Hot topic of the day. British Airways seats…
British Airways has decided to charge passengers who choose their seats before they travel from 7th October…
So, who will this affect?
Families who want to ensure they sit together, business travellers who are using the flight to work alongside fellow colleagues, and normal punters with a preference for window, aisle or emergency exit seats (am always an aisle man myself).
The cost? Reports say this will range from £10 per person for European economy flights, to £60 for long haul trips in business class. Ouch!
BA currently allows passengers to reserve seats 24 hours prior to departure when online check-in opens. The new charge (aimed at passengers wanting to reserve seats earlier than this), can be booked between 4 and 10 days before take-off. A BA spokeswoman said:
“Customers frequently request specific seats, but in the past we’ve only been able to confirm them 24 hours in advance or on the day. We know people want to secure them in advance and have real control over their flying experience. This will allow them to do that.”
This move is just one of a number of initiatives that aim to bolster the balance sheet (after a £401m loss in the last financial year). It follows BA’s decision to cut luggage allowances and abolish free meals on short flights.
This may be seen by many in the industry as something of an own goal, given that the airline ran a campaign a few months back looking at the comparative charges low-cost carriers charged for the add-on ‘extras’, seat selection being at the forefront of that push.
Looks like BA may be in for another bumpy PR ride over the coming weeks. Expect a tactical ad or two from Virgin Atlantic any minute NOW…
Iain Morrison is a senior marketer in the British Tourism Industry. And thinks they may have been wiser to move to cheaper wine…
Ryanair vs the free toilet brigade…
When was the last time you paid to go to the toilet?
If you live in London (where there are 40% less public toilets than 1999), you might benefit from pubs, shops and department stores joining the mayors toilet campaign.
I mean, why maintain the cisterns from the public purse, when the private sector will let you use their fancy facilities?
Marvelous cost efficiency…
Meantime in the private sector, the Ryanair toilet debacle rages on.
In recent months Ryanair has (in my view), conducted a textbook PR campaign, drip-feeding the press stories on their new cost cutting plans.
Everything from charging to use toilets, passengers carrying their own bags to the plane, through to stripping out standard seating for bar stools to get up to 30% more people on board.
Whether or not you agree with the sentiment behind the stories, they have certainly kept Ryanair in the press, and generated a significant amount of free coverage.
But what impact does this have on their brand?
BrandRepublic recently commissioned some vox pops, that asked prospective travellers how they felt about charging passengers to use the toilet.
Responses (as you’d expect) range from, “its ridiculous” and “its horrific”, through to “I am not really bothered, they are no-frills, you get what you pay for”.
I don’t want to ramble on, but just a few things from me…
- Ryanair are a no-frills airline. You don’t expect free peanuts, wine, etc. If you have to pay to use most UK public conveniences, why should a toilet on board a plane be any different?
- Most flights are short haul, with plenty of opportunities in the airport to use free facilities. Given this, what’s the fuss about? Go before you go!
- Like most other sectors, one brand tends to be bold, innovate, take risks. The others follow. How many other airlines will quietly adopt Ryanairs policies after a few months?
I can’t help but feel it’s a little too easy to knock Ryanair for this.
Ultimately, they are a no-frills airline; the business model has always relied on a totally different pricing structure in order to make / increase / maximise profits.
With the travel sector suffering across the board (and even BA reviewing their peanuts and wine policy), it’s going to be a tough year.
But, I can’t help feeling that this won’t harm Ryanair significantly in the short / medium term.
Some people will never fly Ryanair as they simply don’t do low cost. Some will still go with whomever is cheapest, and others will base their decision on airport / ease of access to final destination.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. And given the amount of coffee I’ve had this morning, I am off to spend a penny…
Iain Morrison is a senior marketer in the British Tourism Industry. And is wondering if there will be free loo roll, or will that be 20p extra?