British Airways has angered passengers again with cancelled flights and risks lowering its approval rating further.

At least 117 flights were cancelled across Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports on 7 August because of an IT failure. The company could face £8 million in compensation payouts and more flights may be affected as it attempts to resume normal service. Big plans for improving reputation need to be implemented or the airline risks losing potential passengers. A middling reputation has been part of the downfall for many airline failures in recent years including Monarch and Air Berlin.

British Airways: reputation in tatters

The underlying problem that has occurred time and again is a lack of communication. Multiple reports of a lack of meaningful information about the delays and cancellations for stranded passengers suggest the situation was not handled as well as it could have been.

Just two days before this latest incident, passengers on British Airways flight BA422 travelling from London to Valencia had to exit the plane by emergency escape chutes and wait three hours to be reunited with their luggage after the cabin filled with smoke. Obviously technical issues are out of the control of the specific airline staff, but more communication may have lessened passengers’ worries.

British Airways has had the benefit of trading on its very good reputation – it was even voted the world’s best in 2006 – but its decline in customer service has not gone unnoticed.

British Airways is rated one-out-of-five stars on Trust Pilot’s website, and five-out-of-10 on Skytrax. Its decision to remove free food from its short-haul flights in January 2017 was seen as taking a step closer to operating as a low-cost carrier.

Passenger reviews reflect that. According to Airfleets, British Airways has one of the oldest fleets of the major players and some cabins are described as scuffed and dirty. With economy passengers receiving only a slightly better service than on easyJet or Ryanair, BA’s long-standing reputation will soon not be enough to deter passengers from opting for the no-frills champions instead.

This all comes as BA celebrates 100 years since it started flying, with a star-studded advert designed as ‘a love letter to Britain’ accompanied by a retro paint-job for four of its planes. Passengers affected by its latest faults may instead be reminded of a past where the company resonated better with its passengers.

With Asian airlines presently ruling the World Airline Awards there will need to be a big shift to change perceptions back to when BA ruled.

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