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British Airways lets down its passengers again

It is perhaps with some weary resignation that British Airways passengers have had to contend with yet another IT failure this week, with dozens of them stranded for hours on end, due to technical issues.

If this were a one-off for International Consolidated Airlines Group one might be minded to be a little more charitable, but this is the latest in a litany of IT issues that has caused considerable inconvenience to British Airways passengers of which I am a regular flyer, on trips to Ireland.

Earlier this year, in August, passengers encountered problems with check in procedures, and before that in 2017 there was also a widespread power failure which caused considerable inconvenience to thousands of passengers. BA’s passengers also had to contend with a highly damaging pilots strike in the summer which saw IAG report lower profits for this year, earlier this month.

At a time when airlines are involved in a scramble for market share, and struggling with over capacity you would think that an airline, which at one point described itself as “The World’s Favourite Airline” would get its act together and upgrade its IT infrastructure to cope with the demands of the 21st Century.

These sorts of IT failure are not only unacceptable, they also speak to underinvestment in the underlying business, and aren’t the only part of the business that could do with extra capital expenditure.

British Airways fleet in part, also looks a little tired and tatty when compared to an airline like Emirates where the age of aircraft is much newer, and where the finish is so much better.

The average age of BA’s fleet is well over 10 years old, and it really does show in some of the cabins of its aircraft, when compared to Emirates whose average age for aircraft is around 7 years.

Earlier this month IAG announced that it was spending €1bn in acquiring Air Europa, the third largest Spanish airline after Iberia and Vueling, which it also owns.

One can’t help thinking that €1bn might be put to better use in upgrading its long haul and short haul fleet, as well as its IT infrastructure, before it loses out to its nimbler peers.

At the moment it seems more determined to go after the budget market, rather than focussing on its core UK brand which used to be a byword for much higher standards than the ones we have become used to now.

British Airways passengers and staff deserve better, from BA management who seem more intent on expanding the business, rather than improving the current offering.

Investors for now don’t seem too concerned, with the share price on course for a modest decline, however unless BA addresses these problems swiftly they may find the decline happens gradually over time, with the share price already down 6% year to date, and down over 20% from its record highs in the summer of last year.

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