The CEO of British Airways is promising that his carrier will become more premium as it emerges from the pandemic. But what does he actually mean?
British Airways Promises Renewed Focus On Premium
Speaking to employees in a video reviewed by The Financial Times, British Airways CEO Sean Doyle noted:
“There is room for optimism that we are on the way out. Putting the premium proposition into the heart of what we do is going to be key. We want people to come off a British Airways flight and talk about it as if it’s something different. Any airline can go out and buy products off the shelf and put them on a plane. It’s actually the confidence and the style and the intimacy that we deliver in service that is going to be a differentiator.”
There’s much that can be inferred (or falsely inferred) from that statement. Thus, without understanding the full context of the statement, it is difficult to discern what Doyle meant.
But I will offer some thoughts on how British Airways can distinguish itself as a premium carrier without spending itself into the grave:
- The strength of British Airways is its crews, of which I’ve honestly never had a bad flight in all my years of flying BA
- The crew took paycuts during the pademic and had their jobs severely threatened, which demoralized most employees
- While British Airways now says it must pay back its government loan before raising staff wages, providing good service onboard will be at the heart of revitalizing BA
- Even modest wage increases show a good faith effort to think differently about staff than under former CEO Alex Cruz’s watch
- But good service alone is not quite enough – I routinely experience excellent service on EasyJet and even Ryanair
- 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
- The addition of power ports and wi-fi is a plus, but BA should also consider adding an extra inch or two of legroom, even at the expense of 6-12 seats onboard
- It should also bring back title touches like its hot breakfast on UK domestic flights for all passengers, a small gesture that (in my mind) is the very definition of premium
- Positively for BA, its premium cabin products have already come a long way
- Catering in Club Europe, Club World, and in First Class is greatly improved and the new Business Suite is tremendous
- I’m not sure BA has to do much to improve its premium cabin proposition beyond continuing the 777 retrofit project
Most of these moves will cost money. But it seems to me the investment is not only worthwhile, but necessary if Doyle’s words to employees have any meaning.
I think British Airways has a great deal of potential and can distinguish itself as a far more premium airline than EasyJet and other budget carriers. But it must do some initial spending. If BA expects staff to smile and improve service while their wages are being cut and still offer economy class passengers an inferior experience to budget carriers, BA will continue to be, as Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told John Arlidge of the Sunday Times, a low cost carrier:
“British Airways is the flag carrier of the UK. You remember the motto? ‘To fly, to serve.’ That was not any more the motto of the company. It was only on a billboard.”
Let’s hope those days are soon behind BA.
You may not have flown in first for some time, but I can tell you they have work to do there. Flew LHR-MEX last week. Only 2 of the first meal option on the menu was loaded so the crew had to go and check with business class (!) if I could have one. Apparently the meals are “exactly the same”….. which invites more questions.
Want cheese *and* dessert? That may be a problem too. Because I’d “already had dessert”, I had to wait until all the other F passengers had indicated whether they wanted cheese. Only then would the crew let me have some. Pretty pathetic for international first class. The quality of food was actually good, but if they want first class passengers to come back, they might want to spend the extra dollars to cater properly.
Sorry Matthew Klint, couldn’t find a proper place to reply.
Re: the person you trust and the AA flight attendant giving gf a free upgrade so the could reminisce and FA could slack.
Ppl just don’t get it, including a lot of those who have left comments here…it’s a matter of integrity and moral standing & being humanly considerate. Far too many ppl don’t care. 1) giving perks, that cost money to a gf : looks bad, is against the rules and reeks of favouritism. 2) Sends a poor message re: AA & 3) FA didn’t think or care what others thought. Rude, highly inappropriate & I am pretty sure there are plenty of lovely, conscientious FA’s looking for work. Sign of the times…wrong is right and victims are criminals. Imagine saying the offended was just jealous. Speaking of jets, the real point behind the frustration of this incident seems to have flown over ppls’ heads.
T.Y. Matthew for sharing this. On my bucket list is to one day go to Czech Rep. to visit friend of 52 yrs, via first class, but alas, I’m a poor 62yr old 2x widowed woman left to claim bankruptcy thanks to late 2nd “hasbind” who was a crook. Signed Cindyrella♡
Short haul lags, but the long haul service and F&B far surpass any US carrier. That wasn’t the case a few years ago. Do&Co catering made a big difference. Very good lounges with dining like at IAD also have made a difference. Since the US carriers seem to be going in the opposite direction, it will be interesting to see who is right.
If they could just do something about the LHR fees.
Euro airlines will have a hard time being premium until they stop selling economy class seats as business class
But in a proper business (or at least PE) cabin on inter-Europe flights.
Even before WestJet installed their 2X2 cabin (which they are selling as PREMIUM ECONOMY, not business or first, even though it is the same as AC and UA call business/first) for domestic flights, they had a blocked middle seat with 36 inches of pitch on their old WestJet Plus product. That so called low cost carrier is more premium than BA
Unless your body is exceptionally tall and/or wide,34″ pitch and a convertible armrest (for extra seat width) with a table in the middle are fine for flights up to 4 hours (very few intra-Europe flights are longer than that). Unfortunately, BA and the LH group don’t bother with either feature.
