British Airways sets flight path back to being a premium airline

CEO Sean Doyle pledges to “build a better British Airways” by investing rather than cutting costs.

By Matt Lennon, February 4 2022
British Airways sets flight path back to being a premium airline

After being hammered by Covid restrictions and rival airlines alike, British Airways wants to put the past behind it, saying better days – promising better days – lie ahead.

To get there, CEO Sean Doyle intends to chart a new course to return the British flag-carrier to being a truly premium airline.

In an open letter to members of the airline’s Executive Club loyalty program, Doyle cited the relentless impact of the pandemic as forcing a focus on the urgent rather than the important.

“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,” he reflected.

“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.”

The first step to that better BA is relatively small yet significant for many frequent flyers: the return of free drinks and snacks on short-range trips in the airline’s World Traveller economy class.

These were scrapped in a controversial 2017 move to bolster the airline’s balance sheet by up to £400 million each year, and replaced by Marks & Spencers snacks, sandwiches and salads.

Free snacks are back, but you'll still need to pay for anything more substantial.
Free snacks are back, but you'll still need to pay for anything more substantial.

After complimentary snacks and water were reintroduced as a “goodwill gesture” during the pandemic, Doyle says this will now remain as a standard inclusion on all short-range economy fares.

"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," Doyle wrote in the letter.

The Speedbird Café will remain for those wishing to partake in anything more substantial during their journey, with everything from the usual chocolates, crisps and dried fruit through to sandwiches, wraps and pies, and even a heartier tapas box.

Building a better British Airways

Doyle added he was committed to restoring the aura and luxury of the British Airways brand by improving overall service.

Initiatives include a new luggage tracing app allowing passengers to follow their bags from the moment you leave it at the check-in desk through to their destination (or wherever your bag may inadvertently end up).

Doyle also pledged to cut waiting times on for its call centres, with a new phone system being established and more people being recruited “to ensure your calls are answered, social media messages are responded to and problems are solved in the moment, wherever possible”.

Travellers will continue to enjoy table service at BA's premium lounges.
Travellers will continue to enjoy table service at BA's premium lounges.

Table service introduced at BA’s lounges in the past few years, using QR codes and an online menu, will also remain.

“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,” Doyle stated.

New lounges for New York

Also on the lounge front, British Airways last year threw open the doors of its elite Concorde Room lounges to all Gold Guest List members of its Executive Club frequent flyer program.

However, come December the airline will permanently close its dedicated lounges at New York’s JFK Airport Terminal 7 and share all-new lounges and check-in facilities with Oneworld partner American Airlines at Terminal 8.

The Champagne Bar at what will be the new T8 First Class lounge.
The Champagne Bar at what will be the new T8 First Class lounge.

The “most exclusive lounge” of the three premium spaces will go all-out with a champagne bar, fireside lounge and an à la carte dining room, and is expected to be T8’s Concorde Room equivalent.

British Airways is currently scheduled to resume flights to Sydney via Singapore from March 27, almost two years since the airline was forced to suspend its popular Kangaroo Route when Singapore's Changi Airport banned transit passengers in the early days of the pandemic.

British Airways' impressive new Club Suites business class.
British Airways' impressive new Club Suites business class.

The route will now be flown by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, rather than the larger but less fuel-efficient Boeing 777-300ER, with the Dreamliners this year being upgraded from the original 'high density' Club World business class seats (ranked in rows of 2-3-2) to the latest Club Suites design with increased personal space, sliding doors and perhaps most importantly, direct aisle access.

Additional reporting by David Flynn

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 126

Kudos for CEO Doyle for recognizing that BA lost its premium cachet long ago under a series of LCC oriented CEOs. And actually saying so publicly(!) It's not considered good form in business to bag your predecessors, but he had to draw a line, I suppose.

