Rivals poach customers from BA after months of strikes

2.8.2010 (FT)

By Pilita Clark, Aerospace Correspondent

While all airlines were affected by the ash airspace closures, none had to deal
with the protracted strikes by BA’s flight crew that some competitors claim have led to a big shift in business
away from the airline.

Virgin Atlantic said it estimated at least 50,000 BA passengers switched to it
during the stoppages and had seen "a fairly smooth increase of around 4,000 customers
each week" since the BA walkouts started in March.

Other airlines have also said they have gained business. EasyJet said it saw "a benefit of about £7m as consumers switched to EasyJet from British
Airways during their recent period of industrial unrest".

The budget airline hopes that some of those switching will remain EasyJet customers.
"There’s a lot of reasons for people to stay with us but obviously we need to
keep providing a punctual and reliable service," it said.

Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, BMI chief executive, said passengers – which BMI actively
courted by offering easy switches to its flights and airport lounge access – had
stayed on, especially those travelling to eastern European destinations.

BA has already estimated that the cost of the strikes could be as high as £150m,
but denies they have had an impact on customer loyalty.

"The vast majority of our customers were able to get to their destinations on
British Airways during the cabin crew strikes," BA said. "Our customers are very
loyal and we are extremely grateful for all their support and continued confidence
in the airline."

The Unite union representing BA cabin crew has called for fresh talks with the
airline after staff rejected BA’s latest offer