Should I avoid flying British Airways?
December 6, 2009 3:59 PM   Subscribe

How has your recent experience been flying with British Airways, particularly if it was to and from the US? Is it not such a good idea to fly with them right now? BA really hasn't been doing so well lately, so I don't imagine staff morale is all that high at the moment - and from what I've read over the internet they seem to have a particularly bad reputation for losing luggage. How were your recent flights with them?

There are other things I've read about BA that I don't like much, but they are the only airline that flies direct from London to Tampa. I've been flying Virgin to Orlando, but that means an extra 2-hour drive both ways that I'd like to avoid, if that doesn't mean more unpleasant flights. Thanks Mefi!
posted by catchingsignals to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total)
Best answer: British Airways have always been OK for me. I prefer Virgin as it's just an overall more relaxed experience I think and British airways is a bit more staid but that said, compared to the misery that is American Airlines and United Airlines for transatlantic flights then there's not that much between Virgin and BA. Given the 2 hour drive both ways, I'd fly BA in your shoes.
posted by merocet at 4:16 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: Following BA's fortunes (and being extremely pessimistic and negative about them) is kind of a national sport in the UK, which can lead to a distorted picture of reality. The customer experience on the planes is fine, and Terminal 5 (which was the scene of a lot of the baggage problems) is now working well. If your choice is between BA and U.S. carriers, take BA every time, no question. Virgin is much better than either, of course (nicer staff, better entertainment, slightly less shabby vibe), but it's probably not four-hours-of-driving better.
posted by caek at 4:33 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: This is the best forum for the current customer sentiment on BA.
posted by Xurando at 4:55 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: I've been flying Virgin to Orlando, but that means an extra 2-hour drive both ways that I'd like to avoid

Any Orlando flight is going to have more noisy kiddies than average as well. Last time I took BA across the pond was a little more than a year ago, and I thought they were fine. Certainly I wouldn't consider driving two more hours to avoid them.
posted by grouse at 5:05 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: Head and shoulders above United, haven't flow Virgin enough to compare.
posted by Artw at 5:06 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: I've found it to be much better than American, though more expensive.
posted by aquafortis at 5:11 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: I have no experience with fligts to Tampa, but I've flown BA in and out of Chicago six times within the last couple of years, most recent flight in August, and not noticed any significant changes in quality over the period. There's some minor evidence of cost cutting: slightly skimpier breakfasts, no bitter lemon, but nothing really notable.

No lost bags on any of those trips, despite having anything up to nine at a time (there were several of us). The new terminal may have had a bad reputation for loosing bags when it opened, but it seems to be doing better now.

My wife flew American from Heathrow to Chicago in August and hated it by comparison. I've flown the route on various other airlines over the years none of which was significantly better than BA, but not used a different carrier myself lately.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 5:40 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: Well, I fly between London and Toronto pretty frequently, and I'll fly BA over anyone else even if it's considerably more expensive than competitors.


The service is always good, the planes are well kept, and Terminal 5 is actually a lovely place to arrive into. They've never lost my luggage, even at the height of the temporary T5 debacle.

World Traveller (economy) is slightly less hurty than any other economy class I've flown.

They're also very liberal with the bar cart.


They're often slightly more expensive.

If you're flying business class, some of their planes haven't been upgraded to the super-new-awesome business class. (Really, it's awesome.) This is especially true for off season flights to "b" level North American destinations.

But yeah, check out FlyerTalk's BA board for the full lowdown.
posted by generichuman at 5:52 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: I flew it this summer, from Washington to London and back, and it was a fine experience. I've also flown United from DC to London and I'd say BA was better, especially with the aforementioned generosity about the drinks. I've also flown Virgin between the two cities (only once) but don't remember enough about it to comment.

I'd also reiterate that arriving in Terminal 5 was effortless, and I had no issues with luggage. The connection to the tube for Central London is pretty easy to find.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 6:08 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: I have no idea where the AA hate comes from - I flew LHR-DFW a couple of times a year for the past few years on their 777s - great service, tidy aircraft and power points in most cattle class seats.

Next week I'll be flying BWI-LHR with BA (as AA don't service the route) for more money, less legroom and no power points in economy, with a frequent-flyer programme that's more of an insult than a joke. Not looking forward to it very much, to be honest.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 6:32 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: My parents flew BA from London to Toronto on their first ever transatlantic flight last year to attend my wedding. Unfortunately, my mother didn't realize she needed a visa to enter Canada.

BA noticed just in time, took my parents aside, sat them down and explained to them discreetly what had happened, showed them the address of the Canadian High Commission, told them what to do, and booked them onto the following day's flight for free.

