Judge and Jury: British Airways missed a golden opportunity with Go’s PR strategy - British Airways must be banking on a longer-term business strategy over quick fix PR solutions with its cut-price airline Go, says Jill Coomber, founding director

British Airways’ (BA) move into budget flights has been dogged by controversy.

British Airways’ (BA) move into budget flights has been dogged by

controversy.



First came accusations of predatory pricing and now charges of

misleading the public by raising prices. Have BA and Go, its independent

operating subsidiary, got their PR strategy wrong? Is this a case where

you can lose the PR battle but win the commercial war?



Reviewing the coverage, BA has failed to convey its product key messages

convincingly. It’s true that early coverage reported the pounds 100

flight offer was introductory, but this appearing in the bottom half of

articles is the media relations equivalent to ’small print’. In reality

Go’s pricing strategy is now similar to its competitors, but again it

failed to convey this.



BA should have seen the cross-subsidy allegations coming a mile off.



Its strategy appears to be to brazen this issue out, with a strong,

suspicious tone to the coverage being the result. Opting for a softer,

more transparent approach, say volunteering to publish certain figures

and statements, would have won more media support. Meanwhile

Easyjet - which is taking legal action against BA - and other budget

airlines are playing out a text book lobbying strategy, running PR rings

around BA.



BA appears to be playing a long commercial game, assuming it will win

the court case, customers aren’t interested or don’t understand and

cheap flights backed by a trusted brand will sell.



The implications of Easyjet’s court case are lost without at least top

line knowledge of aviation history and European competition law. Plus in

this sector of the market, price is king. Customers have historically

bought cheap flights today, unknowingly financially voting for

potentially higher fares tomorrow.



In the short term, Go’s pounds 2.5 million worth of bookings in two

months cannot be argued with. But long-term, BA’s current public

relations strategy will be costly. Even if it does not pay heavily now

by losing the court case, this episode is another debit on their PR

balance sheet.



Go also lost a golden opportunity to use PR to differentiate itself from

BA and its parent’s old, heavy-handed PR style. It may yet have the

opportunity to look back with regret.



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