Drama: Did British Airways Cut The Financial Times Over Negative Coverage?

Filed Under: British Airways, Media

You wouldn’t think that an airline choosing to adjust which newspapers they offer to passengers would be a big point of drama, though one paper being pulled from an airline is now making headlines.

British Airways quietly made the decision to stop offering the Financial Times to passengers at gates, in lounges, and onboard flights. That seems odd, though you might assume that this may have come down to a cost dispute, or something.

It sure seems like there’s more to the story, though, because the Financial Times has just published the following:

DEAR FT READERS AND FREQUENT FLYERS

British Airways has decided to stop providing the Financial Times to passengers on flights, in lounges, and at gates worldwide. We recommend you pick up a copy on special offer at WHSmith Travel outlets or, as an FT subscriber, download the e-paper at FT.com or refresh the FT app before boarding.

We regret the inconvenience caused to our regular readers by BA’s abrupt decision to end its long-standing partnership with the FT. Of course, the world’s favourite business newspaper is widely available on a range of other leading airlines.

Ouch to that last sentence.

Virgin Atlantic even Tweeted this story, with the caption “Dear readers of the @FinancialTimes, it’s not too late to change your airline.”

It sure sounds to me like there’s some bad blood here, and this wasn’t just the case of an airline mixing up their reading materials.

So, what caused British Airways to drop the Financial Times? According to Press Gazette:

An FT source said BA had “dropped the FT because they don’t like our coverage of them”, adding: “It’s nothing to do with cost – it’s a reaction to the journalism. Plain and simple.

“There was a piece written about data security at a German call centre a few weeks back that seems to have been the trigger.”

British Airways insists that’s not the case, though:

“We regularly review what is on offer. We offer a wide range of titles to give our customers plenty of digital and print options for news, business and leisure reading material.”

Now, would it be reasonable for an airline to drop a publication that they feel covers them unfairly? I mean, it’s certainly within their rights legally, though I also feel like the approach of censoring media that you don’t like won’t end well in the long run.

What do you guys think — did British Airways drop the FT over negative coverage, or was it truly just part of an unrelated “review” of their selection?

(Tip of the hat to @CB21TQ)

Comments

  1. Wow. FT is the only physical newspaper I ever read and am always disappointed when an airline doesn’t offer it. If it is cost, that seems very cheap, but if it is due to the coverage, that is really pathetic.

  2. FT is my main financial
    Newspaper since the Murdochization of the WSJ. It will
    However only drive a slight shift as BA is one of my least favorite airlines already

  3. BA’s profits are reliant on ripping off the kind of high yield passengers who read the FT. Negative coverage in such a credible paper hurts them at lot more than Daily Mail type stories aimed at the low yield masses.

  4. @TropicalTees: Yup, I can’t stand reading newspapers on digital devices.

    It’s much harder to scan to find articles I’m interested in, and given I spend most of my life staring at screens, I’m in no rush to spend even more doing so when it can be avoided.

    Call me a luddite (which would be ironic because I run a tech company), but it’s hard to beat dead trees when it comes to a quality reading experience.

  5. The Financial Times is the best daily periodical on the planet. At $28 a month it’s pricey considering all the free outlets but I do it anyway.

  6. @JJ, you can use AAdvantage or Mileageplus miles to pay for a Financial Times subscription. It’s roughly 4000 miles for 52 weeks which I think is pretty good deal for something that normally costs $335/year.

  7. I am surprised, as the FT has covered BA far more moderately than the likes of the Faily Dail and the Telegraph.

    The DT criticise BA so much, while overpraising the Gulf carriers and Norwegian, that many Telegraph readers are clear that it is anti BA probably due to sponsoring by competitors. But certainly not the FT.

  8. I think its fine. Sometimes there are other personal “egos” factors behind the scenes. Would you wish to engage with a company that bashes you repeatedly? The FT is available at newsagents all over the airport. Out of LGW there are free newspaper kiosks right before the gates.

    The FT should take out massive ad space outside the BA gates hahaha

  9. I completely agree with Richard G

    I’m slowly moving to listening on Audible, but reading and especially newspapers, I prefer the real thing.

    No matter where I am in the world, I always look for the FT as my go to English language newspaper. Many business lounges only have it and nothing else in English.

  10. Am I the only one seeing that this is bad for FT and not BA.

    Journalist that retaliate against a business decision from a private company?

    I don’t see how that they are not biased at all. Now anything BA related on FT can be 1-1000% true, From almost fake news to grossly exaggerating it.

    For BA, it’s business as usual. I doubt people will switch airlines over a news paper.

  11. I love FT. While their editorials are as predictable as the NY Times, the Weekend real estate section is quite good.

  12. They don’t have the Guardian either – probably more because British Airways attracts Times ,Telegraph & Mail readers – so why bother with the others.

  13. Another reason not to fly BA. The FT is by far the best business newspaper in the world – clearly BA is not interested in business travellers. CX offers the FT on boarding and in its lounges. I get the digital version as the paper version is too expensive in Tokyo, but I prefer to read paper when I can.

  14. I consider that to be a big deal. When I travel, I read business publications: WSJ, Fortune, FT, etc. I especially take advantage of getting access to the FT since I already subscribe to WSJ and Fortune so those are part of my regular reading lineup. I would hate to miss out on a chance to read through that paper. This would be like Delta or United dropping WSJ! Bad move, BA!

  15. Textbook case on how to be all wrong at the same time. BA for being, as usual, utterly cheap (nowadays the only newspapers on offer are the Sun and the i and let’s be frank, the pressreader app is not user-friendly) and FT for reacting like the prototypical crybaby. They could’ve claimed a lot more moral high ground but that announcement of theirs is as classless as their “How to spend it” insert.

    Finally, one word on Virgin. Why do they feel the need to troll BA every other day, especially when BA never mentions them? It makes them look desperate for attention. If I were them I’d perhaps concentrate on making money. Which they aren’t, and haven’t.

  16. If it were true they stopped offering the FT because of bad coverage they should have chopped the Daily Mail 15 years ago!

    Shame nevertheless.

  17. I have to say that while I don;t agree with BA’s decision to remove the FT (I enjoy reading a physical copy), this whole story reflects much, much worse on the FT than on BA and now I am questioning the FT’s strategy and motivation here.

    It’s worth remembering that this cut was made as part of BA’s move away from a number of physical papers, cutting the Daily Mail earlier this year as well, and providing all passengers with the PressReader app instead (@Ben you might want to mention this in your article?).

    After the cut was made you have this unprecedented ad mocking BA from the FT, which is really bad form in terms of professionalism, and then you suddenly have ‘anonymous sources’ within the FT accusing BA of doing it for journalistic reasons…. I have never noticed any particularly harsh coverage of BA in the FT (as others have mentioned the Telegraph is far more critical and that still shows up in their lounges!) so personally I have a hard time believing that was the reason.

    As I said i don’t agree with BA’s decision here, but I am far more shocked by the FT bringing all this bad blood out to the headlines – I am guessing this is a very big financial blow to them to cause them to react this way, and I question their judgement (although i normally love that paper).

  18. @Eskimo I agree 100%! This is such a strange decision by the FT to retaliate this way and does far more damage to their own reputation than to BA’s…

  19. As other sources have pointed out, many other papers covered the same issues as that of the FT. There is no way Daily Mail can still be offered and FT cut on the basis of the type of BA coverage each paper gives! There is more to it.

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