Saturday, March 29, 2008

Scotland Targeted By British Airways...I Don't Think So.

The furore over BA's failings with the new terminal 5 has inevitably given Alex Salmond the chance to complain that once again Scotland is being treated unfairly. He was on the BBC news last night wagging on about it and saying Scotland was fed up. He said passengers were getting "fed up". Andy Willox, of the Federation of Small Business Scotland, added his voice to the complaints: "It is an open secret that flights to and from Scotland are the first to be scrapped in order to clear the backlog and handle more lucrative international flights." So did Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce: "It seems once again that services to and from Scotland are suffering disproportionately."

The simple fact is that flights to Glasgow and Edinburgh are amongst BA's most frequent services and from an airline point of view it is easier to cancel flights on routes where you operate a higher frequency. That way it's possible to combine loads onto other services. The first thing that airline schedulers do is to look at is the booked loads and then try and figure how to cause the minimum disruption - for both passengers and the airline. To suggest that this is some anti-Scottish thing is plain daft.

The First Minister used the opportunity to once again call for more direct flights from Scotland. "Filtering everything through Heathrow leaves us extremely vulnerable, we need more direct flights and of course we should have a fast train service north to south." It's as though he lives in an economic vacuum. No matter how much he wants an independent Scotland it will not automatically create demand for enough passengers to bring about a surge in direct services. Quite a few flights that have started up in the last three years with the Scottish governments route start up grants have ceased for lack of passengers. In the economic realities of aviation it's all about profit, not politics.


John said...

As one of those who is regularly funneled through Gatwick/Heathrow by BA when travelling to/from Scotland I can empathise with Alex Salmond's comments. Because of my experience of abruptly cancelled flights I now take the precaution, when I have a morning connection out of London, of leaving Scotland the day before and overnighting at an airport hotel. It may have escaped your notice but a number of US airlines have been steadily increasing their direct flights into Glasgow/Edinburgh and bypassing London. My preferred routing to Scotland is now via New York instead of London. BA with it's infatuation with it's London hubs is going to wake up one day to find that more and more of it's passengers are choosing to fly on other airlines in order to avoid London.It will then have good reason to cancel some of it's shuttle flights permananently.

Richard Havers said...

John, you miss my point. It's about economics not dreams. I would love non stop flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to many more cities but there just isn't the traffic. BA's is not an infatuation with its London hub it's a simple case of what makes a hub and spoke network profitable.

One of Scotland's biggest problems to having a better international route network is having two competing airports so close together. One airport somewhere between Edinburgh and Glasgow with a rapid transit train system to each city centre would be my fantasy.