BA ships US execs into Europe for free

UK - British Airways is offering US executives free travel to Europe to promote their companies from today.

The airline’s promotion to US business passengers uses some of its excess capacity for a new ‘Face-to-Face’ competition, which offers free European trips on three special flights carrying 1,000 people.

The airline said an advisory panel would help assess the free-flight requests, which require entrants to complete an online form that includes a 500-word essay on the value they would reap from an overseas trip.

“One of the only benefits of the economic climate is that we have quite a lot of empty seats, and a few spare aircraft so the cost of the promotion is pretty small,” says British Airways’ executive vice president for the Americas, Simon Talling-Smith.

“We will continue to position ourselves as a premium airline, that is absolutely core to our business model,” he said in an interview yesterday. “There is an ongoing demand for business travel, and that isn’t going away.”

But the going is still tough at the London-based carrier, which has been slashing jobs and grounding flights to get it through a slump that is expected to lead to a worldwide US$9 billion (€6.4 billion) loss to the industry this year, according to a June forecast by the International Air Transport Association.

The company’s share price tumbled around 30 per cent this year, trading a 129.9 pence in London this morning. Talling-Smith believes it will take five years before we see a return to pre-recession traffic levels.

British Airways’ Face-to-Face promotion will be followed in September with new business-class flights between London’s City Airport and New York.