What Alex Cruz had to say at World Travel Market yesterday

World Travel Market, the UK’s biggest trade show of any sort, runs at Excel in East London between Monday and Wednesday this week.  Monday is restricted to the media and key buyers and is when the real business gets done.

British Airways Chairman and CEO Alex Cruz gave a speech and did a Q&A yesterday afternoon.  It was one of his first major appearances since taking on the job.  He made some big announcements but they were things that regular HFP readers will already know, many of which were initially flagged in the Investor Day presentation on Friday which I covered here.

The following bullet points, however, were of interest.  Some of the following information is new and the rest has not been widely discussed:

Alex Cruz World Travel Market

British Airways is about to announce a new Summer 2018 route to Figari in Corsica.  This has not yet been formally announced and is not yet bookable.  (EDIT: 10am Tuesday, it is now announced and should be bookable.) If you fancy booking Avios flights there for next Summer, get your diary out and start planning.  The official announcement, which will coincide with seats becoming bookable, should happen in the next few days.

Club Europe catering is to be completely redesigned and relaunched in late 2018.  This appears to be an admission – which I totally agree with – that the recent changes were not done properly, at least on shorter routes.  I admit that feedback on the food on longer short-haul flights is much improved.

Economy passengers with status (probably just Gold) or travelling on fully flexible short haul tickets should get ‘special treatment’ in flight when it comes to catering.  There is not a cast iron guarantee that this will happen, or what form it will take, but Cruz understands it is an issue.

An admission that adding Club Europe to domestic flights was done to protect long-haul Club World revenue.

A full second meal to be re-introduced in Economy on long haul routes.  ‘Wrong decisions’ had been taken on long-haul Economy catering in the past.

Alex Cruz World Travel Market

Cruz is keen to add more US destinations to the network.

The number of routes with First Class will be progressively reduced but it is definitely staying.

In terms of Avios, he has noted what the US carriers have done in terms of revenue-based earning but does not feel that this exact model is what he wants.  He is keen for Avios to massively increase the numbers of places where you can collect points.  There was also an implication that the ‘dynamic pricing’ discussed last week will relate to last minute bookings, or possibly the Etihad model where you can book any seat on any plane if you are willing to use enough points.  (Of course, extending ‘part pay with Avios’ so it is uncapped would achieve this very easily without causing much disruption.)

So, food for thought.

PS.  This article would usually end here.  However, there is an interesting coda.  Alex Cruz and I travelled back to West London together last night.  It wasn’t planned, but we ended up standing next to each other on the tube from Canning Town to Westminster, where we both changed onto a District Line before I jumped out at Sloane Square.  No chauffeur car or entourage for Alex, to give him credit.

I am not going to talk about what we discussed because it would be unprofessional, but I took the opportunity to stress a few of my key tenets about how loyalty schemes work and what can go wrong.  As always, once you’ve spent some time with someone you see them in a different light and I did find him a thoughtful and surprisingly down to earth character.

Bits: New BA Corsica route bookable, photos and access rules for Plaza Premium T5 lounge
Plaza Premium lounge NOW OPEN in Heathrow Terminal 5
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  1. Ref Catering in Economy. I personally think that a good idea may be to split down the fare classes in economy even further and sit people on the aircraft per fare class.

    EG fully flex or (if BA want to treat status holders well) Golds behind CE and offer them complimentary food service.
    Something like a free choice of 2 items from the food on the BOB and then complimentary drinks. I feel it would cause too much hassle if these ticket holders were spread throughout the aircraft so sitting them all in one block would make it easy to administer.

    I’m pretty sure I heard this announcement on an American Airlines or Finnair flight last month (although I wasn’t particularly concentrating) something like “Seat rows x to y receive complimentary service, rows y to z cup of tea only (or must pay)”

    • Finnair don’t announce anything but short haul Emerald card holders get a free alcoholic or soft drink (tea/coffee/water/juice is free for everyone). The trolley has a small tablet the size of a 5inch smart phone and the seat map is loaded into it so they know where the status card holders are sitting. They will now proactively offer the free drink but for about the first year they didn’t mention this benefit, this is perhaps linked to the new smaller tablet. Before they had a handheld 7inch type without the seat map. If you change seats just mention you have an emerald card.

    • Yeah that sounds really classy….

    • It may not be “classy” but it solves the problem of people who say “BA is premium, I expect a free meal” and also gives BA the ability to sell cheap HBO fares to compete with the LCC’s.

      Asking people who’ve paid £500 for a fully flex short haul to pay for BOB isn’t a great business model imho, likewise asking your top tier members to pay for BOB may turn them off a bit.

      It will certainly be awkward handing out free drinks to some and then charging the people sat next to them though.

    • It’ll be like going back to the days of BMI. There’ll be 4 rows behind the curtain at the back of the plane on a Friday evening domestic.

  2. Travelling on premium economy overnight from the US, I asked the flight attendant about whether there was breakfast; the reply was “no, just the ‘basket of shame’ “! Good to have the second meal back.

  3. Sebastian says:

    The ultimate problem with BA is their monopoly on slots at Heathrow as it means they can offer a sub-par service, whilst still charging a premium (especially in J and F). In fact, in the past two to three years I think they have plumbed depths below that of a number of low cost carriers to see if they could get away with it. Fortunately it appears that they are stepping back a little and bringing back some basics i.e. second meal long haul.

    That said, these changes, for me at least, represent the lowest level of service they think they can reasonably get away with to not trigger numerous negative articles in the mainstream press. The best example of this is their new J which only tweeks a number of issues and shows no desire to produce a product that is even on par with the majority of other leading airlines. Obviously, I will still fly BA as I have little other option but when I sit on their planes Cruz’s statements always ring hollow whilst I also recognise why monopolies should not permitted (and I say this as a Tory).

