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Does anyone know exactly WHY BA is so busy right now? And when will things improve?

Does anyone know exactly WHY BA is so busy right now? And when will things improve?

Old Sep 28, 2023, 10:48 am
  #1  
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Does anyone know exactly WHY BA is so busy right now? And when will things improve?

We've all been reading about how the lounges are now full to capacity, even on an 'average' day in September. And we've all speculated about the reasons. But is there any info on actually who all these extra people are that seem to be flying right now? And is this going to change for the better any time soon (at least for the customer, maybe not for BA's profits), or is such queuing now the new normal?

My own experience of this is that on a flight back from Italy earlier this week that landed at 8pm we were confronted by the dreaded tensa barriers at T5A arrivals. Now admittedly I am not as frequent a flyer as I once was, but I don't think I have ever seen these in operation. And all the e-gates were operational that I could see. I had assumed that 8pm would be relatively quiet, but when I spoke to one of the people policing the queues, his reply was 'you should see what it'll be like at 9pm.'

Does anyone have a handle on what is actually going on? Or is this is what we need to expect now.
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Old Sep 28, 2023, 10:50 am
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Is T5 particularly full at the moment? Iberia came back to T5 this summer and this didn't seem to be matched with a significant number of BA flights going over to T3 - I wonder if the T3/T5 balance is 'wrong'?
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Old Sep 28, 2023, 12:47 pm
  #3  
 
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Pure speculation on my part but I wager its a mixture of more people having status (hence we see more this on here) and more people buying business class tickets.

The point that there is more passengers is interestingly thrown up a lot on the BBC. You can view passenger numbers here: https://www.heathrow.com/company/inv...fic-statistics

In August 2022 6,039,987 passed through Heathrow (T2,3,4 and 5).
In August 2023 that number increased by 25% to 7,553,785.

One might say, well, 'covid', but August 2019 saw 7,680,327, more than in 2023 and I recall it not being as intense as it is now.

Either way, there are less people passing through the airport now than in 2019 so the places people congregate from this forum; i.e. the lounges I suspect means either more people are paying for J, or more people have status than before (Golds dropping to Silver, perhaps?).
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Old Sep 28, 2023, 1:15 pm
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Originally Posted by ScruttonStreet
Does anyone have a handle on what is actually going on? Or is this is what we need to expect now.
Hold. We're now just repeating the lounge thread in another new thread, saying the same things in that thread, here. Why start a new one?

It's simply start of business season (September onwards) plus a hell of a lot more retired types travelling a lot more. One of the guys who works for me is now in his mid-60s, his wife retired in May from 40 years teaching. They've already been on 3 European holidays since May - before this I can't remember them going away much at all. And there are plenty of those examples. When I was sitting in the T5 F lounge last Monday, late morning, nearly everyone was a 'retired type' (think 55 to 75-somethings). They came out of 2020 and 2021 very nervous about covid, flying and many of the rules enforced at that time. They only started flying again 2022 onwards.

The US is no different. Worse even. Every single domestic F flight I've flown this year has been 100% full at take-off. BA's CE is rarely completely full, to be fair. You'll often get a few spare seats. Not domestic F in the US. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e is flying over there and, of course, they travel over here too.

I'm in Greece this week and there's tonnes of American's here. Big groups. I was in Ibiza in May and there two separate weddings with only American's. When I went to Mykonos in June it was all American's. Like I said above, roll back to 2021 and you didn't see many older American's flying either. Now they are out in force, too.

We also look at 2021 and 2022 with rose-tinted glasses. It was much quieter, we got used to that, 'forgot' how busy it really should be and now seeing it back to what it was like in 2019....and shocked (and want it to go back to 2021 again).

London is the same. When I travelled end of 2020 and into 2021, sometimes I was the only person in a hotel and I'd go to a restaurant and there would be 2 or 3 people. I remember sitting in Hoxton Southwark and being amazed almost no-one was cycling into London over Blackfriars and that was around June 2021. I even went out the hotel to take a photo as normally you have 100s of cyclists racing into the city. They are now of course...

Simply put: more people are traveling and flying!

Last edited by chriswiles; Sep 28, 2023 at 1:20 pm
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Old Sep 28, 2023, 2:02 pm
  #5  
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Originally Posted by ScruttonStreet
My own experience of this is that on a flight back from Italy earlier this week that landed at 8pm we were confronted by the dreaded tensa barriers at T5A arrivals. Now admittedly I am not as frequent a flyer as I once was, but I don't think I have ever seen these in operation. And all the e-gates were operational that I could see. I had assumed that 8pm would be relatively quiet, but when I spoke to one of the people policing the queues, his reply was 'you should see what it'll be like at 9pm.'
That specific detail has a specific answer: Border Force is currently under-staffed for LHR throughput, with a lot of vacancies. Whereas in the past BF would give people short term rosters from Northern airports into London airports, the priority now is Kent. T5 isn't the worse, that honour goes to T4 which regularly peaks at over 2 hours for Non EEA passports around 20:00 hrs, when all the Qatar (etc) flights come in. The numbers coming in are around the peak numbers pre pandemic, but the number of BF officers has been cut from the e-gates that NEEA can't easily use, or if they have children under 10 years old. The reduction in age from 14 then 12 then 10 was partly an act of desperation. HAL's management appear to be in permanent complaint mode to Border Force about staffing.

