Ghana’s President Thinks British Airways Should Improve Service Quality

It seems I’m not the only one who isn’t a huge fan of service on British Airways. 😉

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is Ghana’s new president as of this year, and on Tuesday he met with British Airways’ head of sales for the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia, Paolo De Renzis. Apparently the meeting was to commemorate the election of a new president, and also to celebrate British Airways operating flights to Ghana for nearly 80 years, and their continued commitment to the market.

British-Airways-747

During this meeting, Ghana’s new president apparently brought up the “pre-occupations of [Ghana’s] people,” which is that service on British Airways isn’t good. Per the Government of Ghana:

“People complain about the movement (of flights to and from Accra) from Terminal five to Terminal three at Heathrow. Terminal three is not so convenient place as Terminal five. There are also complaints about the quality of the planes on the route and the service. In some quarters, there is a feeling that you are taking us a little for granted in the way in which we are receiving your services.”

“I think on an occasion like this, for when friends are speaking, I think we should speak frankly. I think I am the proper person to let you know what the pre-occupations of our people are. These are matters that will be easy for you to rectify,” President Akufo-Addo told Renzis.

Hah! British Airways flies the 747 between London and Ghana, which for years was the backbone of their fleet. So it’s interesting that the president thinks the quality of the plane and service is inferior.

In the past I’ve called British Airways first class the world’s best business class, so it looks like Ghana’s president may have similar feelings.

British-Airways-First-Class-JFK-01

For those of you not familiar, British Airways’ home is at Heathrow Terminal 5, though they also operate some flights out of Terminal 3, due to capacity constraints. The flight to Accra departs from Terminal 3. However, perhaps it’s time he revisit Terminal 3 at Heathrow, since the new Cathay Pacific lounge opened. Based on what I’ve seen, it looks to me like it’s better than the lounges offered by British Airways at Terminal 5.

Cathay-Pacific-Lounge-Heathrow

British Airways is also eventually introducing a new service in business class, which should improve the overall experience. However, there’s also the possibility of them eventually cutting free food & drinks in economy, so…

(Tip of the hat to Yu)

Comments

  1. The lounges at T3 and T5 are fine, however, the bus transfer experience between both terminals is a not-so-premium experience. Especially if you travel in business or even First Class.
    They should think about a limousine transfer service between both terminals, at least for their F service.

  2. I’m American but fly to Africa a lot, and I see where he’s coming from. It’s similar to how I’ve seen FAs on British Airways treat their customers on routes to India…with a certain air of superiority and condescension that’s perhaps vestigial from colonial days. I’ve experienced such snootiness on those routes; hard to tell if it’s because a) BA just puts their worst FAs on these routes, b) only the bad FAs volunteer for these routes, or c) there really is some racism going on.

    In any case, it’s really annoying and unfair. Contrast this with Delta, whose flights to Dakar and Lagos always seem to be staffed by peppy and kind FAs.

  3. Was in the CX T3 lounge yesterday and it’s streaks ahead of what BA offers in either T3 or their flagship T5 lounges. BA is coasting and not in a good way.

  4. Yep CX lounges much better than BA. I like flying from T3, although I will try the new first wing thing at T5 just to compare…

  5. @QR
    “It’s similar to how I’ve seen FAs on British Airways treat their customers on routes to India…with a certain air of superiority and condescension that’s perhaps vestigial from colonial days.”

    Ha! Nothing to do with vestiges of colonialism (if it were, they’d be doing the same to you as an American). That’s just how BA treats *all* passengers, including fellow Brits.

    For us, it’s normal – though I know lots of you complain that KLM’s culturally similar FAs are “cold” – presumably because they don’t simper over you, or kneel when they take your food orders?

    On the other hand, LHR is an enormous hellhole, so anyone who thinks shifting terminals will make much difference to the experience is simply deluded.

  6. The condescending behaviour from most legacy BA cabin crews is dispensed to everyone who is not flying full fare First Class. I am English and find the service to be ultra patronising, even when I have occasionally flown in First. It’s not discrimination. It’s still not good though. An experience on the BA56 from Joburg that lands in LHR at 5.30am has been one of my “highlights”. They chose to wake everyone up in Club at around 3.45am by turning on every light and trundling trolleys with elephantine footsteps through the cabin. Other carriers are far more sensitive on such early morning overnight flights. Best to fly those other carriers. For short haul from the UK; EasyJet are best. For long haul Virgin beats BA by miles. Even AA does now across the Atlantic.

  7. Maybe Ghana’s national airline could start service instead. Oh, wait…

    They should be grateful to have BA service at all, given how mercilessly they’ve hacked at their African network over the last two decades.

