Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in:  Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 10:28 GMT
Do we still need flag carrying airlines?
British Airways is to axe 5,800 jobs, cut routes and lower fares to combat losses amid a fall in passenger numbers.

The job cuts, which will see one-in-three head office and support posts go, will take to 13,000 the total number of staff axed by BA since August.

BA admitted the decision to lower fares on short haul European flights was prompted by competition from low-cost airlines, which have thrived despite the industry downturn stemming from the 11 September attacks.

Last year Belgium┐s Sabena airline was the first European national airline to go bust in what was called "an economic and social disaster for Belgium".

Even before the events of 11 September, dozens of the traditional flag carriers were in financial difficulties.

Do we still need national flag carrying airlines? Are they an important national symbol or an economic liability?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

It is a question of belonging and national pride

Karl, UK
National flag carrying airlines are powerful symbols particularly in remote parts of the world. It is a question of belonging and national pride. Drawing a parallel with currency, remind me why we are reluctant to join the euro.
Karl, UK

Why refer to national carriers and mention BA? British Airways is a normally profitable airline, not supported by the government that happens to be proud to be British! Good luck to them.
Simon Mallett, UK

Flag carriers date from the time when many airlines were state run. This is becoming rarer, as market forces dictate the survival of the fittest. I will fly with airlines that I view as safe, reliable, and represent good value for money. Those that excel in providing value for money will do well (assuming they don't go bust), as people ultimately have the choice to choose which airline to fly. As long as governments allow fair competition, then there shouldn't be a problem.
Christopher Laird, Tokyo, Japan

I care about the service, the comfort, the schedules and the price. I don't care about the flag on the side of the aircraft. If the quality is good, and the schedules are there, I'll fly with the airline. However there is still room in the market for decent short haul transport. 28" seat pitch with no-frills airlines is a joke.
Aaron, England

Any airline needs one thing that all businesses require: profitability

Benjamin, England
National carriers are not necessary in today's modern economy. What is necessary is safe, punctual, reliable airlines which offer a good level of service and value for money. Finally any airline needs one thing that all businesses require; profitability.
Benjamin, England

What I want is a safe, well maintained and reasonably comfortable airplane. I don't think it matters so much who owns it. I don't think an airline is really considered a large part of national pride for most people. I have never even thought of it in that light before. I do feel badly for all of the British Airway employees who have lost and will lose their jobs. If I could afford it, I would be the first to jump on one of your planes and come to visit the UK.
Gwen, USA

Open skies and no subsidies - unless we are left in a situation whereby there are no carriers left. The problem is, to get cheap air travel, you need bums-on-seats by the bucket load. If we ever get below the critical mass where cheap flights are no longer a reality, then we need to have subsidies like the rail and tube services.... Back to square 1, then?
Martina, UK

We've already got far too many airlines in Europe

David Hazel, UK
What we need are passenger carrying airlines. If national airlines can do the job for low fairs efficiently and without state aid, then fair enough. Otherwise, they should go. We've already got far too many airlines in Europe, because of the desire of each country to have a flag-carrier.
David Hazel, UK

I am the customer that BA wants - a frequent business class customer. I just came back from New York on Sunday and their service was very poor. I want great service and will fly with any airline that will supply it. BA do not so if they want my custom they better do something as I don't mind what flag is on the plane.
Guy, England

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories