As British Airways emerges from the pandemic, it will continue to offer free bottled water and snacks in economy while also promising a number of other changes intended to restore its image as a premium carrier.
Free Snacks, Bottled Water To Remain In British Airways Economy Class
It was just two days ago that I discussed British Airways’ push to be a more premium carrier as it faces fierce competition from budget carriers in the United Kingdom and Europe.
There, I mentioned:
To differentiate itself for short- and mid-haul travel, BA must focus on its economy class product. Currently, BA’s short-haul economy class product offers less legroom than budget carriers and a similar buy-on-board concept for snacks and most drinks. In this sense, BA economy is the opposite of premium; it’s downright awful.
> Read More: Will British Airways Become A More Premium Carrier?
Sensing that need, CEO Sean Doyle sent a seemingly-heartfelt note to a number of British Airways Executive Club members over the weekend. It includes an assurance that the complimentary bottled water and snacks offered to passengers during the pandemic will remain.
That’s a small gesture…Doyle stopped short of even promising free coffee or tea, let alone the sort of sandwiches and meals that used to be included for all economy class passengers on short- and mid-haul flights…but it’s a meaningful differentiator from budget carriers like easyJet, Ryanair, and Wizz Air.
Doyle also promised a number of other initiatives intended to improve the passenger experience.
Since many did not receive the email from Doyle, I am including it in full below:
To our loyal customers,
I’m writing to you directly today in the spirit of transparency, which is the ethos we’re striving to promote at British Airways in 2022 as we emerge from the worst crisis in our 102-year history.
We know that for many months now we’ve been asking you to be patient with us. Patient while we bring multiple aircraft back from airfields around the world. Patient while we rebuild our network, retrain and recruit people to serve you better, and patient while we deal with the thousands of customers that need our help.
To be frank, we’ve been moving from one set of restrictions to another and the amount of change we’ve been dealing with over the past couple of years from week to week has been relentless. I’m not seeking to make excuses for things that should have gone better. What I am doing is making a personal commitment to you that we will build a better British Airways. An airline you can trust and rely on and that offers great customer service, with someone always available to help. Most importantly, an airline that you are proud to fly with – an airline that you are proud is your British flag-carrier. For me, 2022 is the year we’re finally able to rebuild and re-energise our airline. After the recent news from the UK Government around the removal of restrictions, it’s time to get Britain moving again.
My number one priority is to address the customer call centre issues many of you have experienced and may still be experiencing. In the face of constantly changing and complicated travel restrictions the length of time it’s taking us to take calls has naturally been longer, which has pushed up our waiting times. We are mid-way through replacing our phone systems to create a better customer experience and are also already recruiting more people to ensure your calls are answered, social media messages are responded to and problems are solved in the moment, wherever possible.
We’ve been working hard to create a more premium experience for you, putting you at our heart and doing it in a way that’s sustainable. Every aspect of this strategy is to help make your journey more seamless and enjoyable. For example, our operations teams are working on a new baggage tracing system, allowing you to track your bag via your phone throughout your journey.
We know you’ve enjoyed the table ordering service we began to offer in our lounges during the pandemic, and so we’re continuing with this initiative.
You’ve also told us you appreciate the complimentary water and snacks we’ve been offering on short-haul flights in our Euro Traveller cabin, so we’ll be continuing with these too. In addition, we’re working hard to improve the quality of the meals and choices we serve across all cabins and rolling out our Club Suite on as many aircraft as we can, as quickly as we can.
We know change starts from within. Our teams across the airline have been through a lot, and I am looking at what we need to do to recognise and reward the people we know make a difference to your journey, and ensure they have everything they need to feel empowered to do the right thing by you every single day.
I know that change won’t happen overnight, but this week I have briefed teams across the airline to do all they need to, to tackle the issues we know you’re facing so we don’t let you down. In the meantime, I want to thank you for staying with us. I know your loyalty has been tested and I want to assure you that we don’t ever take it for granted.
I hope that in the coming months you’ll notice a significant move towards a better BA, driven by our people to deliver a better experience for you, our most loyal customers.
There’s a lot of fluff in the letter above, but Doyle outlines four initiatives that merit our attention:
- more call center staff
- free water and snacks in shorthaul economy class (discussed above)
- continued rollout of Club Suite
- continued use of a la carte menu in lounges
Reducing call center staff is hardly a problem specific to British Airways, but it has become particularly problematic during the pandemic. There is no way around it: more staff are needed.
The Club Suite rollout continues and Doyle does not indicate an acceleration of that effort.
While I like the a la carte menu concept in lounges, other travelers prefer buffets and I’d like to see both options.
All of this, however, is a step in the right direction.
British Airways will maintain free snacks and water in economy class as CEO Doyle promises a number of pro-consumer initiatives. It remains to be seen whether British Airways will become “premium” once again, but these changes certainly cannot hurt.