    This is no different from the premier of Bengal alleging racism because BA dropped Kolkata, or AA maintaining hot meal service on Miami-Port au Prince because the Haitian government claims it’s racist if they don’t. If any of these countries were capable of running viable airlines, they could have all the fawning service and hot meals they want.

  8. I’m a long time reader from Ghana.

    The 747-400 that BA use is poorly maintained, and as another reader mentioned the staff can be incredibly condescending on flights to/from Accra. It’s better in Business Class (at least as good as BA Business can be) but in Economy, it’s not as good as it looks on paper.

    Also, for the vast majority of people, the quality of premium cabins and lounge options don’t matter at all — I don’t think that’s what President Akuffo-Addo was talking about.

  9. Honestly, this is why BA is not doing well financially. Those traveling to Africa and India from London are no longer flying BA regularly. Most actively avoid it. Less about the minute difference in prices and much more about quality of service (and food). The quality of analytics at this place is terrifyingly poor.

  10. Don, unless you are air-side then the best way to get from T5 to T3 is the “Heathrow Express” train, which is free within the airprot

  11. QR, the difference may be that for Delta, an African destination is exotic and eclectic, and they may invest their best resources into those flights. But for BA African routes while important, probably produce less revenues than their Asian and North American routes.

  12. Snore. We get it, you don’t like BA.

    The president of Ghana thinks his people are preoccupied with this? Not sure he’s backing up your point about First class, or that he’s even credible if the first place.

  13. Dang, when African countries start lamenting how bad BA is, you know it really tanked. They used to be a pretty good airline in the 90s, they were my fave to fly, even flew on their Concorde. Even Emirates back then couldn’t hold a candle to BA.

  14. @DC-PHLyer
    “Honestly, this is why BA is not doing well financially.”

    Are you insane? BA – and parent company IAG – are making huge profits. London generates more premium traffic than pretty much anywhere, and BA has a stranglehold over LHR slots.

    It’s because they’re rolling in cash that they currently have no incentive to improve.

  15. Ben, why would you call BA First the “world’s best business class” instead of the “world’s worst first class”?

  16. I’ve been fortunate to have only had at least good FA’s on my BA flights and I’ve been mostly content with the food, not usually things I’d be thrilled with in a restaurant but better than work canteens.

    I 100% agree on the mess of transferring terminals at LHR. They need to fix it for everyone, but at least for the premium passengers a car service is warranted.

  17. I really think the aircraft flown to Ghana and to the rest of the world are the same. Don´t think BA has one or two dedicated 747 to Ghana services. What can make the difference is the treatment the pax receive by the crew.

    Up to last year BA used to fly to Brazil daily to GRU (São Paulo) and GIG ( Rio de Janeiro). 747-400 and 777-200 services respectively. Pax usually complained about the Jumbo insted of the T7 so I think the airplane used must be the reason for Ghana´s president complain insted of lounges.

  18. How amusing! Rightly so, BA’s service can’t compare with the fantastic service on Ghana Airways….oh wait, Ghana Airways ceased operations in 2015. Awwww too bad!
    Perhaps the pre-occupation of the people should be to revive the national airline and give BA a run for its money?

  19. As a reader from Ghana that consistently flies out of the capital, Accra, I say damn straight!!!

    British Airways service to Ghana is not great. Their moving the flight from Terminal 5 to Terminal 3 only adds insult to injury.

    And it’s honestly a common practice amongst airlines flying to West Africa. Emirates does the same thing, flying their older 777s while using their newer 777s to other destinations in Asia, Europe etc.

    They need to start respecting West Africa more because Africans are travelling more than ever and we demand the same service that is afforded to other passengers.

  20. Akosua,

    It’s not about “respect” but about “revenue” BA’s revenues from Ghana are probably less than 1% of their revenues from the US. Commercial airlines are not utilities or charities and only invest where the returns are.

    And if the business case for flights to and from Ghana is so compelling, why aren’t other airlines competing? Where is Ghana Airlines?

  21. @Stephen and others re. BA service, especially legacy crews. I did find this sometime true in the past (two or three years ago) but I feel like it is different these days.

    I have never paid cash for First (only avios upgrades or amex 2-4-1) and have only had excellent service in First. Although I will say that this year, very exceptionally, I’m currently at almost 3,000 tier points and there is a step change in welcome and treatment from longhaul FAs, whatever the cabin I’m in (even WTP). Also true of other OW carriers.

    Some of the stories I’ve read on here (First FAs “stomping off” when asked to turn the air down, etc.) seem so exaggerated. If someone is rude to me in any service environment I pull them up on the spot — but can’t picture it happening as it is far from my experiences.

    I will say the style is sometimes quite dry and professional rather than gushing and jovial, something I feel culturally comfortable with, or even prefer sometimes when I just want to eat and sleep immediately.

