I recently wrote a Customer Experience Review of Ryanair. Whilst the results were not spectacular, elements of the experience surprised me. It is without any planned intent that I am now able to write another review about an airline. Whilst I travelled with British Airways last week for business (rather than ‘pleasure’ as I did with Ryanair – the ‘pleasure relates to the holiday rather than the flights specifically!), my review process will hopefully produce as balanced a perspective of their delivery of Customer Experience as it did with Ryanair. I doubt that British Airways think or believe they deliver similar customer experiences to Ryanair, but you will have to read through the review to see who fares best!
|Date Review Conducted||27th April 2014|
|Flights Experienced||London Heathrow to Vienna|
|CX Review Total Score||37/50|
I am a regular business traveller. Although the majority of my work is conducted within the UK, I usually travel abroad half a dozen times a year. On most occasions, I will source the flights, and then work with my client to determine the best way to book and make payment. A few weeks ago, knowing that I was to spend a day in Vienna with a European Bank, I was put in touch with the Bank’s travel company to sort things out.
I ended up plumping for flights with good old British Airways – the airline I expect to give me that little bit more – especially as they are a great British brand! It has been a while since I last used BA, but recently, friends and family have been sharing and sometimes venting their views with me. Not wanting to have any pre-conception, I have put others opinions to one side and based the review on my experience alone. So using my standard review format, let us begin….
Accessibility – CX Review Score 6/10
How easy was it for me to do what I needed to do with BA? For this category I have awarded BA 6 out of 10. A little like Ryanair, BA’s website is ‘ok’ – nothing particularly special, but ok. I would not say it is the easiest or most intuitive of websites to use, but it works – nothing more, nothing less.
Having booked the flights, the first major issue I experienced in the accessibility category was with the online check in process. I am a man who likes to be organised when it comes to travel arrangements. I like to have everything printed out and nicely ordered in a file so I know exactly where I am going and when. This process includes printing out my boarding pass as early as possible. That is not possible where BA is concerned.
BA only permits you to print a boarding pass 24 hours before your flight is due to depart – and not a minute before. This I find rather irritating. My flight was at 19:05 on a Sunday evening – this meant that I had to wait until 19:05 on the Saturday evening to print out my boarding pass – something that was of great inconvenience to me. Why this is the case is a mystery – other airlines allow you to print boarding passes far sooner. What about printing my return ticket the following day? What if you do not have access to a printing facility 24 hours before? Whether it is the intention of BA to ‘force’ customers to use the ‘app’ facility on smartphones I cannot comment – but that is not something I personally feel comfortable doing. As an experience I found it annoying and however small an issue you may perceive it to be, may make me think twice before booking a ticket with BA again.
There were other issues. Boarding the plane was not a pleasant experience. I do not know about you, but I can be heard emitting a tired sigh when I see a bus arrive at the door of the boarding gate. I HATE having to board a bus to get to the plane – it is never a nice experience and on this occasion it did not fail to meet my expectation. On calling customers to the bus, specifically stating certain rows, all customers charged forward. As the bus filled up, the remaining passengers were asked to wait for the next bus to arrive. The next bus arrived TEN minutes later. Surely BA (they were BA buses) should be able to make the process more efficient? It seemed as though there was no real sense of urgency to get the plane loaded.
When the bus arrived at the plane, the experience did not improve – the bus carefully stopped precisely by the steps at the front of the plane, ensuring that no passenger could accidentally fall out of the bus onto the tarmac (described ever so slightly tongue in cheek). This meant that passengers disembarked one by one – it is no surprise it takes so long to load the plane! On all other airlines I have travelled with recently, passengers have been trusted to walk on the tarmac and board using steps at both the front and back of the aircraft – as far as I am aware, no passenger was harmed on any flight.
The flight departed Heathrow 45 minutes late – this was put down to the late arrival of the aircraft. I am not sure I believed the pilot when he informed us of this fact. I put it down to the very slow and ineffective boarding process.
The aircraft itself is good – sufficient space, nice décor and clean – I cannot fault this part of the experience.
So BA based on my experience and in my opinion has some work to do when it comes to online check in and the boarding touchpoints in their customer journey.
Range/Choice – CX Review Score 9/10
Finding the flights was easy – Vienna is a pretty accessible destination from the UK, and finding suitable flights from airports in London was relatively easy at the times I required. BA provided me with the flights that best matched my requirements. It is difficult to award BA anything less than 9 out of ten for this category.
People – CX Review Score 9/10
Based on my experience (I must keep re-iterating that), this is where BA really started to shine. From the lady at the departure gate to the cabin crew and pilot, the BA staff were the epitome of politeness and courtesy. Welcoming passengers using the names printed on the boarding pass, with beaming smiles, they appeared exactly as you would expect someone who works for an airline to appear. They made me feel good – they made me feel special. They did not drop their smiles throughout the flight – I really was very impressed.
The pilots were audible, friendly and informative – again, they did everything I would hope and expect from a brand I remember as once describing themselves as ‘the world’s best airline’. You can tell that BA invests in its people – Ryanair could learn a lot from them on this crucial part of the customer experience!!
Value – CX Review Score 7/10
My definition of value is not just defined by the price of the product or service I choose to purchase. I consider value to be reflective of the experience I receive. BA was not the cheapest option to fly to Vienna – nor did I expect it to be. It was also not that much more expensive than the cheapest option – in this case Easyjet if I chose to fly from Gatwick, or Air Berlin from Heathrow. In fact BA was £47 more expense. The key question is whether or not it is worth £47 more?
When I consider the accessibility issues described earlier in this review, I am not sure it is. I did receive food and drink during the flight. I had a flat bread sandwich and a diet cola drink. I am not sure these offerings justify the higher price – the flight was less than two hours. I often travel from Chester to London on Virgin Trains – a shorter journey than Heathrow to Vienna. The journey costs less and if I am lucky enough to be in First Class, the food is better. As a result, I am awarding BA 7 out of 10 for value.
How did it make me feel? CX Review Score 6/10
All things considered, I can describe my feelings of this experience of BA as ‘ok’. I cannot say it was particularly memorable for either positive of negative reasons. I can understand why friends and family reviews have not been that great recently – I think it is the feeling of being ‘underwhelmed’ that is driving negativity. As consumers we expect better from BA – the problem is that in general, they are not meeting that expectation.
Would I use them again? Maybe
So here is the ‘killer question’ – would I use BA again? Despite the fact that BA scored more highly than Ryanair, my answer to this question is different – the answer is ‘maybe’. The BA experience is ‘nothing special’, and as such, I would not look for the BA flight options first – why would I pay more for BA, when I do not receive the experience to justify the higher price of the ticket? With the entry into the market of ‘low price’ carriers, competitors have been able to offer a level of service at a lower price that many of us find acceptable. In other words, we would rather pay less – especially for short-haul flights. I think most of us can do without the ‘free drink and sandwich’ if we are flying less than four hours. BA must be commended for the behaviour of their people though – the most polite and professional I have experienced in recent times – long may that continue!