Tag Archives: easyJet

British Airways is NOT Ninety Years Old

Much as I’m sure British Airways are keen to promote themselves in these difficult times, I do think celebrating their ninetieth birthday today is a bit rich.

The actual anniversary today is of the first scheduled international flight from London to Paris, run by a company called Aircraft Transport and Travel. The company had been formed several years earlier in 1916, and had flown a proving flight across the channel on 15th July.

The connection to the modern day British Airways is pretty convoluted (although they are glossing over that in the press release). Aircraft Transport and Travel ceased flying three years later in 1921 along with the other British airlines that had formed in protest at the government subsidies their French competitors were receiving. They were then acquired by a private air hire company to form Daimler Airway, which in 1924 merged with three other early airlines to form Imperial Airways.

British Airways Ltd was formed in 1935 and was in competition with Imperial Airways until the government nationalised both companies and merged them into the British Overseas Airways Corporation in 1939.

BOAC was demerged into three separate corporations in 1946, and then remerged in 1974 to form British Airways that was subsequently privatised in 1987 to bring us to the company as it is today.

So as far as I’m concerned British Airways is either twenty-two or thirty-five, depending on whether you count from privatisation, or from when the present company was formed. Celebrating ninety years is like someone celebrating on their great-grandfathers birthday because they contain some of the genetic material passed down through their parents. Indeed given that we’re not even celebrating on the date of the formation of Aircraft Transport and Travel, it’s a bit like having a party on the day your great-grandfather first walked…

Really, this should be a celebration for the whole British airline industry, where alongside British Airways we also have BMI (British Midland) and Virgin Atlantic, and also EasyJet, who in terms of passenger numbers are now the largest British airline. Certainly if you look at the league table, from our beginnings with the first international scheduled service, we still make a significant contribution to the industry, which certainly can’t be said about many other industries that were born in the UK.

The Monarch Two

After the news over the weekend that a Monarch flight back from Spain had kicked off two Asian passengers because some of the other passengers complained that they looked a bit like terrorists. Bear in mind that they had been cleared by airport security, and the complaints were that they looked a bit weird, were wearing heavy coats, and talking in Arabic. At the weekend we had the various passengers who complained, and over the past couple of days we’ve had the two passengers themselves putting their side of the story.

It transpires that the two passengers were a pair of students on a day trip to Malaga, and from the pictures on the TV probably could be described as a bit weird, but no more than many other people look or looked when they were students. With regards to the heavy coats, they had those on because it was chilly in Manchester when they set off. As to the speaking Arabic, they weren’t, it was Urdu.

The current situation is effectively that everybody is pointing towards the pilot as having made the final decision. Interestingly he apparently blamed the Spanish authorities when the two were removed from the plane saying that they wanted to check something, but the Spanish authorities just escorted them off the plane and did nothing else, saying that since they had twice cleared the security checks, and the complete sweep of all the luggage on the plane for explosives had come up clear they were happy. They were only escorting the two off the plane at the insistence of the pilot. Monarch, the airline involved are refusing to apologise.

I find it really reminiscent of the worrying vigilante attacks that occurred a few years ago on innocent people who were labelled as paedophiles, after elements of the media had whipped up fear. In exactly the same way, the current security alerts had whipped up the same level of fear and suspicion in airline travellers. The key problem was the way it was handled, where the people in charge pandered to the paranoia. What should have happened is that the crew should have assured the concerned passengers that the two students had cleared security, and given the complaining passengers the option to fly on a later flight if they were still concerned. What happened effectively set a precedent whereby passengers can set up a kangaroo court to boot off a flight anybody they donít like the look of without any actual evidence. Bear in mind when you consider this labelling of weird looking Asians as terrorist, that both Richard Reid the shoe bomber who was overpowered on a plane trying to blow it up was white, and apparently a number of the people involved in the current plot were also Muslim converts. When you look at the pictures of the various men involved in the London bombings last year, they also all looked like regular guys.

Having said that, the two students don’t seem exactly upset about it. Bear in mind that they were flown home the following day anyway. The airline itself isnít commenting, but I suspect that without any evidence they would have been treated the same as any other bumped passengers and been put up in an airport hotel overnight too. On top of that, easyJet, a rival airline have offered them free flights to Spain, which of course is making Monarch’s continuing refusal to even issue an apology look worse and worse.