    On the other hand, whining J pax who seem eternally disappointed with every reasonable FA response to non-problems are much more common IMHO and similar in the business lounges at Heathrow!

    BA is a long way from the best and yes products are not as good as ME etc. Some of the comments are fair, but I just feel some must be exaggerated.

    Hoping to add some Africa routes to the list late this year and into next so I will compare and contrast when it comes to it!

  22. Wow – kettle calling the pot black. Understood – BA has many failings, we know that, they are well documented. But having visited Ghana/Accra multiple times their sub-Sharan government should focus on their own peoples problems first.

    really …

  23. @QR – Totally agree

    @Paul – What a foolish comment. Are you really comparing the “colonization” of the US to India and Africa? The US and Great Britian are both western cultures with much, much higher GDP’s and standards of living compared to a place like Ghana. So many things wrong with that comment I don’t even know where to start. The poor service to places like India and Africa (not only by BA but most airlines) is absolutely rooted in racism.

    While I am not suggesting Lucky is racist, his observations about Indians/Bangladeshis/Asians, etc (first time flyers from low and middle income countries) not being aware there is assigned seating, leaving the bathroom dirty and the floors full of water etc speaks to this. People from certain countries and cultures are considered “less civilized” for lack of a better term, and in some cases they appear rude (particularly in cultures like India where manners such as ‘please’ ‘thank you’ etc are not as commonly used as in Western cultures) and as such the service reflects that. I know Qantas FA’s who express their disdain for serving Indians on flights for this reason.

    It’s always hilarious how many white Western men find it their duty to inform the rest of the world that racism doesn’t exist.

  24. or maybe he’s just looking for a really good first class ticket out of their with mis-appropriated aid money that never made it to the people it was supposed to help. I suppose we’ll never know ……

  25. @Martin, what’s the point of having a national airline when you have competition from the likes of KLM and, just recently, Air France. And a national airline is a real possibility for that the brand new government is considering.

  26. Let me begin with a few factual points of clarification then drill down deeper in to them
    1. BA currently offers the only direct flight between LHR & ACC.
    2. BA execs came to pay a courtesy call on the president.
    3. Many will agree that general standards of service delivery have dropped across the board & in all classes on BA.

    So… A bit more detail with my two cents thrown in as a resident in Accra and someone who flies in and out monthly on a range of carriers.

    1. BA’s monopoly on this route means that they are under no immediate pressure to improve standards. However, for the economy passenger, when given the choice of a $1400+ Y direct round trip or $500-$800 with a short stopover with TK, TP, AF or KL, the choice is becoming increasingly easy to make. The old Ghana Airways and Ghana International Airlines were both extremely sorry affairs that were run in to the ground through mismanagement and corruption. The task of restarting a new flag carrying airline has been made all the more difficult by the market now being dominated by large international carriers with established route networks that can easily subsidise a price war against a small, local carrier.

    2. To those commenting that the president has more pressing matters to attend to, that is true. BUT, BA requested a meeting and he granted it. If you are meeting with BA executives, you’re more likely to discuss the displeasure with your citizens with the service that is being offered to them (which has been quite a big topic both in conventional and social media in the country recently) than you are to talk about the fiscal deficit… To shed some light on the relationship, this is a route that has run for 80 uniterrupted years (if we include BOAC) and, in percentage terms, is hugely profitable for BA.

    3. When talking about onboard service, it is important to realise what has been previously mentioned which is that some travellers are coming from a background where it is not necessary to show good manners towards someone that is seen to be serving you, including cabin crew. Whilst that must be incredibly frustrating for FAs, they must try their best to maintain a professional attitude and not tar all Ghanaian travellers with the same brush. I once had an FA boldly walk up to me as I sat in my J seat and tell my “sorry sir, you can’t sit here, your seat is further back” and still demand to see my boarding card when I told her that, actually, I was in the right seat, no apology followed either.
    Ground service is another story all together, the flight is very regularly delayed ex London and Accra, both check in and baggage claim in Accra are regularly 90 minutes or more, not to mention the frequency with which bags are deliberately left at LHR.

    There are obviously two sides to every story and we must all remember that BA is first and foremost a business that exists to make product. However, they risk losing serious revenue on this route if standards don’t start improving soon.

    P.S Maybe we could get moved to T5 if we spent as much as Nigerians do, apparently they’re they highest spenders at Heathrow, an average of $1,500+ per visit….! Both LOS and ABV flights still depart from T5, could be pure coincidence

  27. Also flying out of T3 are BA’s long haul routes to:

    Cape Town, South Africa
    Denver, USA
    Las Vegas, USA
    Miami, USA
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Phoenix, USA
    Vancouver, Canada

    As well as numerous European flights. Using T3 as a reason for discrimination is simply pathetic. What would the people of the other carriers operating out of T3 say? Including Emirates, Virgin and Delta as well as most of OneWorld?

