Judge and Jury: World’s fastest offer needed an equally fast phone response - It would have taken a finger flying at supersonic speed to have stood a chance of getting through on the phone lines for the British Airways pounds 10 Concorde ticket of

’The world’s favourite airline’ was anything but that for millions of people on the evening of 11 February.

’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

bargain hunt.

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.

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