What really is ridiculous is the lack of effort in terms of catering and soft product- e.g. TAP charge £300 for 2.5 hours in an Embraer (just oneway!), but that won’t get you a mini bottle of champagne- you have to make do with ‘Portuguese sparkling wine’. This isn’t a new phenomenon either- 10 years ago, AF wouldn’t even serve me sparkling water during a MAD-CDG because ‘it is not loaded on morning flights’!
Since when does BA provide 34 inch pitch in Club Europe?
34 inch pitch with a blocked middle would be an OK premium economy seat. But that would still pale in comparison to West Jet with domestic first seats and product sold as premium economy.
A true short haul, regional business seat should be a cradle sleeper seat
BA don’t. TAP, A3 and a few others do- your comment was generally about ‘Euro airlines’, and the point is that they aren’t the same.
The middle seat converted to a table could even be seen as a more comfortable setup than cradle seats as it gives you the chance to store things (whether it’s drinks on the table or a scarf, reading material etc under it) without opening your own table.
For the shorter flights (and connecting itineraries made up of shorter segments), most of the added value is in the ground benefits. I don’t know whether Westjet offer lounge access, priority security, separate check in, 64kg of luggage etc, but all of these things come in handy; I do get most of them through *G so I often stick to Y, but for non-status pax they can add up to an offering that represents pretty good value for money (e.g. Lufthansa tend to have business class tickets priced around €350 return).
WJ does not provide lounge access for its PE product. Then again, AC nor the US airlines provide lounge access for their equivalent domestic Y/J flights
Sadly the table on the ‘middle seat converted to a table’ has been removed, along with the drop down screens, on recently refurbished planes.
Club Europe is a complete joke. Unlike other airlines (e.g. Aegean), the pitch is exactly the same as in the back of the bus, and the ground experience for C pax at LHR T5 is pathetic (golds have access to F check in and lounges which I understand are better). They don’t even issue priority tags (which work surprisingly well with most *A airlines- my bags are among the first 80%+ of the time)!
Much as I dislike the European business class product of Lufthansa, it does come with levels of consistency and reliability that BA can only dream of- and with a vastly superior route network which (together with LX, OS, and SN, whose flights can be mixed and matched in one ticket) provides a huge array of one-stop options for most city pairs within Europe, including the UK’s second city (BHX), which isn’t even a BA destination!
Wow~ 100 percent agree with u!
One things prevents BA, in the eyes of savvy (frequent) flyers, from being “more premium” (depending of course on the definition of premium).
Award surcharges on many flights on BA, compared to almost all other airlines, are outrageous. Although those surcharges may help the bottom line at BA, it’s surprising and confusing as to why other Oneworld airlines let them get away with it.
Matthew, suggest a blog post about the reasoning, both BA’s and Oneworld’s, behind BA award “fuel” surcharges.
For many years BA has been the land of broken promises where improvements are concerned. Let’s remember that their business class product on most of their fleet is twenty years out of date and although something better is starting to appear, it is not on the majority of the fleet and that includes planes as new as the 789, the only sure place to find it is on the A350 because the rest is a lottery.
Then there have been the very shortlived promises about food. For a very short while catering improved when the contract was handed to Do&Co, it now looks as though it is mediocre at best and their shorthaul band one is a disgrace. Afternoon tea in particular has been cut by 33% in terms of the offering and it wasn’t adequate before.
Words are cheap especially from a new CEO who can promise much. Rather he kept it shut and passengers started to talk about improvements they see and consistently experience so I will wait to hear that and in the meantime, I’ll choose them when there isn’t a better choice which for most of my LHR originating travel there is.
It always strikes me as bizarre that the world’s heaviest premium route – LON-NYC is dominated to two airlines who are racing to the bottom with ever increasing speed.
I received tne email this morning. Exactly two weeks after I wrote my fuest ever letter of complaint to BA.
Flew LHR-PHL return in October. Received an email 3 months ahead saying that due to an aircraft change we were being downgraded from First to Club. Okay, Covid and all that. Disappointed not to get to use the First Wing at LHR, but oh well.
Ffwd another few weeks and they say our return flight is cancelled completely and they have rebooked us for the next day. In between it seemed like we had schedule change emails weekly. Chaos but Covid, okay fine.
General chit chat at check-in at PHL and I mention tne cancellation of the previous days’ flight. She looked at me like I was crazy and said the previous days flight left as scheduled. So why did BA tell me it was cancelled resulting in a delayed return. Utter lunacy that they treat longstanding club members with disdain.
BA is too big a business model to become a premium airline and in my view with the improvements made since Doyle took over it is much improved than the days of Cruz . The lounges around the world are very good with some having been or due to be improved in the future ( Heathrow Lounges need it big time) , great cabin crew, completive baggage allowances for all , club Europe on short haul routes etc to name a few . BA is what it is better benefits for those who wish to pay for it, and a good experience for those who do not BA now is not what it was in the 90s and never will be times have changed. A airline is about more than premium passengers. The call centre is a area where they rightly have to make some improvements