Bits: Alex Cruz interview, Aer Lingus ‘to rejoin oneworld’, Oman Air to Manchester

News in brief:

Interview with Alex Cruz, new CEO of British Airways

Business Traveller has a partial transcript of an interview Alex Cruz, the new BA CEO, gave this week.

It is worth a read, covering subjects such as free food on short haul, competition from Middle East carriers and the new A350 Club World product.

You can find the article here.

Aer Lingus 350

Aer Lingus ‘to rejoin oneworld’

Whilst we are looking at airline CEO interviews, Stephen Kavanagh of Aer Lingus spoke with USA Today this week.

As well as promising even more routes to the US, he says that ‘ultimately’ the airline will rejoin the oneworld alliance alongside its siblings BA and Iberia.  The full article is here.

Oman Air

Oman Air to launch services from Manchester

Oman Air is planning to launch a new service from Manchester in April 2017.

The airline currently operates from Frankfurt, Munich, Milan, Paris and Zurich as well as the flagship London route.  This is part of major expansion plan by the airline which will see its fleet double to 70 aircraft by 2020.

As a sign of how serious it is, the airline is believed to have paid $75m to Kenya Airways for the pair of landing slots at Heathrow for its recently launched second daily London service.

BA launches a quadruple Avios deal with Hilton - and why you SHOULDN'T sign up
Bits: why MasterCard FX rates are better than Visa, Air India returns to London-New York route
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  1. Hingeless says:

    OT – could we have a weekly post that invites off topic discussion? Quite often the HfP community want to discuss post that are closed for comments, or things that Raffles has not mentioned without having to go to other sites such as FT.

  2. Never flown with Oman Air, but flying into MAN i think i will give them a chance as open jaw flights to MNL from mainland europe often have errors and seen tickets around the £250 return.

    Hopefully i can credit the miles to Etihad Airways…

    • James67 says:

      I doubt they are errors, I’ve frequently seen rtn J fares from Asia-LHR for around £1k and according to reports the have a great J product. I think they are just another (state?) airline like UL for example, who have difficulty attracting customers at normal fares for one reason or another. Personally, I prefer not to fly ME airlines, mainly because of the typically inconvenient middle of night transits, but I admit also because of their home country politics whilst fullyzcknosledging or own politics leave much to be desired at times also.

      • Oman seems to be an oasis of stability in the ME.

        • Agreed….certainly a beacon of ‘reasonable’ politics and social integration in the region certainly compared to the other host nations of the big ME carriers. Read several reviews referring to ‘omanis’ doing the work which I take as a positive.

          Let’s not forget the stunning landscapes which I am eager to see. No doubt it will become a bigger tourist spot especially now Egypt is no go. Probably way too late to enjoy it to ourselves though!

  3. Thomas says:

    Finally! BA took on a new CEO………..that is going to listen to the passengers! thanks Alex, if that is not innovation for you!

  4. ‘I’m not interested in this [buy-on-board] as a standalone feature. I’m interested in how we are going to compete with Norwegian and Ryanair and Easyjet and all those we compete with day in and day out, and there is a formula that has been extremely clear to me over the last ten years.’

    I believe he should think on how BA competes with the likes of LH, KL, AF etc. in the first instance… Let’s the Vueling-isation begin!

    • Wind back 18 months…he’ll map a similar strategy onto BA:

      Alex Cruz is CEO of Barcelona-based airline Vueling, which serves more than 100 destinations and is now part of British Airways’ parent company IAG. He talks to Paul Revel about Vueling’s expansion plans

      You are expanding operations across Europe – adding new bases in Brussels and Rome. What’s your strategy?
      Our strategy is threefold. One is to fortify and grow in our home airport in Barcelona – we’re flying to 118 destinations from our home airport and next year we should be the airline with the largest number of short-haul destinations in Europe [from one airport]. The second objective is to continue connecting regional Spain. The third clearly is to expand on non-Spanish routes. We’ve told the market place and investors that by that by 2015 we will have over 100 aircraft – we currently have 70.

      You’re competing with the likes of Easyjet, how do you differentiate from them?
      The difference is large because we are already at the same level of service and product as a legacy airline. We’re an airline that connects passengers, not only to Vueling but to other airlines. We’re interlining and codesharing. We have two frequent flyer programmes – our own, but we also give Avios. We are distributing 50 per cent of our tickets through travel agencies. We have a business class.

      People often describe Vueling as a ‘hybrid’ model – combining low-cost with full service. Do you agree?
      There’s no such thing as a hybrid. There is only one thing – a really low-cost base, and then the product that everyone wants. We don’t belong to the product base that Easyjet and Ryanair do. Carolyn [McCall, Easyjet’s CEO] was saying they will never have a lounge – how can you say that? People love the lounge – people kill to get the miles to get gold status so they can access the lounge, that’s what frequent flyers and travellers want.

