BAA Strike Will Add to 2010 Airline Woes

Employees of BAA ( formerly British Airlines Authority) are threatening to strike, a move which could spell disaster for Britain’s tourism industry. The six airports owned and operated by BAA cover several of the UK’s biggest travel and aviation regions, and could result in thousands of missed flights and cancelled appointments if closure is the final outcome.

BAA was privatized in the late 1980s as part of efforts by the Thatcher government to minimize state control of assets. The company operates six airports within the United Kingdom and many more overseas, making it one of the largest of its type in the world. The closure of the company’s UK assets is projected to cost the travel industry tens-of-millions of dollars in lost revenue.

It’s also threatening to ruin thousands of holidays, particularly as the strikes are planned to occur during the nation’s peak tourism season. Unite union officials are aiming to avoid a strike, instead opting to negotiate for a more competitive pay deal directly with airport authorities. BAA’s offer of a 1% annual pay rise was rejected by the union, who claim that the workers deserve more.

Should the strike go ahead, it will be the second major setback for Britain’s travel industry. Delays and cancelled flights from the Icelandic volcano eruption have cost the industry several hundred million dollars already, with some of Europe’s largest airlines still involved in efforts to repay and reimburse those affected by the disaster.

With several leading travel firms teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, another setback could spell the end of commercial travel bookings. Recent strikes by British Airways and a lack of disposable income have already hurt the travel industry, resulting in missed revenue targets and several major bankruptcy cases. Approximately 35% of the involved employees support moves to strike.

Free Upgrades: How You Can Fly First Class Without a Specific Ticket

If there’s one topic that thousands of travellers focus on annually, it’s achieving a first class ticket upgrade without shelling out for a full-price ticket. The elusive upgrade has been a popular target for travellers since its introduction, largely due to the perceived luxury of first class travel and the often ludicrous costs of upgrading a ticket manually.

But beyond strange theories and luck-based lines of questioning, there’s not much information on how to earn a first class upgrade. We met with some travel experts and asked for their opinions on the best way to gain a free upgrade to first class. Tired of travelling in cramped coach? Read on and learn how to upgrade that ticket without upgrading the cost of your flight.

Fly often? Use your miles for a ticket upgrade.

There’s no need to spend thousands of miles on a ticket upgrade – by asking the ticketing agent nicely, you may be able to gain a seat in the first class cabin simply by demonstrating that you fly with a specific airline often. Airlines have found that most of their business comes from a small selection of travellers – let them know that you are one and you might score a free upgrade.

See empty seats? Ask politely for a free upgrade.

Once a flight has left the airport, the cost of upgrading your seat to a more luxurious one is, quite literally, nothing. If you can see empty spaces in the first of business class cabins, politely asking one of the flight attendants could help you secure a free upgrade.

Alternatively, a number of airlines offer first class seats in exchange for shifting your business to a later flight. If you are seated on an overbooked flight and don’t mind waiting an extra hour or two, consider offering to be ‘bumped’ in exchange for a complimentary first class upgrade.

High-End Flyers: Luxury Airlines See Bookings Increase

While the recent recession certainly hurt the travel industry, several of the world’s largest and most luxurious airlines appear to be on the road to recovery. New figures from a variety of travel industry bodies have demonstrated an increase in the number of people booking international flights, with a noticeable increase in the proportion of tickets booked on high-end airlines and ‘luxury’ carriers.

From 2007 onward, a number of smaller low-cost carriers have reported increased patronage and higher revenues, largely due to limited consumer travel spending. Travel industry experts theorized that the increase was relative rather than absolute, with a greater number of budget travellers opting to fly overseas during the recession, aiming to take advantage of low-cost hotel rooms and tours.

The increase in high-end flight bookings, on the other hand, represents a more ‘complete’ recovery for the travel industry. The ‘bread and butter’ of consumer travel – holidaying families and package tour travellers – appear to be returning to the air en masse, inspired by reasonable fares and visible promotional efforts from major airlines and international carriers.

Singapore Airlines is one of several high-end airlines to see increased demand, largely due to the gradual recovery of economies in the region. Singapore’s economy was damaged more severely than many others throughout the financial crisis, as the city-state depends on its financial services sector and heavily export-driven trading industry for income, employment, and prosperity.

For high-end airlines, the surge in bookings is likely to be accompanied with a smaller surge in the price of international flights, as airlines have a history of complementing demand with raised fares. Travellers aiming to maximise the value of their ticket are best off booking flights independently as soon as possible, before price hikes and the elimination of low-cost package tours occur.