If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I hope you’re expecting a calm analysis of yesterday’s announcement of a 12 day strike of British Airways cabin crew, effectively grounding the airline over the busy Christmas holiday season (remember schools only break up this coming Friday in the UK, so the holidays are for two weeks starting this weekend). Well, you’re going to be disappointed. As frequent travelers, all of us at TomorrowToday tend to lose our rag with airlines and airports. I am normally a calm individual, proud of being unflappable. But put me in an airport, and somehow the red mist descends…

So, here is what I can’t understand.

The cabin crew are going on strike because they’re upset. Their strike is designed is to “hurt management”, which means “to reduce company profits”. They say that they do not want to hurt customers. This is complete nonsense. If they wanted to hurt profits, they would announce a strike for at least three months in advance. There are very few people who have not already booked and paid for their flights over the next month. So, yes, BA will have to give refunds, but actually they will save money, since there will be massively reduced operational costs. The biggest losers here are not management, but the customers. And most of those are families, hard hit by the recession of the past year, who have scraped and saved up for a holiday abroad. They will lose not only their airfare, but may have to forfeit the holiday and the costs of hotels, cars, etc. And BA management will bu unhurt.

So, the cabin crews must not try that line on me. Their goal is disruption and chaos. The outcome will be heartache and pain.

I don’t want to comment here on the merits and demerits of the issue. I am sure the cabin crew have legitimate gripes. And I am equally sure that management has a solid case. Although, I must admit that in a world where the average CEO now earns 81 times more than the average worker (I am not sure if this is true at BA, but that is the UK average according to the FT last weekend), I am tending more and more to side with the disgruntled worker in these issues. There is little doubt in my mind that these are the signs of an industry in the midst of a massive institutional shakeup. And equally the rhetoric of this strike is a sign that neither side has understood how much disruptive change their industry is actually facing.

But I don’t want to comment on that. Others will do so, ad nauseum, I suspect.

I’d like to revisit an airline strike that really hit our business hard in 2005. It happened in South Africa, when South African Airways cabin crew went on a “go slow”, “no service” strike that lasted for weeks. I wrote a short blog entry in frustration while delayed at an airport (again). It got huge response, and is still in the top 5 all time read posts on our blogsite. Read it here – read the comments especially. (A few days earlier I had tried to be more rational – read that here).

I requested responses on what we, as passengers, could do to “strike back” at the cabin crew after their strike was over. Since they deliberately and maliciously have targeted customers, rather than management, let’s not take it lying down. I asked for ways that we could – within the law, and without going overboard – make their lives more difficult and make their work experience that much more unpleasant. As I said above, I am not a vindictive person – in fact, I think I am generous, kind and other-centered to a fault sometimes. But, I am sick of being at the mercy of the airlines and their out of touch industry. So, see this as “sending a message”, just like their strike is supposed to be doing.

In 2005, I liked the following suggestions the most:

  • Wear your sunglasses on the plane, and tell the cabin crew that you are visually impaired and need additional assistance – with everything.
  • Request a personal emergency procedures briefing. By law they have to offer one if asked. If every single row asked for one on every flight, they’d be absolutely finished off! This is my favourite.
  • Just never fly with them again (and let them know you won’t).
  • Put stuff into the seat pouch in front of you. Especially stuff your stale airline food into it – yes, I do mean that half eaten bread roll. (Although on BA, they have ground crew who’d have to sort this out, so maybe it doesn’t do what we want it to do).

So, what are your ideas? How do we let the BA cabin crew know how unhappy we are with their strike, which hurts their customers WAY more than it hurts management?

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