British Airways (BA) operations were reduced by ninety percent during lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A limited scheduled service re-commenced in July 2020. I took advantage of this to fly to Italy. My outbound flight was full but the inbound flight was flying at fifty percent capacity. I took advantage of this to interview James, the Customer Service Manager on my return flight, regarding his personal experience during the transition to the new normal.
Me: Have you been furloughed during the lockdown?
James: No. All BA employees were asked if they wanted to be furloughed. My partner and I have a five-year-old child so one of us had to stay at home and she chose to be furloughed.
Me: Have you done many flights during the lockdown?
James: Yes, BA has been involved in several operations during this period. These include repatriation flights to India, collection of Personal Protection Equipment from China, charters to rescue stranded cruise passengers, and worldwide mail runs. Cabin crew are only used when cargo is carried in the main cabin as well as the hold.
Me: How are passengers re-acting to the mandatory requirement to wear face coverings during flights?
James: Generally, there is no problem and most people comply. However, some passengers do refuse to wear them but an increasing number is claiming exemption on medical grounds. We are not allowed to question them regarding the nature of the medical condition due to data protection rules.
Me: I upgraded to Club Class to ensure I would have space around me. The boarding of the plane, row by row, was re-assuring and, I really enjoyed the food in my boxed meal.
James: The provision of food onboard has been one of the major changes on our flights. BA is now working with a new company, Do&Co, which produces good quality food. We were unable to use them before as they are a relatively small company. Now that our scale of operations has been reduced Do&Co is able to supply us.
The on-board trolley service has been suspended. Passengers in Traveller are offered a complimentary soft/hot drink and a small snack. This is to reduce interaction between passengers and cabin crew. BA is considering alternatives such as pre-ordering and pre-paying for food to be delivered to passengers on board. Shopping onboard can only be done online – there are no inflight magazines.
Me: Thank you, James. The new normal on BA flights has made me feel more confident about flying.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of ‘James’, a member of crew on my return flight. They do not express the official stance, nor views of British Airways, or the wider International Airlines Group (IAG). Interviewee name changed to maintain anonymity.