Five ways airlines of Europe can make Eurobusiness less terrible

এই লেখাটি 56 বার পঠিত

Being based in Europe, the passenger experience offered by the airlines shuttling passengers around this continent in business class is often front of my mind these days. Whether British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France or any of the other carriers I’ve flown recently, it frequently strikes me that these are minting money from what should be a highly competitive product, but offering very little to passengers in return for their money.

Business class is big business: rather a lot of European routes wouldn’t survive in their current form and frequency without the injection of extra cash from travellers up front, while these large network carriers are betting big on connecting premium passengers between non-hub European airports and longhaul destinations — connections that require a premium offering on the shorter leg.

It strikes me that there are five relatively simple ways that I’d like to see Eurobusiness evolve to focus on passenger experience rather than taking premium travellers for granted.

First up: ditch the catering and instead offer business passengers what’s available on the buy-on-board menu, as part of the service. It’s fairly clear that the trajectory of most legacy European airlines is heading towards the buy-on-board model in economy class. But the example of British Airways is one to avoid, with the carrier introducing what is, on balance, actually a very good buy-on-board selection in partnership with a relatively prestigious retailer on the ground for economy, while at the same time slashing costs in business.

The end result: a business class passenger experience where one of the two usually unsavoury options often runs out, leaving either a school dinner-type warm half-sandwich or a “salad plate” that could only charitably be described as appetiser-sized.

Much better to go the low-cost carrier route, allowing passengers free rein from the buy-on-board menu. This worked well on both Eurowings and Vueling (with their Best and Excellence fare packages, respectively), and is one to emulate.

Remember when British Airways offered 34″ of legroom? Image? John Walton

Second item: crack down on outstation contractors. I’ve lost count of the times that European airlines’ marketing promises have been broken by third-party ground handlers. It doesn’t help that my home airport is Lyon, where the incumbent handlers are some of the least efficient and most feckless that I’ve ever encountered, but it’s by no means exclusive to that airport. Birmingham, which I use frequently, is equally poor.

All too often, third-party handlers show up at different times to that advertised by the airline. Priority checkin doesn’t exist, even when promised, there’s no arrangement for a fast-track service, and lounges are dim, windowless boxes with a truly dire food and beverage offering.

(It’s especially frustrating when airlines that ensure a proper premium lounge offering in their longhaul lounges at distant outstations, even going so far as to design and contract additional food and beverage options, choose not to do the same closer to home.)

And priority boarding is ignored, unsigned, unannounced and unacknowledged, leaving travellers the unpleasant decision of whether to cut their way to the front of the queue and earn the glares of their fellow travellers, or to twiddle their thumbs behind increasing numbers of other passengers waiting to pack the overhead bins of today’s densified aircraft.

Here’s the thing: business class passengers pay — whether in cash or miles — for a priority airport experience. If ground handlers aren’t delivering it, then airlines either need to stop promising that experience or shake their handlers up to provide it.

Third on my list: actual bottles of water. Whether during the sweaty, largely un-airconditioned European summer, or after rushing through a variably heated airport in an outdoor coat in the winter, it would be hardly surprising if passengers might appreciate a long drink of water.

Yet it’s strange how few airlines offer even a small bottle of water to passengers, and with boarding largely taking place through doors 1 — and no culture of pre-departure beverages, unlike some other business class markets — it’s left until the drinks trolley comes round to offer a tiny glass of water, usually in the thimble-sized wine glasses that barely wet your whistle.

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