And that may give some clues to why LHR generally is busy: if it takes longer to shift people through check-in, security, lounges, gates, arrival gates, Border Force, luggage reclaim - all of which working slower than top speed due to staff shortages - well that in and of itself adds to the total number of passengers in one place and at one time.
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Old Sep 28, 2023, 2:21 pm
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There arent more people travelling than pre-covid, but definitely a different type, and its having a huge effect. Previously a larger contingent were travelling for business, i.e. exactly the type who turn up at airports at the last minute and saunter straight through. Now its more leisure customers (particularly older ones as theyre the only ones with money to spend) and they turn up much earlier. So there might be the same number of passengers but they spend longer in the terminal, which makes it look and feel busier. Many airlines have been brutally honest about the challenges theyre facing over weaker corporate travel volumes, so I doubt itll change much in the near future,
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Old Sep 28, 2023, 2:55 pm
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I'm sure it's down to price. You didn't want to be seen travelling in say CW when fares were only 1500, but now they're up to double that at times, it's more of a status symbol showing that you can afford to pay that..

(Either that or people are so desperate to hold on to a shiny card, they'll pay whatever to keep it and the benefits they'll get from it during their couple of times a year jaunts)

Most flights I've been on since Covid, and restrictions ended nearly 2 years ago for the US etc. have had business cabins 100% full (or just about) with economy ranging from 30% to 99% (100% on a SFO-JFK flight the other day).
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Old Sep 28, 2023, 3:49 pm
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Originally Posted by chriswiles
Hold. We're now just repeating the lounge thread in another new thread, saying the same things in that thread, here. Why start a new one?

It's simply start of business season (September onwards) plus a hell of a lot more retired types travelling a lot more. One of the guys who works for me is now in his mid-60s, his wife retired in May from 40 years teaching. They've already been on 3 European holidays since May - before this I can't remember them going away much at all. And there are plenty of those examples. When I was sitting in the T5 F lounge last Monday, late morning, nearly everyone was a 'retired type' (think 55 to 75-somethings). They came out of 2020 and 2021 very nervous about covid, flying and many of the rules enforced at that time. They only started flying again 2022 onwards.

The US is no different. Worse even. Every single domestic F flight I've flown this year has been 100% full at take-off. BA's CE is rarely completely full, to be fair. You'll often get a few spare seats. Not domestic F in the US. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e is flying over there and, of course, they travel over here too.

I'm in Greece this week and there's tonnes of American's here. Big groups. I was in Ibiza in May and there two separate weddings with only American's. When I went to Mykonos in June it was all American's. Like I said above, roll back to 2021 and you didn't see many older American's flying either. Now they are out in force, too.

We also look at 2021 and 2022 with rose-tinted glasses. It was much quieter, we got used to that, 'forgot' how busy it really should be and now seeing it back to what it was like in 2019....and shocked (and want it to go back to 2021 again).

London is the same. When I travelled end of 2020 and into 2021, sometimes I was the only person in a hotel and I'd go to a restaurant and there would be 2 or 3 people. I remember sitting in Hoxton Southwark and being amazed almost no-one was cycling into London over Blackfriars and that was around June 2021. I even went out the hotel to take a photo as normally you have 100s of cyclists racing into the city. They are now of course...

Simply put: more people are traveling and flying!

>> The US is no different. Worse even. Every single domestic F flight I've flown this year has been 100% full at take-off. BA's CE is rarely completely full, to be fair. You'll often get a few spare seats. Not domestic F in the US. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e is flying over there and, of course, they travel over here too. <<
Note that most US airlines have a policy of upgrading status flyers on domestic flights as a matter of routine.
So domestic US first class cabins are usually quite full and always have been
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Old Sep 28, 2023, 6:15 pm
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Originally Posted by camdentown
>> The US is no different. Worse even. Every single domestic F flight I've flown this year has been 100% full at take-off. BA's CE is rarely completely full, to be fair. You'll often get a few spare seats. Not domestic F in the US. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e is flying over there and, of course, they travel over here too. <<
Note that most US airlines have a policy of upgrading status flyers on domestic flights as a matter of routine.
So domestic US first class cabins are usually quite full and always have been
I think in the US the airlines try to upgrade people as much as possible (based on status or money upgrades). Often they have last minute deals to upgrade to F as well.
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Old Sep 29, 2023, 12:04 am
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The BA endless sales play a part and there have been excellent bargains to be grabbed in Club. I have also noticed a more mature demographic in Club lounges recently and I would suggest they are very good at planning ahead and grabbing the BA deals.

