Now boarding, the so-called steerage class


I must begin by saying I despise almost every American air carrier, with United being far, and away, the worst.

But, just yesterday, I experienced a most horrific customer experience on a British Airways flight from Rome to Heathrow.

Truth be told, I had made my coach reservation at the last second but, based upon BA’s superb reputation, I was expecting a superior boarding experience a la Southwest or JetBlue in the States. Silly me.

To begin with, BA has more classes of membership than an oversubscribed class of Oxford freshman.

I stood in the boarding area as first, global class passengers were welcomed to find their seats. They were followed, in turn, by world class, continent class, St. John’s Wood class (which had to have been comprised of Sir Paul, Ringo and Klaus Voormann) and, then, blue or red class (I couldn’t detect based upon the accent).

That was followed by economy elite, economy and last, and certainly least, street urchins like me. I decided we should be called the steerage class, since that’s how the gate agents made us feel.

As expected, I was seated in the penultimate row, along with my fellow steerage passengers. (I must say the whole thing reminded me of the boarding process on RMS Titanic, with me in the role of Leo, of course).

But, wait love, it got even worse.

Conditioned as I am to grabbing the first available overhead space for my bag, I spotted an empty cubby hole above row 17. Immediately after inserting my bag into the tiny crevasse, I heard a stern voice from a BA flight attendant asking, “Sorry, sir, but is your seat in row 17?” I shook my head no, but added with a smile, “We Americans are trained to grab the first available overhead space when we board.”

Well, that comment sat about as well as a German V2 rocket falling on a helpless London circa 1944. The oh-so-sweet BA flight attendant snapped, “Well, that may be. But, we simply don’t put up with that sort of behavior here. Take your bag back to the row you’ve been assigned.”

I was both upset and non-plussed. What had become of British manners? Is this how Richard Branson built Virgin? I think not.

I know one should not judge an entire airline based upon a single, sullied experience. But, if last night’s rudeness is any indication, BA has moved to the bottom of the customer experience standings right alongside the rightly despised United Airlines.

BA did everything possible to make me feel like the steerage class passenger they’d singled out for boorish behavior from the very first touch point.

And, after tonight’s abomination, methinks the BA in British Airways should really stand for Boorish Attitude. It fits them tighter than an overhead bag being squeezed into the Row 17 overhead compartment.


Comments are closed.