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British Airways plane
Reuters/Denis Balibouse
British Airways is only slightly above the budget carriers these days.
CASTE SYSTEM

British Airways is now boarding people who buy cheap tickets last

Rosie Spinks
By Rosie Spinks

Quartzy Reporter

An internal communication from British Airways has revealed that the airline plans to alter its boarding process in mid-December to what is known as a “zoned boarding concept.”

The policy, which was leaked by the internet’s most chatty and obsessive frequent flier community, Flyer Talk, is as follows:

British Airways will be changing the way it boards aircraft with the introduction of group boarding in December. This method has been used all around the world by many airlines and aligns BA with partners American Airlines and Iberia. Group boarding simplifies the process, making it easier for customers to understand the boarding sequence at the gate.

At the check-in stage, the customer will be put into a group number dependent on their cabin of travel and frequent-flyer status. This number will then be displayed prominently on the boarding pass, printed or mobile. Customers who are entitled will continue to be offered priority boarding for both long-haul and short-haul domestic.

A predictable deluge of outraged tweets followed, despite the fact that BA is not the first airline to take this step. But the once-revered national carrier’s  public esteem was already suffering, thanks to how quickly its short-haul service has devolved into what is essentially a budget airline, no different from easyJet or Ryanair.

The airline launched hand-baggage only tickets in 2013 on key European routes, and this low-fare economy ticket will have the lowest priority boarding in the new zoned system. The airline also provoked fury when it opted to introduce charges for snacks and drinks on short-haul European flights at the start of 2017—proving once and for all that there is no quicker way to enrage a Brit than revoking access to their gin and tonic.

While these steps may all be in the name of keeping costs low, BA seems to have little regard for its brand. In this year’s Skytrax World Airline Awards, which measures passenger satisfaction, BA slipped to 40th place (one spot above easyJet), and has recently earned itself a dubious new acronym: ABA “anyone but BA.”

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