Why I fly with British Airways

When it comes to buying an air ticket, I have a brand loyalty that transcends all other considerations

Share

I am not what you might call patriotic. I am pleased to have been born British – believing that we, as a people, are naturally tolerant, liberal and welcoming – and I think this country, in its culture and its traditions, has much to recommend it. But beyond that, I find the concept of Britishness a rather nebulous one for today’s polyglot nation. And neither do I get rheumy-eyed when the national anthem is struck up and the glories of Great Britain are invoked. Irrational pride in one’s country? Isn’t that how wars start?

But there is one area in which I am proud to proclaim allegiance to the flag. I am generally a promiscuous consumer, seduced by offers of convenience and economy, but when it comes to buying an air ticket, I have a brand loyalty that transcends all other considerations.

My loyalty to British Airways has been tested over the years and there are aspects of its custom and practice I find egregious. (I think it is unfair to use its older, less comfortable aircraft on long-haul holiday routes – ie, on flights where people are paying with their own hard-earned money – and reserve the brand spanking new fleet for business routes – ie, when many people aren’t paying for themselves.)

But brand allegiance is often an emotionally-driven response and there’s something about BA that must appeal to a sense of national pride I have chosen to sublimate.

A new BBC documentary,  A Very British Airline, started this week and its premise, expressed in the opening sequence, was that BA “sells Britishness as a mark of quality”. Timed to co-incide with the launch of the new Terminal 2 at Heathrow, this programme was the latest in a very familiar genre – we are granted privileged access behind the scenes of a highly visible institution and there’s a human aspect of the narrative that is part-reality show, part-Jeremy Kyle – but it delivered quite a punch in its portrayal of a company that was, well, very British. Apart from one or two Dutch people – and, of course, its CEO – everyone we met was resolutely British, with names like Steve Duffy, or Ros Handley, or Simon Jones, or Alice Kennedy.

But the choice of which airline to patronise is not an entirely illogical one. BA has not had a fatal accident for 29 years and the exhaustive safety training its staff undergoes did nothing to weaken my faith. We followed a group of new recruits to see who would cut it as cabin staff and, as one pointed out, “it was like being in the military”. One of their number failed to make the grade and his colleagues, who’d obviously watched Masterchef and its like, knew exactly what to do. They dabbed away tears and said how gutted they were.

But my favourite bit was when they learned what to do in extreme circumstances.

“You can’t put a dead passenger in the toilet,” said the instructor. “That’s disrespectful. And you can’t do what we used to do – prop them up in their seat, put an eyeshade on them and give them a gin and tonic and a copy of the Daily Mail.”

How wonderfully macabre. How very British.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game