    Yes, provide feedback about poor service (I second that). But don’t look for any excuse to make out you are being discriminated against! Same goes about aircraft use! As a matter of fact, India has always gotten the most updated products – they were one of the first routes BA put their 777-300ER on with the new premium cabins. US routes have always had the entire range of equipment depending on the airport involved – from ancient 767s up until recently, to the A380. Johannesburg gets A380s from T5, Cape Town gets 747s from T3! Is this a case of regional discrimination? What will Western Canada say? British Columbia of all states, gets a flight out of T3!

  28. @Lauren
    Ah, poor, poor Lauren, unable to see any playfulness in your joyless world…

    Of course the British colonisation of different countries was different: in the US we engaged in genocidal warfare against the original inhabitants, while in India we just sent a handful of thousands of people and encouraged the local rival tribes to fight each other (the phrase “divide and conquer” reached its ultimate expression here).

    The problem here is America’s obsession with race. I get that: out of 250 years of independent existence, the first century was spent as a slave state; the second century was an apartheid state; only in the last 50 years has the US started to embrace civil rights. With that sort of history *of course* you will see everything as an expression of racism.

    Does racism still exist? Well, d’oh. Of course it does. Everywhere I’ve travelled, to varying degrees. But the suggestion that BA somehow operates a racist culture as a matter of course strikes me as so far from the truth that it’s laughable.

    And if you didn’t spot that my humour was designed to highlight the subtle racism of the original comment (“those Indians and Africans are helpless victims of colonialism, whilst us proud Americans are nobody’s bitches…” – despite the US also being a sprout of Britain’s imperial/ colonial policies), well, perhaps you should look behind your assumptions next time. Not everything is racism.

  29. I find it amusing that by using T3 and 747s, BA is now accused of racism. As mentioned above, many other destinations both in Africa and North America go from T3 and use the same aircraft.

    As for the punctuality of the Accra flight, it’s been much better in recent months than when it was in T5 and I’d argue that the service from T3 is more attentive due to a smaller team and operation. I’ve never known anyone to deliberately leave bag behind either….it costs more to reunite them with customers so there is no incentive not to load them.

    The accusation of racism is easy to make without any facts. BA has it’s faults and doesn’t have the most update products but to claim that this shows racism because of aircraft or terminal used in certain routes is a far stretch. What about those routes from Gatwick on 777s with the older products…is BA discriminating against the Caribbean, New York, Tampa, Oakland, etc?

    If those that complain want the removal of the 747 because it’s old, just realise that any change could lead to a reduced capacity due to the nature of the BA fleet.

  30. @Paul — Not sure how my original comment was subtly racist. It’s well documented that the nature of colonialism in Africa and India was much more extractive and brutal, not to mention the obvious fact that colonialism in Africa and India was much more recent. No one alive remembers British colonialism in America, but my parents, aunt, uncles, etc. all remember British colonialism in India (I’m a naturalized American citizen, but of Indian origin. And I actually grew up in the UK!).

    In any case, I found your original point compelling—that this is just how BA treats everyone, not just select markets! From personal experience, though, I’d say there’s something else going on. If it’s not race-related, it’s good old-fashioned classism.

  31. @QR
    I liked your post.

    I think there are good academic debates to be had about which colony ended up with the most pain under British Imperial control: I would agree with your classification of colonialism in India as being primarily abstractive (average income for an Indian peasant did not increase by a single penny in the 200 years between 1750 and 1950. Not a penny).

    But I wouldn’t necessarily agree that the regimes in the settler colonies – US, Canada, Australia, NZ – were less brutal. British imperial policy was effectively genocide in some parts of those places for some periods. Tasmania was possibly the worst place in the British Empire: not a single aboriginal was left alive. That strikes me as significantly more brutal than policy in India and Africa.

    I guess my point to Lauren was that if everything in your polity is infected with vicious racism, you’re more likely to see racism everywhere (“if your only tool is a hammer, everything will look like a nail”).

    But that’s all a long way from BA’s treatment of passengers.

  32. Considering I have flow round trip SIN-ACC in Dec 2016, twice in 2017, and 2 more trips planned over the next 4 weeks, I can attest that the Club World seats and IFE aren’t as nice as those on newer versions. The aircraft was swapped out for a different 747 which had more biz seats and that aircraft was much fresher and had IFE with a proper selection, updated finishings, seat controls, remote, etc.

    The President is smoking crack…. I can’t speak for economy class. I’ll be in First Class on the LHR-ACC in mid-May with the family.

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