British Airways’ profits may not fly high much longer

BRITISH AIRWAYS (BA) hoped that 2019 would be a year of celebration. The airline that carries its kingdom’s flag traces its roots back 100 years to a flight between London and Paris which transported one paying passenger and freight that included clotted cream and several brace of grouse. But another date in its corporate history chimes more loudly. In 1924 the British government, reckoning that air connections might help hold together the empire, created Imperial Airways, another forerunner of BA. Before any of its planes took off, its pilots went on strike.

A two-day walkout by BA’s airmen in September 2019 put another dent in a reputation already under strain. As in the 1920s, pay and conditions were a gripe. But the pilots voiced a wider concern. As Brian Strutton of BALPA, their union, puts it, they are frustrated with the “dumbing down” of BA’s service after years of cost-cutting. True, profits are piling up. But doubts are growing over BA’s ability to sustain its financial success and dominant position in Britain.

BA once justifiably advertised itself as the “world’s favourite” airline. Until the mid-2000s it was known for its innovative edge, says Peter Knapp of Landor, a brand consultancy. Its Concorde pioneered supersonic travel and its introduction in 2000 of the first business-class seats that turned into...



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