      But you’ve said you mind Vueling publicly described as a low-cost airline…
      That’s because today a lot of people won’t bother going to or, because they associate a high price point with those big traditional airlines – which many times is not the case. At the same time there is tremendous association with having a better deal by going to or or because we are in that space. But I challenge anyone in the industry to tell us we’re not a full-service airline from a product and service perspective.

      How has being acquired by IAG made a difference to Vueling?
      The biggest single item has been cheaper aircraft, it was great new for us when IAG got involved with the negotiations with Airbus. IAG understands us very well – they respect us and don’t interfere, and are tremendously supportive of what we are doing. I imagine that will change if we lose money one day.

      Cruz doesn’t much like the LCC label either. “In recent times commentators haven’t known which category to put us into – ‘LCC’ or ‘hybrid.’ I think ‘extremely productive’ might be a better one.” Cruz is referring to the noticeably changed dynamic among all the big ‘non-legacy’ airlines who have decided that they want to raise average yields significantly by putting the business traveller at the core of their model – the same staple passenger which most airlines relied upon for ultimate profitability for 50 years before the invention of the LCC. “We’re definitely serving the business traveller – they’re 39% of our customers – and a much bigger slice of the revenues and profits. Airports who want to win our business – and get the benefit of serving and selling things to our customers – need to appreciate what service level we know these customers expect. For these reasons we insisted on using the full service facilities at Schiphol and not the low cost offering. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we don’t take airport fees into account; ultimately, we have the best relationships with those airports that have similar commercial pressures to us.” – See more at:

    • If he wants to compete with Norwegian, Ryanair and EasyJet then perhaps he should start setting up some competitive routing. All these airlines fly short-haul direct from MAN to European destinations yet BA is obsessed with funnelling everybody through LHR.

      In the last couple of months I’ve flown to OSL, ATH and IST on SAS, A3 and TK respectively when I would happily fly BA to the same destinations – but not via London. It seems a strange business model to be excluding 50%(?) of the possible customer base yet worrying about saving a few quid on sandwiches.

  5. James A says:

    MCT – MAN will be operated by a new B787-8 by the way.

  6. That’s one very badly written artcle.

  7. Metatone says:

    Part of the problem I see is that BA’s pricing algorithm is out of step with the LCC ones. We had a recent experience of this around a flight to Copenhagen. What happens is that if you book early, the difference is £20 – £80 depending on precise timings etc. Now everyone has their preferences, but that’s in the region that better service (and luggage etc.) can make me choose BA over the LCC.

    However, we couldn’t confirm the trip at that point, so booking got left until a bit later. At which point the difference between BA & Norwegian was about £150. And there’s nothing about Euro Traveller which makes it £150 better.

    • I detect a more recent marked increase in ‘aggression’ as regards BA pricing (in Europe), unfortunately I think they’ll continue like this for 12-18 months before assessing whether it is working. Particularly – the price stickiness during peak periods.

      • Metatone says:

        What’s particularly unfortunate is that there’s a self-reinforcing loop here where they try to claim too much of a premium over the LCC price & then use that as a justification that it’s impossible to compete without moving to the LCC model.

    • Yes, that was obviously the right choice for you, but if the BA plane went out full then BA would have made the right pricing decisions.

  8. Ronster says:

    Cruz wants to talk the talk but only time will tell if he walks the walk.

    Personally I am only interested in what plans they have for the new A350, BA J hard product and whether it can replace my current Avios spending pattern in BA F.

    He clearly indicates that BA has a new business class seat on its way, for the A350. However whats not clear, is if it will compete, with what is being offered by the likes of Finnair A350 and their new J cabin (Reverse Herringbone).

    I would be over the moon if BA introduced the same J product that Oman and Japan Airlines have, on there long haul. However I would be also very happy if the Reverse Herringbone was added to the BA A350’s, as Finnair has done.

    If that happened, I would have to give serious thought, to whether it was worth burning extra Avios on BA F.

    Another point which I also would like Mr. Cruz to clarify, is if he is introducing a new BA J, then why does he consider it “not revolutionary enough” for updating it on other BA mettle? Or will BA mix and match J products as AA has been doing? He is clearly worried about the hard products out there offered by middle eastern carriers but will he act on it? Then that takes us to BA F. Does an updated BA J also mean an updated BA F in the future?

    Some bloggers have already summarised that the current Ying Yang BA J product will continue, or be it, in a slightly updated manner. It would be awfully sad if all these new planes arrived without the most sophisticated J product on the market. This certainly means at some point BA biting the bullet and introducing J products that offer direct isle access without jumping over anyone’s legs.

    Until that happens I will keep using my 2-4-1 on only BA F

    (I myself still prefer to fly a longer uninterrupted trip to the far east in one go, than breaking my sleeping pattern up, with a stopover in the middle east).


