British Airways is offering US executives free travel to Europe to promote their companies from today.
The airline’s promotion to US business passengers uses some of its excess capacity for a new ‘Face-to-Face’ competition, which offers free European trips on three special flights carrying 1,000 people.
The airline said an advisory panel would help assess the free-flight requests, which require entrants to complete an online form that includes a 500-word essay on the value they would reap from an overseas trip.
The promotion comes as BA executive vice-president for the Americas, Simon Talling-Smith warns that the business travel market could take up to five years to recover.
“One of the only benefits of the economic climate is that we have quite a lot of empty seats, and a few spare aircraft so the cost of the promotion is pretty small,” he says.
Talling-Smith also questioned whether airlines could charge £4,000 for a business class return to New York and says nearly 70 per cent of businesses are slashing travel budgets. Companies are increasingly moving executives into economy class or relying on video conferencing instead of face to face meetings, Talling-Smith tells the The Times newspaper.
“BA’s view is that it will take quite a long time, potentially more than five years, before the full value of the business market returns,” he says.
The going is still tough at the London-based carrier, which has been slashing jobs and grounding flights to get it through a slump that is expected to lead to a worldwide US$9 billion (€6.4 billion) loss to the industry this year, according to a June forecast by the International Air Transport Association.
The company’s share price tumbled around 30 per cent this year, trading at 129.9 pence in London this morning.
British Airways’ Face-to-Face promotion will be followed in September with new business-class flights between London’s City Airport and New York.