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.
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”.
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 “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.
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