British Airways assuages fears during 'testing time'

NEW YORK: Following numerous flight delays and cancellations caused by government action in response to alleged terrorist threats, British Airways (BA) was busy early this year communicating with constituents concerned with safety and confused by the uncertain nature of these threats.

NEW YORK: Following numerous flight delays and cancellations caused by government action in response to alleged terrorist threats, British Airways (BA) was busy early this year communicating with constituents concerned with safety and confused by the uncertain nature of these threats.

"I think everybody understands that it's information that is guarded and vague for national security," said John Lampl, VP of communications at British Airways North America. "But we have to play it on the conservative side, particularly in these vigilant times."

In addition to keeping the media posted on the status of flights, warnings, and safety updates, the British Airways staff composed several internal letters to allay concerns.

The first of these letters, issued on January 5 and authored by UK-based Mike Street, director of customer services and operations, read, "It has been a testing time for many of you at what is a busy time of the year in any event. I would like to thank all involved for their resolve, commitment, and patience during this period."

According to Lampl, the letter has also been used in different forms to inform sales clients and customers.

In the first week of January, flight BA223 from London's Heathrow airport to Washington, DC, was delayed or cancelled several times on advice from the UK government. In addition, flights from Heathrow to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, were canceled starting on Wednesday, December 31. They resumed on January 5.

In the meantime, the BA staff continued to conduct promotional PR and encourage people to fly, despite the warnings.

"When passengers turn up for these flights, we tell them that we know it's frustrating, but when you do get on board, it's probably the safest flight because it's been screened so many times," Lampl said.

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