Had BA not gently took my parents through what would have been a terrible shock and a majorly stressful experience, they wouldn't have made my wedding. The worst case scenario would have been that my mother would have been turned back at the border and wouldn't have been able to return to Canada again.

BA's rep for customer service is not great. Whenever I hear people being unsure about BA I tell them this story, because BA did a good thing that day--and that good thing was part of their procedure rather than a special effort.
posted by randomination at 6:46 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: The Mr. and myself flew BA for our honeymoon (LAX via LHR & LGW to EDI) this past February. I had flown Virgin before and loved it. BA's reputation had preceded them, but their price beat Virgin so we took a chance. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the service measured up. I don't remember much about the flight into the UK, but the flight out gave us a jewel of a flight attendant. We had brought on some Gordon Ramsay takeaway from T5 and had to clean the cooler bags they came in. She hooked us up with a crapload of paper towels and even took one of the bags into the lav herself to get a particularly tough stain out.

We had no luggage troubles and had a blast exploring T5. The only con we really encountered was on the way in, where we had a rather tight connection time between our arrival in LHR and departure in LGW. I dealt with it by printing an itinerary before flying and having it out to show the Immigration officer. In our case, only a quick explanation of our flight departing in 90 minutes from LGW sufficed.
posted by arishaun at 7:28 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: my brother just flew BA from the US to India and had no complaints.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:58 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: Though I have only flown 2 different airlines internationally, I would say that BA rocks! I was impressed with their service and had no issues with baggage. They impress me more than any American airline I've flown and would choose them to fly internationally even if they were a bit higher.
posted by LilBit at 8:14 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: I've had good experiences with BA in the past, but my last flight with them was a nightmare: missed connections, re-routing through multiple countries (a two-segment flight turned into a four-segment adventure), all of Christmas eve spent in an airport waiting for my next flight, and then I was without my luggage (and all the Christmas gifts I had brought with me) for two weeks, up until the day before I left the country. BA wouldn't reimburse me for essentials such as clothing and toiletries--this is something that most airlines will do--because I "didn't follow my original flight plan". That would have been of course impossible, seeing as my first flight arrived at least an hour after my connection took of.

Oh, and you know what they say about British food.

Never again.
posted by halogen at 10:19 PM on December 6, 2009

Best answer: I've not had a bad experience with them, and indeed are grateful for one of the attendants giving me some ice on a seven-hour turbulent flight. As for missed/lost luggage, I've not experienced that, either. The only problem I had was their policy on emergency flights which found me buying another £800 ticket. I definitely prefer them over Delta, American and UA, and if you have the cash I'd go with BA unless you can get a connecting flight on another airline if the drive is the issue and not the time (such as Lufthansa or Virgin).
posted by neewom at 12:13 AM on December 7, 2009

Best answer: I flew British Airways a few years ago from Saint Petersburg Russia to London for a layover to the US. They were the best of all of the international flights I've ever taken, and since I was a student, I got a tremendous discount that made them less than even the generally cheaper airlines with their student discounts.
posted by zizzle at 8:49 AM on December 7, 2009

Best answer: I've flown LHR-PHL 4 times in the last year and haven't had any lost luggage. However, and this may be coincidence, but both my parents and I had long delays this summer due to mechanical problems on their 767s. In my parents' case, 2 seperate planes had mechanical problems, whilst one did in my case.

I confer with the general "Virgin is nicer but not worth an extra 4 hours driving" people. Also, since BA fly TPA-LGW rather than LHR, you avoid T5 and it's baggage reputation (which, as others have said, has actually been fine recently and is more of a concern when connecting to another flight).
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 9:55 AM on December 7, 2009

Best answer: From my experience of US - UK flights:

Virgin: cheap, skimpy on the food and bar service
BA: expensive, generous food and bar service
Continental: cheap-ish, bad food and no bar service (not that I can remember)
Air India: very cheap, very bad food and bar service (but I think they stopped the UK-US route)

Never had any problems with luggage for any of these carriers.
posted by moiraine at 11:19 AM on December 7, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone - I'll give BA a try!
posted by catchingsignals at 8:09 PM on December 12, 2009

Best answer: Actually, I would now avoid BA until after the just-announced strike blows over.
posted by grouse at 7:47 AM on December 14, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks grouse - been following news of the strike. Trip's in March, but don't want the price to rise again if I wait too long, so will wait a few days and see how everything is before I decide.
posted by catchingsignals at 12:44 AM on December 17, 2009

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