British Airways (BA) announced that it will charge for seat reservations, a move that Unite, the UK’s largest aviation union and the largest union representing workers at British Airways, says is causing the airlines to suffer from an identity crisis. Unite believes this move tarnishes the carrier’s image further and is yet another misguided attempt to mimic low-cost airlines.

Unite warns hefty charges – around GBP60 to book an aisle or window seat – for passengers already paying premium prices wishing to select seats on-line or sit together as families will drive customers away from BA.

Steve Turner, Unite national officer for civil aviation, described the announcement as “complete madness from a management team rapidly losing its way and undermining the proud standing of British Airways as the UK’s national flag carrier.

“Unite is becoming increasingly frustrated with BA and its attempts to address change in the industry by adopting the practices of low-cost carriers. Clearly, the management is suffering an identity crisis. But BA’s market is not low cost, it will never successfully compete in the low-cost market, and it should not aspire to be a low-cost operator.

“BA’s management is failing to recognize the extent of anger felt by customers already annoyed by additional charges made by low-cost carriers. Customers “upgrading” to BA do not expect to see add-on charges for seat allocation, baggage check-in, meals, and drinks.

“This is a mistake and a continuation of a misguided trend in BA that is undermining the airline’s standing both at home and globally. Desperate measures, practices, and tactics adopted by BA’s senior management team and board are taking our airline in the wrong direction. Even the Prime Minister opted to use another carrier to fly to the G20 in the US, and not British Airways, the UK’s national carrier and the only one with the union jack on its tail.”