The latest issue to affect BA will tarnish the airline’s reputation further following a succession of recent problems affecting staff, aircraft, passengers and IT infrastructure. 

Following an incident in August on a BA flight to Valencia, Spain, which saw smoke fill the cabin shortly before landing, passengers on board the flight have decided to take legal action against the airline after complaining of health issues. 

The Spanish aviation authorities have launched an investigation into BA 422 which departed from London Heathrow Airport on August 5. 

The current situation poses a serious business threat to BA given that passengers have come public about their complaints which include throat sores, breathing difficulties and other trauma caused by the incident. 

What happened on the flight is still unknown, a factor which acts to erode trust and brand reputation while focusing attention on safety concerns.

This is not the first time this has happened on a BA flight and similar problems have afflicted rivals. EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic and Jet2 all faced similar situations earlier in 2019 regarding ‘toxic air’ affecting pilots and cabin crew after long-term exposure. 

However, with the current incident, BA is currently one of the worst to be afflicted with a series of flights reported to hold a “chemical smell” over the past few weeks.

Problems are mounting, harming performance

In recent times, data breaches, strike action, IT failures and now threats of legal cases over the leakage of fumes into aircraft cabins have combined to dampen the airline’s appeal.

Ranked 23rd in the Global Airline Rankings in 2019, according to ‘Air Help’ based on on-time performance, service quality and claim processing problems, recent events will likely lower this ranking further. 

Threatened by high costs, rising fuel taxes, climate change and intense competition to survive, BA must keep travellers loyal or face losing its key consumer base. 

A lack of trust is hurting consumer loyalty 

A very real danger for the airline is the extent to which the unknown fume problem threatens to damage public confidence. 

Successive IT failures during August 2019 affected the reputation of the airline, not only because about 500 flights were cancelled or delayed but also due to the miscommunications between staff and passengers. 

On some occasions, it was reported, passengers were told incorrectly that their flights were cancelled, spurring un-necessary feelings of frustration.  When airlines encounter problems, staff must maintain their professionalism, integrating quality into services provided. 

Whilst some events could be largely down to ‘bad luck’, there is an overriding suspicion that standards are slipping. The removal of free-food on short-haul flights and cramped business-class cabins were previously frequent complaints the airline faced. 

Trust is critical for the travel industry. Around 90% of global travellers are influenced by how ‘trust-worthy/risk-free’ a product/service is, according to GlobalData’s Q4, 2018, global consumer survey. 

Troublingly for BA, amid long-running union disputes in 2019, no resolution was found, after two days of strikes by BA pilots, a deal is still yet to be negotiated, providing staff with more reason to feel disgruntled. 

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