I was holding off from booking Greece for next September but historically the Club Europe summer season prices to and from Greece quickly climb above 1,200 return so I decided to quickly grab the 420 Club return at decent departure and arrival
times a year out. Economy seats to Greece will get to 800+ return based on the 2023 summer trends.
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Old Sep 29, 2023, 1:21 am
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Originally Posted by camdentown
>> The US is no different. Worse even. Every single domestic F flight I've flown this year has been 100% full at take-off. BA's CE is rarely completely full, to be fair. You'll often get a few spare seats. Not domestic F in the US. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e is flying over there and, of course, they travel over here too. <<
Note that most US airlines have a policy of upgrading status flyers on domestic flights as a matter of routine.
So domestic US first class cabins are usually quite full and always have been
Originally Posted by pampa
I think in the US the airlines try to upgrade people as much as possible (based on status or money upgrades). Often they have last minute deals to upgrade to F as well.
The US upgrade thing used to be true. The reality is that domestic US F fares have reduced considerably over the last 5 - 10 years. As such, and especially since COVID, a large number of people are now paying for domestic F class. Lucky on OMATT had some data on his blog the other day about the increase in passengers willing to pay domestic US F fares.

That data aside, I can tell you in my experience it is a lot cheaper to fly domestic US F. As a family we fly domestic F because the price differential is minimal. Often you find on AS the difference between Y and F for domestic hops up and down the West Coast is only $10 - $40 or so. I also snagged, last fall, MIA-SFO on UA in F for a POUG at $125- that was for a Friday night 6pm departure to SFO. I thought $125 wasn't bad for a 6 hour flight! That seat, historically, would have been offered to a FF on upgrade.

I've also noticed that the F upgrade list now nearly never fully clears which is another hint towards more Americans being willing to pay for domestic F.
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Old Sep 29, 2023, 1:48 am
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A few points:

I have had about 20 US business trips over the last 2 years I would say First and CW virtually always full, maybe the odd seat free but often nothing.

On 30+ CE flights over the same period, the same, occasionally one or two seats free.

Definitely more leisure travellers - bad for BA as they book further in advance at cheaper prices.

Leisure travellers walk slowly through airports lacking purpose, the way some people walk round garden centres!

If it wasn't for the Financial Crisis 2008 > Printing Money > Covid > Furlough > Ukraine > Inflation I am pretty sure business travel would be rebounding, broadly speaking everyone I deal with values in person contact.
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Old Sep 29, 2023, 1:57 am
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Originally Posted by Simonp27
A few points:

I have had about 20 US business trips over the last 2 years I would say First and CW virtually always full, maybe the odd seat free but often nothing.

On 30+ CE flights over the same period, the same, occasionally one or two seats free.

Definitely more leisure travellers - bad for BA as they book further in advance at cheaper prices.

Leisure travellers walk slowly through airports lacking purpose, the way some people walk round garden centres!

If it wasn't for the Financial Crisis 2008 > Printing Money > Covid > Furlough > Ukraine > Inflation I am pretty sure business travel would be rebounding, broadly speaking everyone I deal with values in person contact.
Not necessarily bad for BA - people booking much earlier and BA banking the cash for longer at current high interest rates...
Arctic Troll and BA or bust like this.
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Old Sep 29, 2023, 2:20 am
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Not just a BA thing at all. More people are flying again. I did a BRS-AMS-BRS this week on U2 and the airport was packed at 5am and I mean packed so were the flights. Everyone and their dog buys the extra fast track security an "VIP Lounge" access as an add on so they are far from it.
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Old Sep 29, 2023, 2:24 am
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Outside of my own Camden friend and neighbour bubble, and here I am referring to family, and more specifically my familys social circles out in Havering/Essex, what strikes me is how many people have got connections with the Middle East nowadays. (Found the same for my extended family in the Netherlands)

And, from an airlines point of view, there is a major difference between maintaining a relationship with your interests and kin in the South East in Spain; where you remain a nobody, destined to hover outside the Prets at Gatwick and Luton waiting for the 30 minute windows between coffee subscription orders. And going to and from Dubai; accumulating an embarrassment of status in resource poor Airline lounges.

For an awful lot of them, their kids have left home, their parents are in nursing homes, nothing to keep them from checking out other destinations.
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