Airlines and their Awards

There are a handful of airlines, mostly in the Gulf, that constantly refer to themselves as an “award-winning airline”. I have just received a Press Release from Etihad who even refer to their frequent flyer programme as “the award-winning frequent flyer programme”. Emirates started this nonsense and the “me-too” airlines, Qatar and Etihad have followed.

There are so many airline awards, it is actually very difficult to find any airline that has not won plenty of awards.

A few awards are genuine, many are regionally biased (can we really be very surprised when the readers of a Swiss business magazine vote Swiss as the world’s best airline?) and quite a lot of awards are made by companies that make a healthy living by by organising these “competitions”.  Airlines and hoteliers are encouraged to book tables for expensive ceremonies and, either vote for each other or the organisers arrange for the more generous sponsors to be suitably rewarded.

Can you guess which airline has won the following awards?

Airline of the Year

Best Managed Airline

Best Value Airline

Yes, it was everyone’s favourite, Ryanair. In fact the only one of those awards we might question is the last. Furthermore, since the last thing that Ryanair is going to do is pay for awards through the back door, you can assume these were all obtained fairly.

When an airline finds it necessary to begin every Press Release by making some sort of boast, they are just showing their inferiority complex. Virgin also used to call themselves “award-winning” but now seem to have settled on “one of the world’s leading long haul airlines” which is just as silly. Airlines like Lufthansa and American Airlines do not have to bother with this  because we all know that they genuinely are amongst the world’s leading airlines.

Emirates, Qatar and Etihad are all perfectly decent airlines in their way but for an airline to boast of its awards is like advertising that their aircraft all have engines. It would do no harm if airlines got together and stopped supporting some of the most obviously corrupt awards presentations. At the moment, some airlines feel they have to participate – at substantial expense – or risk losing out to a competitor. A little concerted action between airlines would save them all money.

BBC Panorama 0 – Ryanair 1

The BBC “expose” of Ryanair was a very limp affair notable only for a lugubrious presenter who appeared to be in acute hemorrhoidal discomfort.

Ryanair must be delighted with the publicity which showed that,  despite some rather stiff charges for extras, they remain enormously popular.

We imagine Ryanair will thrive for years to come, even without more free advertising from the BBC, but there are a couple of areas of concern that Panorama missed completely.

You can read more about this in the November issue of Inside Traveller.

Different Thoughts for Different Days – by Ryanair

“The EU is an evil empire – I think we should blow the place up and shoot all the regulators” – Michael O’Leary 2005

“Ireland’s future success depends on being at he heart of Europe” – Michael O’Leary August 2009 when he announced a €500,000 contribution to the “Vote Yes to Europe” campaign and unveiled one of his aircraft painted with campaign slogans.

There is a genuine possibility that Ireland will vote against the EU constitution in the October vote which would leave it little option but to withdraw from the union. Ryanair would be forced to move its legal base to mainland Europe and face serious disruption as it would have to renegotiate some of its routes.

EU Made to look foolish by comments on Emirates

A few weeks ago, the EU’s directorate of Health and Consumers published its long-awaited list of airlines that were not living up to to the required standards of transparent pricing on their websites. One of the airlines listed as “non-compliant” was Emirates.

We could not understand this and nor could Emirates who complained very loudly. We are certainly not unconditional fans of Emirates (rather the reverse in fact) but it has to be said their website meets all the standards of transparency one could expect. The fare is displayed in full at the beginning of the search process and there are no booking fees. “The fare you see is the fare you pay” – what could possibly be wrong with this?

Compare Emirates with flybe (who were listed as non-compliant but promising to make the required alterations:

Flybe display fares net of taxes and charges which are only added when you click on a specific fare (we think this is quite wrong but the EU seems to accept it).

You are then pre-sold insurance, baggage charges and pestered to reserve your seat. To avoid the extra charges for insurance and baggage you have to de-select the items by un-ticking the purchase box. This is, quite rightly, not allowed by the EU.

Even worse, right at the end of the booking process, a booking fee suddenly appears. There is no warning of this and it is surely against EU guidelines. The EU legislation was supposed to ensure that the first price you see (once you have ticked the fare to include taxes and charges) should be the price for which you can travel. This is not the case with flybe.

Now, we have to ask, how on earth did the EU manage to make its comments about Emirates. Had a junior clerk made a mistake? Did no one check? Surely before making such damaging accusations, senior people make absolutely sure of the facts.

The EU has been made to look very foolish indeed. They have now been forced to apologise and even commend Emirates for its high standards. Unfortunately, this incident leads us to question whether the EU Directorate for Health and Consumers really has a clue what it is doing. The legislation regarding transparent pricing was well-intentioned but if the people policing it are capable of such gross errors, there is little hope.

British Airways 2 for 1 Business Class Offer

This special offer for longhaul flight bookings made over the May Day weekend is certainly one of the best BA have ever come up with. It is not unusual for airlines to suddenly increase fares in the days before promoting a special offer which suddenly reduces the rates again. On this occasion, BA seem to be playing fair and the 2 for 1 prices are a genuine discount on the fares you would expect to pay.

We checked quite a few fares and routes and did find some routes where BA has had slightly better special fares during previous promotions but, with two passengers travelling, there is still a bigger discount with the new promotion.

It is worth remembering that BA have a habit of running special promotions for a few days over holiday weekends. The next UK holiday is 25th May so you might look out for a deal being announced on the Wednesday or Thursday before the weekend. Other airlines are well aware of BA’s habit of promoting deals over long weekends so it is highly likely a few other airlines will announce special deals for the next holiday.

Maybe a new promotion will offer special fares for those buying just one ticket.

If you are interested in the current 2 for 1 deal you have until midnight on 5th May.