British Airways (BA) launched a new direct service last week from Calgary, Canada to London's Heathrow Airport that is set to take flight in December.
The announcement of this expansion took place amidst a continuing investigation by the Office of Fair Trading in the UK and the US Department of Justice concerning accusations that BA and several other airlines based out of Heathrow Airport were involved in overcharging passengers.
"It is business as usual for us here, and I suspect it is the same in the UK," said John Lampl, VP of corporate communications for BA in the Americas. "We have been explaining what has been going on to corporate travel managers and clients that represent big companies. Passengers on an individual level don't even seem to know what is going on."
Lampl stressed that the North American PR team is concentrating on campaigns and initiatives that were in place prior to the investigation.
Lampl said that business has not been affected by the scandal and that BA is currently at the height of its season. June 2006 passenger capacity, measured in available seat kilometers, is up 3.1% over June 2005.
"BA is keeping a stiff upper lip about this and has every reason to. Customers in the United States just don't care because people's confidence in the airline industry is currently nonexistent," said Christopher Elliot, travel writer. "We are getting into the time of year where contracts are negotiated with large corporations. A price fixing scandal could have BA potentially seeing some fallout with corporate travel managers."
BA released a statement on June 22 saying, "British Airways' policy is to conduct its business in full compliance with all applicable competition laws." The statement also mentioned that the Martin George, commercial director, and Iain Burns, head of communications, have been given a leave of absence.
The North American operation of BA is currently conducting an RFP for an AOR that would be responsible for corporate communications, consumer PR, and crisis management.