It didn't bother me personally that BA took the LCC-ish path. What bothered me was that their spin and marketing presented BA as still being a premium full service airline (a la Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines) and charged accordingly. You can't have it both ways like that.......BA is a perfectly acceptable average airline. It is objectively not a premium airline. If CEO Doyle bridges the gap between spin and reality, then he would have accomplished his goal.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 349

They and many others in Europe need to take a closer look at the European business class. While I found the service and inflight food and beverage offering good, they should be looking at a seat similar to the QF and VA 737 seat for business class as the blocking off of the middle seat (of an economy row) does not cut it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 98

That would be a hard choice when all their competitors do this. But, vive la difference I say. 

05 Jan 2021

Total posts 13

You are not totally correct .

To be fair , I can tolerate BA's  club europe ( ie slightly upgraded European economy class) for a 60 or 90 minute hop but it gets a bit overwhelming when flight time is over 4 hours -say to Cairo. Even Egyptair offers proper 777 class  J seating in their flight LGW-CAI - just under 5 hours flight time. ( ti be fair - no alcohol ) 

Not all BA's competitors offer such a poor quality experience in BA's european and north african and some eurasian routes. ( but to be fair , most do in the short / medium haul intra european market)

Royal Jordanian has full business class seating to from Amman in a 787.

Turkish Airlines run a high quality service with real business class seating from London to Istanbul ( and IST is actually part of Asia!). 

BA runs the usual 320 Neos London to Morocco and yet Royal Air Maroc offers up full business class seating and a proper meal and drink service.

In short, not all airlines have dropped to the low standard of BA's club europe particularly with their longer haul offerings eg 3 hours and above .

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 92

Hi sunnybrae

Although I agree with some aspects of your view, they have rarely "charged that way"

Their F and J fares are usually substantially lower than the other airlines you mention.

Expectations need to be modified accordingly.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 126

@ian62

Good morning. As a regular business traveller ex Australia and ex SE Asia to the U.K. for a solid decade+, I scan most airlines for pricing. I have never come across such "substantially lower" fares in all that time for BA. Yes, I've heard such bargains exist(ed). But I've NEVER come across them. An example from my last Australia - U.K. booking: BA and QF fares were only about $200 less than SQ. No surprises which airline I chose (hint. it was a non-Australian airline with a 1-2-1 layout, not 2-4-2). And don't worry about my expectations. They were indeed modified accordingly a long time ago......

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 660

Does that mean BA's 789's are being fast tracked for refurb from that dreadful ying yang config?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Mar 2018

Total posts 23

BA First long haul seats are like full-service business seats on SQ and others.  Rubbish for the price.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jan 2017

Total posts 21

Standard joke here in the UK is that BA's First class has the best business class seats and service going around. 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 333

Yup here here -that these could ever pass for First is literally unbelievable 

“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,” Doyle stated.

That says it all. He needs to change the arrogant attitude of BA's people. The days are long gone when they used to be the best in the air. The old adage you need ten good comments to erase one bad one comes to mind.

One good thing BA does is give lifetime Platinum at 32,000 status credits compared to Qantas at 75,000. Maybe Qantas should take note.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 92

@sunnybrae

Sorry if this is a duplicate

If you look at first-class.com.au under International flights (I've used them for years) there is a clear difference between the F BA fares and fares offered by competitors

I reviewed my Syd-Europe BA F fares for 3 years pre COVID and all were 3k or more lower than other carriers

Happy to provide these if required

I have used these fares to boost my long term P1 status with Qantas on a regular basis including the BA Syd-Sin F fares which are also substantially lower than QF or SQ

Cheers

Ian

02 Jun 2021

Total posts 1

Whilst I personally have no complaints about my experiences in BA's premium cabins, I've read more horror stories than Edgar Allen Poe on steroids.

It's almost amusing to compare this story to an abusive spouse, who after years of GBH says, "I've gone to one counseling session, sweetheart.  That makes it all right now, doesn't it?"


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on British Airways sets flight path back to being a premium airline