’The world’s favourite airline’ was anything but that for millions
of people on the evening of 11 February.
British Airways celebrated the 10th anniversary of its privatisation by
offering 10 tickets, for pounds 10 each, on every Concorde flight from
London to New York over 10 days.
With two flights a day, this totalled pounds 1 million worth of tickets,
with each winner saving pounds 5,400 on the current fare - a great
A short sharp campaign announced that telephone lines would be open at
10pm on Tuesday 11 February, and tickets would be sold to the first
At 10pm lines were jammed, with two million people all searching for a
big Mach experience.
Within 30 minutes, 190 tickets had sold out, leaving other callers
frustrated by their inability to get through at all, and whinging
publicly about the unfairness of the whole operation.
A heavy response to such a juicy offer was easy to predict. Concorde has
lost none of its glamour, certainly for those financially constrained to
subsonic travel. Plus, it was two days before Valentine’s day and it’s a
fact of modern travel that airlines have trained the British public to
Eager callers, constantly jabbing the re-dial button, must have known
that the odds were greatly stacked against them getting a ticket
(160,000 to one against), but the thing that really frustrated them was
that they couldn’t get through at all.
Perhaps the airline went for the easy option in the mechanics of the
promotion and should have thought more about the effect of the
call-handling system. British Telecom says there was an equal chance for
every caller who contacted BA before the last seat was taken, but it may
not have seemed that way to many callers.
A few will continue to mutter about the unfairness of life, but most
will have written it off already as the luck of the draw and happily
compete for the next tempting offer. Seen in the context of the major
effort British Airways has made to earn the affection of customers, it’s
a mere blip on a very big radar screen.
The ’world’s fastest offer’ lived up to its name and spawned some great
human stories for British Airways, but it left British Telecom with some
explaining to do.