back to article BA staff to google for snaps, dirt on biz-class passengers

British Airways has denied "compiling secretive data" about its business-class passengers after launching its "Know Me" programme to personalise customers' travel plans. The Evening Standard today reported that BA staff will be given Apple iPads and told to use Google to research key frequent flyers. The employees are …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    if this were a small business they would not need a database to know their best customers and the personal service would follow naturally. But this is a large corporation who, even if idividual employees may reconise a few regular customers, cannot hope to know its customers. So it can never be anything other than a faux personal service, which is worse than useless.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Too true. KLM always used to do a good job of recognising frequent flyers just by memory. Mind you, they did most things very well.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just a lame business case... roll out iTards in the organization. How about using the money instead to pay staff decent wages.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just a lame business case...

      I was under the impression that BA cabin staff have the best pay and conditions in the industry...

  3. Mr Young


    I really wish I was that important;

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    .. does that mean they have a stack of spare mobile phones ready for Naomi Campbell for when they forget her luggage again after assuring her 3 times it was on the plane (I guess the baggage handlers were too busy still nicking bits)?

    Oh, no, I forgot. The desperate-for-publicity ex cheapo airline boss banned her for getting angry about something I would have blown my stack about too - forgetting exactly that part of your luggage you actually need for your job. No, she should have used violence, but in this case I must admit I would have seriously blown my stack as well.

    Glad to say I have managed to avoid BA successfully - now I have an extra reason to continue doing so.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: So..

      "No, she should have used violence..."

      Well, honestly, sometimes it's the only language these people understand.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So..

        Thanks for that, I naturally meant she should not have used violence, but I must admit you wonder what else actually gets through to these people.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You've given an airline your passport, address and credit card details

    they've been up-front enough to say in advance that they're going to use this to search for stuff that you've put on the Internet (or at least not chosen to remove). I'm not really seeing a problem here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You've given an airline your passport, address and credit card details

      I didn't have a choice. Which is why I dislike the way that information given for one necessary purpose is used for something else.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You've given an airline your passport, address and credit card details

      Yes, you've given them information for a specific purpose, a financial transaction to purchase the use of a service.

      You do NOT give them carte-blanche to have a bloody good dig about on Google. FB, FLickr for pictures of you and your family, details about what your sexual and political affiliations are as they have bugger all to do with you wanting use the services of a glorified transport company!

      1. David Neil

        Re: You've given an airline your passport, address and credit card details

        And if you don't want people to find information about you on FB, Flickr etc. don't put it there.

        Fuck me, it's like complaining someone called you when you scribbled your phone number on the back to a toilet door.

  6. minky

    Know Me

    would that be in the Biblical sense...?

    Just say Know Thanks.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Historically cabin crews were given a printout of passengers which included names, seat assignment, frequent flyer number, etc, but it was obviously limited in what you could fit in the printout (remember the dot matrix printers churning out pages of stuff at the departure gate? still in use today)

    This sounds like they're allowing the on-flight crew to get access to the data they already have on you in their big backend database. The PNR record contains a lot more than most people think....

    As for finding pictures on google image search, good luck with most people who have names that are relatively common.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      More than you think...

      No kidding. I was on a weather hold at a smaller airport a few years ago and the pilot was as bored as I was, so he started playing around on the res system while I watched. One very interesting command was NWP (noteworthy people) - and he showed me every celeb, dignitary, congresscritter or anyone else worthy of the moniker that was flying that day, and on what flight. So they already keep track of bunches of high-profile people and make that data available to the crew. Sounds like they're just lowering the standard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        Re: More than you think...

        Goodness - he showed you all that?! What if you had been a terrorist - or worse, a child molester? You could have molested a planeload of congresspeople! You could have hijacked a second grader with conveniently blond hair!

        For God's sake, won't someone think of those willing to actualize their sick fantasies by opening holes in security systems? Good heavens, people - zip up your breeches!


        I mean, seriously - with all of that information about flights that day, just imagine what he could have done.

        And I do mean 'imagine', because any nefarious plot to utilize such information within 12 hours will remain just that: imaginary. You can't even get a fucking dentist appointment in the next six weeks, but I bet half the people in the rich world are convinced that an eye-blink at a passenger manifest is enough to trigger an elaborate multinational terrorist plot quicker than you can get a dozen tastefully arranged flowers delivered to your wife because fuckiing hell it's your anniversary and she went off to work without you saying a word and oh my god, I'm never having sex again am I?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    It's not a bad idea

    You can get a lot of information on someone off LinkedIn or Facebook these days. It's public information, so why not use it to provide a better service.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @dx Re: It's not a bad idea

      Some. Of. Us. Do. Not. Want. To. Be. Profiled. Or. Tracked.