    • Interesting comments. Re. Last point – I think that’s ultimately where BA get away with it. Flying through the ME is still involved great upheaval through the great shopping malls and chaotic security. BA only struggle when the direct comp is better e.g. Eva (presumably)? JAL, ANA, Cathay, Singapore and AA. Sure you can list more maybe but the convenience combined with the loyalty system means they be arrogant in my view and offer less for more. The prices offered through the ME sometimes are extraordinary but the connection part is a real put off. It it was Changi every time I would be excited.

      Re. Non-aisle access – quite extraordinary BA don’t see this as a problem and instead boast about excellent efficiency. Well frankly a user doesn’t give a damn about efficiency especially when none of the completion does this.

      • So i always read the groans about QR’s 777 which I think is exceptional. But the groans are about aisle access. Fine but as a pair that’s not a problem. With BA it’s like a kick in the teeth. Whatever configuration you play with you still have to jump over someone. I think there are a couple of seats on each aircraft where you don’t?

        • Ronster says:

          Hi Will.

          I remember when BA introduced the first flat bed and how revolutionary a product it was.I would like Mr Cruz to adopt this forward revolutionary attitude and introduce the best J product that is available. (Oman+Japan Airlines)

          I know that BA has patented some new J designs. However I have no idea if they are adopting them, preferably allowing forward views of the window and of course direct isles access

          While the Ying Yang design has its fans,(ideal for couples travelling), direct isles access just improves the overall traveling experience and the simple fact of not leaping over a stranger’s legs, must be seen a necessity rather than a luxury for any future new J cabin.

          I think that there are some Ying Yang seats that you don’t have to perform a long jump to get past your neighbour but you need to double check with Seatguru

          With QR continual special deals they do look tempting but it simply is not worth me or Lady R, experiencing the “upheaval” of breaking up our journey.

          The direct LHR-NRT and HKG-LHR in BA F was worth it to us.The service was exceptional, with the crew looking after us in a professional friendly manner. We got a very good 7 hours sleep on both legs and we were able to be on local time the same day without too much jet lag. I even managed a very productive day on my return.


          • Hi Ron,

            All fair points & quite happy to support the flag carrier where it makes sense. We actually did the HND route on QR and it was a little illogical to go down and then up but it was a chance to try a bunch of new aircraft. But I would probably wouldn’t do it again because the ‘deals’ don’t always throw up the best transfer times e.g. 8 hrs in the Doha strobe light mega mall! It’s much better on the plane (hard product) in so many ways.

            I think the quality of the bed is definitely underrated with BA and that’s a pretty key feature. I would say it was more comfortable than QR’s new seat which has an annoyingly narrow footwell. Nothing competes with the QR 777 bed in my opinion though. The entertainment on BA is also underrated and much better though the screens are so much better on QR. But the service is somewhat mediocre. We flew back CW from Mexico and the food was terrible & staff mediocre. It’s not surprising when you’ve got so many people to serve. Same happened on the QR 380 night service from LHR.

            I hear wonderful things about the JAL J and the Oman old seat looked incredible so interesting that they’re following the JAL design. I’m keen to try JAL and ANA.

            Above all, I’m sure I’m not the only one that hopes BA do genuinely lead on the new J design like they did with the flat bed – now the norm. I can’t think how they’ll do it though. In the meantime the competition always looks more interesting!


            • I must say on my recent BA trips I found the CW bed still to be very comfortable – in particular the unrestricted legroom. I’ve flown the Swiss alternating 1/2/1 setup and really hated the cramped foot cubby, even though from the photos it looked like a much more premium seat with the wood finish, etc.

  9. Londonbus says:

    If Mr Cruz wants to crank up premium – the first thing he could do is bring back those Gerberas n First and Club in the loos on Long Haul.

  10. It’s very odd that you can’t combine HBO with ‘checked luggage’ fares when booking returns – you get the message ‘Cannot combine with outbound selection’.

    Why, BA?

    Easy to get round it by booking 2 single legs, but surely BA would be more helpful to passengers by letting them book what they want as a return.

    • Lady London says:

      + 1.
      actually makes them look like an LCC
      Agree with you harry, too, about the stickiness not just at peak times, but according to season. They’ve just programmed in a massive uplift – that is impossible to shift by any means – for flights with even slightly increased demand due seasonality. In the past few months I wanted to book 4 return shorthaul Europe trips on BA, but wasn’t quick enough for the massive seasonal uplift. So I didn’t book 2 of them at all and booked the other 2 with others.

  11. I was about to get very excited about the Oman expansion but two major issues:

    1. The 787 is another sardine can show with only 31″ in economy and 3 on the sides so just another crushathon. At the moment the a330 reports to have 34″. Believe me 1″ even can make all the difference as I experienced yesterday on two slightly differently configured Sri Lankan a330s. So it’s a shame Oman has sold out.
    2. They don’t have any partnership with Amex here (UK) or in any major airline alliance. I note the Etihad partnership but sounds complicated.

    The business class looks outstanding and possibly the best in the skies? Perhaps raffles has some speculation about future partnerships or any tie ups with Amex?