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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Will travellers forgive BA?
Passengers departing from Heathrow airport
Will these passengers fly BA again?
The future of the British Airways brand is resting on how quickly it can reach an agreement with the unions.

Analysts believe that BA's long established brand is strong enough to survive the recent wildcat strikes that left 80,000 passengers stranded.

But they also warn that the airline could end up with a serious image problem on its hands if the threat of more strikes drags on over the summer and beyond.

Some customers are already vowing never to return.

"I spend many thousands of pounds with BA every year. Well, no longer. The Gold Card has gone in the bin," said Alistair Robertson from Switzerland.

Ryanair threat

And BA has already overtaken Ryanair to be the most complained about airline for the year to March 2003.

Ryanair, meanwhile, is already using its website to brag about the recent misery faced by BA customers.

Figures from the Air Transport Users Council show complaints about BA more than doubled for the period to 257 from 117 the year before.

Nevertheless, ABN Amro's Andrew Lobbenberg maintains BA will overcome these problems in the short term, as long as it quickly reaches agreement with the unions.

Premium travellers are not going to switch airline, while leisure passengers are always shopping around for the best deal in any case, he explains.

George Lipman, chairman of tourism organisation Green Globe, does not believe the current problems will spell the end of BA.

"I think it (BA) will sort the situation out, the only question is when and under what terms?"

Challenge

He adds that the only challenge facing the airline now is to sort out the dispute in the "full glare of the media".

"In simple terms, it is not going to put BA out of business," he said.

The only risk is if the dispute doesn't go away.
Geoffrey Lipman, Green Globe chairman
Mr Lipman added: "In the past two years no airline has made any better attempt at rationalising, increasing value, reducing costs and providing good service than BA.

"The only risk is if the dispute doesn't go away," he warned.

"More instances of the past few weeks may affect cash flow. BA is very conscious of this and will work hard to stop the action."

Financial cost

In the longer term, BA desperately needs to keep its passengers on board.

The company is already likely to reveal losses of about 70m for the three months to June, before the fatal strikes hit.

Initial estimates suggest the strikes will cost the airline tens of millions of pounds, with company sources telling the Observer newspaper the bill is set to total 50m ($80.8m).

These future losses could then escalate if the BA dispute drags on and more and more passengers decide not to fly with the airline.


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