      How 'bout this? Some arsehole (and/or buddy of yours) takes a pic of you, or finds one, creates a FaceBook account with bogus name and ID, posts that photo on his 'wall', and tags it with your name and terrorist / pedophile / drug user / current-descriptor-of-villainy.

      You won't know who did it, you couldn't prove they did it, your reputation suffers, and you have no effective recourse.

      1. DJ Smiley

        Re: @dx It's not a bad idea

        And the world in general doesn't notice. Your not that important, don't go thinking you are.

        In all seriousness, the worse thing you could do is draw attention to it. Common example of Streisand effect.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @DJ Smiley It's not a bad idea

          You are right; "the world in general doesn't notice".

          The people who do notice are prospective employers Googling your name, insurance companies Googling your name, potential landlords Googling your name, police Googling for keywords ...

          In other words, people and organizations which have a major impact on your life.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @dx It's not a bad idea

        Actually, you don't even need someone else for it. You can contain your own profile, but it only takes one "Friend" playing a game and so agreeing to hand over your data and the 3rd party DPA hole has struck again.

        It's time all of this shit becomes formally opt-in, and violations attract *REAL* sized fines instead of pocket change.

  9. Graham Marsden

    Sounds more like...

    ... an exercise in arse kissing to me!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds more like...

      don't ditch a spot of of ass kissing until you try it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds more like...

        > don't ditch a spot of of ass kissing until you try it.

        Yeah I have tried it. The RSPCA were not pleased.

  10. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Deja vu

    Just remind me - which airline got done for hacking Virgin's computer to nick details about passengers?

  11. Degenerate Scumbag

    So when their Googling reveals my penchant for Cocaine and high-class hookers, will they be laying them on for me on a long-haul?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Ah, Mr. Mosley, it's good to see you again! I'm sorry things went badly with the whole Formula thing. It was some kind of motor driving business, right? Well, these things -do- happen. So, here are your whips, tastefully arranged of course, and a few of our wonderful stewardesses have gamely agreed to wear some rather fetching Nazi uniforms. It's a good thing this isn't a Berlin flight, isn't it, Max! May I call you Max, Mr. Mosley?"

  12. Coofer Cat


    For me, this sort of thing would backfire, at least to some degree. Then again, most business class travellers are on corporate tickets, so they don't really get a choice of the airline at time of purchase.

    If I've been on a flight with the same hosties as this one, then I'd live for them to recognise me. This happened to me once on Virgin, but only because I did two flights in 24 hours and it was the same crew both ways. However, for a complete stranger to recognise me would be a bit creepy. Most business travellers aren't famous by any stretch of the imagination, so there's no non-creepy way that anyone would know who you are, unless they'd met you previously, or unless you were being escorted by a staff member and were on a list of VIPs or something (which again, business class passengers are not).

    However... Once upon a time I flew BA First. I'd have loved for them to say "Is this your first time in First?", but they didn't because my BA Executive Club profile doesn't have that information - and it probably should. Of course, if I start flying first every couple of weeks, then definitely don't ask me any such thing because it gets tedious very quickly.

    Also, it would be great for the hosties to know that I really love having a bottle of water (that's actually got water in it) throughout my flight. It's not much to ask when you're on a thousands-of-pounds ticket, but trying to convince the hosties to get me a fresh bottle if the happen to see the old one empty, without having them "over service" is something of an art form.

    The sorts of tricks they're talking about here either should just be part of the Executive Club system (and so printed on the passenger manifest), or else they shouldn't be doing it because it's creepy. Of course, doing things that other airlines do would probably gain them more good will than all of this - you know, stuff like a lounge that isn't completely packed and maybe a car to take you home after you've been on your Business/First flight. A half-way decent airport and terminal (ie. not Terminal Deathrow 5) would be a bonus, but given it's their centrepiece I don't suppose they'll do anything about it. Trouble is, BA just don't "get it" so we can expect more tricks and less substance for some time.

  13. ratfox

    Good god

    All this angst over the possibility you will be greeted with "Welcome back, Mr. Jones".

    Is it just me, or is everybody getting paranoid these days?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Good god

      What did you just say about me?

      I can hear you! Whispering at the back! You're plotting against me aren't you! Yes YOU!

  14. Anonymous Coward

    It's actually just fucking sickening - REALLY!

    Yes I can appreciate genuinely phoney arse kissing, for the people who fly lots or can be groomed to fly more.....

    True insincerity can be really nice, especially if they don't mean it.

    But going "dredging" up info on customers via the web? I don't agree with that.

