Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stranded

I've spent the last two nights in the Holiday Inn at JFK courtesy of British Airways and Eyjafjallajökull the Icelandic Volcano.

Truly an example of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Black Swan. All the technological advances in the world and the whole of Europe can be ground to a halt by something that's been happening since the dawn of time. These events humble us.

There has been a rather jolly atmosphere in the hotel as we gather for our nightly complimentary buffet. Probably because the strandees are mostly holidaying Brits in I-heart-NY t-shirts and the Brits, as grumpy as they usually are, really cheer up at the oportunity for 'blitz mentality'.

I was accosted in the lobby by a reporter from the New York Post who asked me how this event had impacted my life. When I told her it was just a bit inconvenient, she said she was looking for a real story, someone who's life had been 'turned upside down'. I don't think she
had much luck.

There have been many reasons to dislike BA over the past few years – high prices, bad service and strikes – but I can say that in this situation they have responded well. Each morning there is a note under the door of our hotel room letting us know that we are guests of BA for another night. They are laying on a pretty good breakfast each morning and a passable buffet dinner each night. We've seen angry Virgin Atlantic customers in the lobby furious at being told the airline was only paying for one night and one meal and now they are on their own.

True to their brand heritage British Airways have responded to this emergency with pure Britishness. That is to say 'When the chips are down, you really want to be with us.' If BA can find a way to use this kind of brand integrity across everything they do, it may just save them.

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