British Airways' cabin crew strike
The Independent is too generous to BA. On 17 March, while travelling in southern Africa, I received an email from British Airways saying my Johannesburg-London flight has been cancelled. Because I had booked it via American Airlines (BA's partner in the Oneworld Alliance), BA washed their hands of finding a new booking. At huge expense, from Botswana, I got in touch with American Airlines, who found a flight via Madrid on Iberia.
When I arrived at Johannesburg airport to board that flight, I found the BA service had been reinstated. But because BA had not updated the AA computer I was told I could not transfer to the flight. What is the point of an Oneworld concept if it fails to help the traveller? I got home nine hours late, with my luggage still in South Africa.
Running a reduced service may make good headlines, but BA washing its hands of frequent fliers will sour their relationship with the airline. All in all, a really appalling performance.
I have recently retired as a BA captain and am appalled by the greedy cabin staff. This gravy train has been operating for as long as I can remember, and has its roots from the militant ex-transatlantic ships' stewards who joined BOAC in the 1960s.
The excuse about maintaining "the brand" is total bunkum, used as an excuse for their greedy demands. If you set eyes on the expensive homes and cars these crew have, then you'd know that the poor passenger has provided this exotic lifestyle. BA management has been notoriously weak with cabin staff unions over the years, the reason being "they have a lot of clout". Isn't it great that Willie Walsh has rumbled the gravy train?
BA has a history of dirty tricks. They used them against Virgin. They are now using them against workers. They blackmail staff, withdrawing travel perks for exercising their legal right to strike. Striking is not illegal in the UK (yet). But Willie Walsh seems to think that BA is above the law.
What this awful boss doesn't understand is that to ask the staff to take pay cuts, create a two-tier working environment and get rid of staff – when he is not prepared to make cuts to his own salary – and to make cabin and ground staff have to work harder than they did before for less pay with less staff and back up, is a total disaster waiting to happen.
You mentioned a day-trip to Johor Bahru, across the border in Malaysia, by train. Last November we were setting off for the bus station just off Arab Street for a very cheap bus ride to Johor Bahru, when someone told us it was almost as cheap to take a taxi. There is a stand within the bus station where taxis charge a fixed rate – you wait until the driver has made up a group of four travellers, you can stay in the taxi at the border while the driver deals with formalities (bus passengers have to leave the bus to have their passports checked) and it is unbelievably cheap and comfortable.
It is the same system on the way back, but cheaper, and a very interesting day in between. We dined in a restaurant where you eat as much as you feel like, then slip some money into a book, as much as you think the food was worth. We temple-hopped and shopped, and particularly enjoyed the Sikh Temple where they invited us in for tea and food.
The reward in the Chinese Temple for making a donation is a crash on a huge gong, hit by an elderly man – a gratifying experience.
A pat on the back to your travel editor Simon Calder for cycling instead of driving (even if he is rather smug about it), so it's a pity he recently flew to France both ways instead of taking the excellent Eurostar/TGV service on at least one of the trips.