    The actual limitation of the contract is "We supply transport from A to B and return - you pay us what we deem to be an equitable sum for the service, we print your name on the ticket and you turn up in time to catch the flight."

    Beyond that - it's none of your fucking business.

  15. Sirius Lee

    LinkedIn, Wikipedia?

    Anyone able to afford BA first class will likely be known and want to be known so they will have a profile on Wikipedia and untold numbers of links on LinkedIn. BA should have the CEO to request to join their network. Few would object and it would be a nice touch.

  16. Annihilator

    "Add to that the fact that most business class travellers do not book their flights themselves and it becomes difficult to see how those individuals might prevent such personalisation ahead of boarding their BA flight."

    They might not book their flights themselves, but on most flights the airlines are obliged to know the identity of everyone flying in the post-9/11 era.

  17. TimNevins

    Knowing Me

    I bet Steve Coogan will be chuffed.

    BA Staff:"Knowing me BA, knowing you Steve Coog.. oof"

    Steve C:"Ahaaaa!"

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fake profiles?

    So if I've got this right, anyone who can be bothered to spend time getting a few faked stories about your own importance high up on Google's search results you will get better treatment.

    Seems like a great way to get free upgrades: 'Yes, I just bought an economy ticket so that the paparazzi wouldn't notice me'.

    1. Harthin

      Re: Fake profiles?

      Wrong. They will be keeping some publicly available information that they find on the internet to identify Business class passengers. In other words, they are trying to make sure the Business class passengers receive more personalized customer service since they (or their companies) are paying gobs of money.

      How I read this is that they will be able to look up a photo or other information in order to try to improve your flying experience by not asking silly questions. Many of these people probably spend a lot of time in BA seats and wouldn't mind not receiving the same questions repeatedly. I don't think there will be nearly as much trouble with this as many seem to expect. They are going to keep a list of preferences and basic information that is primarily culled from the internet.

  19. JaitcH

    BA ... the anacronym for British A*seholes won't be getting me

    because it has to be, without a doubt, one of the worst air carriers in the world led by it's equally vain Wee Willy Walsh.

    So many carriers are superior to BA. I flew EVA from Toronto to Ho Chi Minh City and the flight attendants addressed people by their name, after asking how they would like to be addressed - Sir/Madame, Mr Phillips or James. Wasn't some trick, either. On departing the aircraft most of the Biz and First Class were not only addressed in the right language but by their name. (I confused them by speaking Mandarin!)

    No pads or tablets, just excellent training that matched the care they lavished upon customers.

    Cathay, VietNam, Thai and Singapore airlines know how to treat you well and there is no need for yet another intrusion in to a persons privacy. AirAsia/AirAsiaX do a great job in the low cost carrier group.

    But BA ... it's for the dogs. Database, indeed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BA ... the anacronym for British A*seholes won't be getting me

      "...after asking how they would like to be addressed - Sir/Madame, Mr Phillips or James. Wasn't some trick, either..."

      When I was 13, I pretended to be a software company, and in such guise signed up for various trade publications (remember when they did that stuff on paper?). For one I listed my title as "Big Cheese", and thereafter (to my delight) received regular issues address to "David ________, Big Cheese, Perigee Software".

      One wonders if requests to be addressed as "His Holiness the Dalai Lama", or, "Mr. President", or, "Motherfucker" would be honored.

      At the very least I'm sure they'd happily refer to a travelling group as Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown, and Mr. White. If I had the money, I'd get some friends together and fly somewhere just to try it.

  20. jke
    Paris Hilton

    Tea, coffee, or (know) me. That should pull in the punters.

    Paris, for those who don't get the allusion.

  21. Furbian

    Sinister indeed, but fun can be had...

    .. if they looked up my Facebook page and greeted me accordingly, I'd be welcomed in Mongolian and be given a complementary cheapo Barbara Cartland novel to read. I don't speak the former and have never read anything by the latter.

  22. Red Eyes
    Thumb Up

    I'll just update my facebook page to reflect my love of Champagne and expensive chocolates.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Then and now

    Both of my parents are ex-airline from Way Back When, and in the time they were in customer service positions something not dissimilar would have been the norm - except of course that the database and face recognition would have been entirely powered by grey matter and considered good customer service. Its when businesses turn what used to be organic CS into a machine driven, scripted 'process' generated by marketing clones and delivered by CS robots, selected more for their compliance than natural human warmth, that you cross the magic line from "good service" to "creepy arselicking" and end up in territory much better understood by Isaac Asimov etc that the BA fun factory.

    Genuinely good, customer service with a ring of sincerity is something you can do, or not. It just can't be taught, scripted or programmed.

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