohol and the touch screen on the AV screen is horrible. I wish that I had other choices but non stop beats a one stop to LHR any day. I did manage a CLT-BOS-LHR-GOT flight recently and the BA service on both was exceptional. Obviously I can only fly coach on the company but BA’s flight attendants really do make you feel welcome.

    1. I’m based in CLT too, and flying to the UK I now almost always take the LH A350 to Munich and then back to Manchester.
      The old USAir A333s are being retired (apparently last year), but I’m not sure what they’re replacing them with – some say the A332s, others say 787s.
      BA do fly out of Charleston now on the 787, and I’ve also flown AA on the 772 out of Raleigh – that wasn’t bad but they usually have the coffin if you’re in J.

  24. Delighted to see this article and would appreciate it, Gilbert, if you could do one or two or six more that help to explain to our customers (why has it become such a crime to be a passenger?) why they’re getting a raw deal. The lofty notion that we are on the way to being the world’s best airline is an embarrasment to those of us who have to say “um..no” and “ooo.sorry,” about as often as we say hello and good bye.

    Most ideas BA shove out of Waterside and onto the aircraft are ill conceived and rarely if ever helpful to the end-user and consumer.

    About the 787-10 without bunks – I was told about two years ago the -10 would be bunkless because it wasn’t going ultra long range – but that said, the bunkless 77Ys are often found on routes where there should be adequate crew rest facilities.

  25. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if the A350 doesn’t have space for two hot meals. I heard there were similar space issues for meals when they put more seats on the 777s at Gatwick. Smacks of bad planning and a lack of coordination between whoever plans the seat configurations and whoever plans the meals.

    I doubt the 787-10s were ever intended to do longer routes though – there are already long haul aircraft in the BA fleet that don’t have cabin crew rest areas (some of the 777-200s), and these only do shorter US, Middle Eastern and African routes. You mention Seattle but one of the two daily flights is operated by a 777 that doesn’t have cabin crew rest areas today.

  26. What is wrong with this once great airline? they go out buy great new aircraft then fit them out on the cheap…A350’s that cannot serve two hot meals without getting rid of ice-cream and 787-10 with no crew rest, limiting this great aircraft to nine-hour flights, what the hell are they going to do when their 747’s and 20 year plus 777-200’s start retiring?
    It seems the only constant in aviation is that for every three steps forward BA take they then always “cheap-out” and take two steps back.
    I really thought the A350-K was a turning point for BA, even though they sting you over one hundred pounds to choose a seat!!!, sadly BA have returned to their “Budget Airline” tag they so richly deserve.

  27. I see PYOK is reporting some interesting info out of a BA Q&A session.

    Given that nothing’s changed over 25 months in relation to the AC config and it’s suitability (of lack thereof) for longhaul ops I trust BA will be issuing you a full apology for their hounding of your factually accurate reporting? I look forward to seeing it

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