    • Which definition of monopoly are you using?
      According to the official Heathrow guide https://www.heathrow-airport-guide.co.uk/terminals.html 81 airlines other than BA use Heathrow. Out of the 75 million passengers each year approx. 32 million use T5. A few BA flights use T3 but they still must carry less than 50% of the passengers.

      • What you do not mention is that BA have revenue share agreements in place with Qatar, AA, finnair, Iberia and Cathay Pacific. Add all of those flights up and you’ll not see many flights where BA does not have it’s fingers in the pie.

    • I don’t think that many Tories approve of monopolies; it is the Labour Party who want to revive the nationalised monopolies.

      • Anthony Dunn says:

        There are certain sectors which are “natural” monopolies – such as the utilities and railways – but such a term does not apply to airlines. I am entirely unaware (not being a Corbynista/Labour voter) of any talk within Labour circles of their intending to take BA back into public ownership.

        • I did not suggest that they wanted to take BA into State ownership (IAG is a public company). Network Rail is already state owned and the train operating companies just have management contracts. The main competition is between the energy companies although most customers do not bother to take advantage.

        • Apparently including the Energy Minister not taking advantage (hence why they now are talking about price caps) – it’s not like it’s difficult to switch – cashback available too!

        • the real harry1 says:

          switching takes under 5 minutes

          cashback on top of the energy savings

          I can only post 1 link – there are many out there – this bad guy won’t let you down uswitch.com – though do your switch thru a cashback site

  4. I flew over to Dubai yesterday in econ (first time in a while), and it is pretty poor second meal “crisps or chocolates” offering!

    I am surprised that you did not ask re: 2-4-1 downgrades! 🙂

  5. Dave Barron says:

    Great to hear that Alex wants to increase routes the the USA.

    Personally I’m hoping that BA reinstates a flight to Detroit as that’s closer to where my wife’s family are based.

    The last few years we have flown in and out of Toronto and then have driven across the border at Port Huron.

    In fact we flew back from Toronto on Friday (into a foggy Heathrow where we were delayed on runway for an hour). The flight was also an hour late departing as the the crew got stuck in traffic leaving their hotel in Toronto. Alas no EU compensation! I was surprised how World Traveller Plus didn’t offer any form of hot breakfast – just the basket of shame – so hopefully this will change ready for our next flight.

    • Can’t see Detroit – no AA network there, it’s a bankrupt city, and already served by Delta / Virgin group.

      • I would like that back as well, but it was never competitive against Northwest and was always a couple of hundred pound more expensive.

        Delta / Virgin have also cut back on this route. It was one delta / one virgin flight a day. Now Delta are the only provider again and is mostly down to a single flight a day again. Last time I went in April it was only the Thursday that had two flights.

        • Dave Barron says:

          Living near Newcastle it would suit me perfectly if BA returned to Detroit but I’m not too optimistic. Despite the decline of the Motor City a couple of years ago things are improving again so you never know. I would have thought there would still be enough demand via BA. Flights with KLM / Air France / Delta seem to be busy every time I have used them via Amsterdam or Paris and there are several flights a day via those who airports.

          Sod’s law I previously accrued 150k Virgin Flying Club miles thinking that I could use via Heathrow with Virgin one day. Thanks primarily to this site I know I can use via Delta and their call centre but not as easy to book with very limited reward availability. A real shame that Virgin flight was transferred to Delta as I’ve never flown with them and was keen to try out either PE or UC one day. In time unless things change my wife and I will probably use these points towards a PE or UC flight to New York minus the kids – unless the future changes to Flying Club support flying into Detroit via Delta.

          In the meantime Avios is my main focus and currently I sit on approx 200k miles but have multiple options to redeem including local options from Newcastle.

    • On our 12 hour flight home from the Caribbean this summer we got a total of 1 meal 4 hours into the flight then a cellophane wrapped croissant about an hour before landing.

      • They served three finger sandwiches as the 2nd meal in Club on the way down to Dubai last month. The best (worst) bet is that they don’t even unwrap them – you just get a plastic packet dumped on your table. Would it really be a massive strain to unwrap them? Total cost = nil, benefit in presentation, if not taste = noticeable.

    • You were not delayed on the runway. If you had been, no other flights would have been able to move for the whole time and it would have been major headline news across the world.

      You stopped on a taxi-way to wait for a gate.

      Don’t be so melodramatic.

  6. Glasgow Sprocket says:

    Thanks for early warning of Corsica flights coming online. We were about to do a mad drive from Glasgow to Corsica (it can be done in a day…..) for the third time in 5 years but now have a rather enjoyable and cheap couple of flights instead. Lots of seats still available although I punted for cash as a £175 return per person from Glasgow to Corsica a bargain and better value than the 22,500 miles and £70 of tax per person.

  7. Was that Rob walking down Basinghall street 3 minutes ago?!

  8. I think “The number of routes with First Class will be progressively reduced but it is definitely staying.” will fall in line with what I’m sure I read on the Investor Day about wanting more seats in their 787 as the -9 only has 2 more seats than the -8 IIRC

  9. the real harry1 says:
    • the real harry1 says:

      tbh anybody who thinks badly of the Cruz strategy for BA should watch the video, I have hugely renewed respect for him

      not that I have ever wavered from thinking competitive HBO fares etc was always going to be a successful / winning strategy in Europe vs EasyJet and Ryanair

  10. @alastairtravel says:

    Thanks for the Corsica tip – good availability through the summer – £98 return hand baggage only fares.

  11. dicksbits says:

    BA World Traveller Plus is not comparable to Virgin premium economy but I can’t see BA being able to address this apart from the service. Can anyone see them being given a dedicated checkin desk? Not really. Or priority boarding? Doubtful.

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